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Understanding musical scores
Understanding musical scores

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3.2.1 New textures

Figure 3 Variation 1 from Schubert’s Trout Quintet

In Variation 1, Schubert gives the melody to the piano. The melody is built up with repetition of sections and there are many places that use very similar rhythms. The melody is played by both the left hand and right hand simultaneously, causing the melody to stack vertically. This texture is called doubling and is often used in orchestral writing.

The violin and cello alternate in playing a little motif – the term for a short, distinct fragment of music – that creates a rippling effect. The viola part has a filler that rhythmically keeps the music moving. The double bass is using pizzicato (abbreviated in the score as ‘pizz.’), a technique in which the player plucks the string with the fingers rather than using the bow.

You may not have been able to follow the string parts without losing your place in the melody. Don’t worry about this, because your eyes and ears have to focus in single places first, before you can take all the lines in at once.

Some of you may have noticed that what you hear is slightly different from what is in the score. Please don’t worry about this. One of the challenges, but also one of the rewards of working with scores is that you start to realise that pieces of music by famous composers have several lives. Many composers edited, rewrote, changed and reworked their music throughout their careers, leaving us with a puzzle as to what a ‘work’ really is. Essentially what we have here are performers using different editions of the piece edited from different original sources. As the function of the viola part here is as a ‘filler’ we want you to focus on the dialogue between the cello and violin, and on the pizzicato bass.

Download this audio clip.Audio player: Variation 1 from Schubert’s
Variation 1 from Schubert’s Trout Quintet
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