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  • Created by: Callum
  • Created on: 01-06-14 19:01


Expressionism was an early 20th century movement in the arts, in which the aim was to express feelings as intensely as possibly.

Common features of expressionist music include: atonal (not set in a key), disjunct (jumping melodic lines), extremes of dynamics, dissonance (clashing sound) and unusual combinations of instruments playing their full range of notes.

Schoenberg was an important figure in the Expressionist movement. He was an Austrian composer who founded the Second Viennese School - a group of composers including Bern and Webern who wrote expressionist music.

'Peripetie' is the fourth of Schoenberg's Five orchestral pieces composed in 1909. The title means 'a sudden reversal'.

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  • The work requires a large orchestra or at least 90 players (made up of strings,woodwind, a large brass section and percussion)
  • The instrumentation changes rapidly throughout, creating many contrasts in timbre
  • Performers are frequently required to play at the extremes of their range - either very high or very low
  • Unusual effects are used - for example, the cymbols are played with both a bow and a mallet, and at one point the double basses play a tremolo very close to the bridge that supports the strings

It was difficult for Schoenberg to get the pieces performed, partly because of their experimental nature and partly because they needed such a large orchestra.

Unfamiliar instruments

  • Cor anglais - a lower version of the oboe
  • Contrabassoon - a large bassoon
  • Tam-tam - a large gong
  • Piccolo - a small flute
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Structure / Texture and Dynamics

This piece is in free rondo form, with 5 sections (ABACA). It is called free rondo because it is very different to the traditional type of rondo heard in the Classical period, when different sections were clearly contrasted.

  • The texture is largely contrapuntal, with occasional monophonic and homophonic moments.
  • Complex textures are built up through the use of techniques such as imitation and inversion.
  • There are frequent sudden changes of dynamics, leading to extreme contrasts between ppp and fff
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  • 'Peripetie' is made up of many short, fragmented motifs that are combined in different ways.
  • Melodies are disjunct (with many large leaps) and so often are very anguar - Schoenberg uses octave displacement, unexpectedly moving individual notes of the main melody into a different octave
  • Although motifs aren't really developed or drawn out to form longer melodies, they are varied using techniques such as inversion (a melody is turned upside down) and rhythmic augmentation (the notes become twice as long)
  • Very wide pitch range
  • Melody is atonal
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Rhythm, Metre and Tempo / Harmony and Tonality

  • The metre changes between 2/4, 3/4 and 4/4
  • The tempo is Sehr rasch - very quick
  • Rhythms are complex and varied, and change quickly. In parts of the work, Schoenberg layers a number of different rhythmic patterns on top of each other to create a complex contrapuntal texture.
  • Atonal (not set in a key, uses all 12 notes of the chromatic scale)
  • Uses hexachords (6 note chords)  and compliments (the other 6 notes)
  • Lots of dissonant harmony used
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