Chamber Music in the Early Twentieth Century

Abstract

At the beginning of the twentieth century, chamber music developed specific features, and trios of the clarinet, violin, and piano became popular because of the unique sound produced by these instruments when they were used in one ensemble. From this point, the purpose of this dissertation has been to examine the key features of Aram Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Béla Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano and discuss specific approaches to rehearsing a clarinet, violin, and piano trio. Therefore, this dissertation provides the answers to the research question on the major specific features of Khachaturian’s Trio and Bartók’s Contrasts. Furthermore, the research also addresses the question on the composers’ unique use of rhythms and folk melodies in their pieces. Moreover, rehearsal techniques that can be used to make the performance of a violin, clarinet, and piano trio effective have also been described as a result of research. The contribution of this research is in providing theorists and practitioners with more implications regarding the performance of Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano while referring to their rhythmic patterns and folk tunes.

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Introduction

The beginning of the twentieth century was characterized by composers’ and musicians’ search for and choice of new forms and sounds in order to accentuate their vision of music. During that period, innovative approaches to music were combined with traditional or folk music. Such experiments with forms have led to the creation of new ensembles and music pieces that reflect the tendencies of that time. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the popularity of chamber music was promoted by those composers who focused on advantages of creating pieces for such ensemble group as a trio that included clarinet, violin, and piano. In the 1930s, trios with clarinet, violin, and piano became a response to classical trios including clarinet, viola, and piano or clarinet, cello, and piano. Thus, the search for new forms in music resulted in creating a unique ensemble where the balance focused on combining instruments with different (high, middle, and low) registers was changed with the accentuation of a high register in the clarinet and violin. The combination of these instruments was unusual and providing composers with more opportunities for variations.

In 1932, Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) responded to the trends of the early part of the twentieth century and created his Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor where he mixed different approaches to building a rhythmic pattern of the piece and using folk melodies. In 1938, Béla Bartók (1881-1945) also referred to trios with clarinet, violin, and piano and composed his famous Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano, in which he also focused on accentuating the variety of cross-rhythms and elements of folk music. Khachaturian and Bartók created music pieces that are viewed today as standards for such trios; however, it is also important to examine specific features of these two works that reflected unconventional forms typical of music during the early part of the twentieth century. Furthermore, it is critical to refer to these composers’ backgrounds in order to understand what elements and why they chose to include in their works discussed in this research.

The significance of this study is in demonstrating how composers can use cross-rhythms and folk music, as well as other elements typical of pieces created in the twentieth century, to provide unique compositions for clarinet, violin, and piano. The findings of this research can help explain why Khachaturian’s and Bartók’s pieces are considered as classical works for such type of ensembles today. In spite of being viewed as controversial and unbalanced in the 1920s-1930s, trios for clarinet, violin, and piano became popular because of the audience’s interest in pieces similar to Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano. Thus, this study adds to research on trios for violin, clarinet, and piano with reference to identifying specific features of Khachaturian’s and Bartók’s pieces. Furthermore, this research is also focused on presenting rehearsal techniques that can be used by performers of these works. The reason is that there is a lack of literature on a rehearsal practice related to a violin, clarinet, and piano trio. The analysis of the theoretical literature on rehearsal techniques is supported by the discussion of musicians’ experiences in performing these pieces.

From this perspective, the purpose of this study can be formulated the following way: to examine the key features of Khachaturian’s and Bartók’s works and discuss approaches to rehearsing a clarinet, violin, and piano trio. The related research questions that guide this study should also be listed: a) What are the key features of Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano? b) How do these composers use rhythms and folk melodies in their pieces? c) What rehearsal techniques can be used to make the performance of a violin, clarinet, and piano trio effective? These questions are aimed to be answered with reference to the review of the literature on the selected pieces and discussion of rehearsal techniques used by performers of Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano.

Methodology

In order to address the purpose and research questions of this study, it is necessary to conduct the literature review of secondary sources related to the topic. The focus is on analyzing the information presented in books, scholarly articles, dissertations, and other relevant sources that describe and evaluate the key features of Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano. The selection of sources for the review is supported by the necessity of focusing on the works of both contemporaries of the composers and modern researchers. The reason is that the analyzed data should be appropriate to not only provide the answers to the research questions but also discuss the studied pieces in the context of music of the twentieth century. The sources have been selected with reference to their appropriateness to provide information regarding the composers’ backgrounds, their use of rhythmic patterns, and the integration of folk melodies into these pieces.

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These sources are important to analyze the selected works, interpret the composers’ use of techniques, and evaluate their relevance from the perspective of performers. Therefore, an additional category of reviewed literature is related to the application of rehearsal techniques used by trios. In this dissertation, the researcher provides the description of Khachaturian’s and Bartók’s backgrounds, shortly describes the key features of these pieces with reference to their aim and performance by trios, provides the analysis of rhythmic patterns, describes the use of folk melodies, and analyzes effective rehearsal techniques with reference to one’s own experience.

Aram Khachaturian and Béla Bartók: Composers’ Backgrounds

The analysis of folk traditions that are used in two selected pieces is almost impossible without discussing the composers’ backgrounds that influenced the formation of their style. Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978) was born in an Armenian family that lived in Tiflis (Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia). Thus, the composer was brought up in the place where different cultures and traditions, including Georgian, Armenian, Russian, and even Turkish ones, were significantly mixed. This aspect influenced Khachaturian’s style that reflected folk melodies typical of various cultures that were common in the Soviet Union. Khachaturian’s interest in music developed when he was a child and played the piano by ear, using the elements of improvisation and popular folk tunes. After moving to Moscow in 1922, Khachaturian became a student of the Gnessin Conservatory where he needed to focus on musical studies and theory as he had not the required educational background. After that, Khachaturian studied composition at the Moscow Conservatory. It is also important to note that, during this period, works by Khachaturian were influenced by the tutelage of Nikolai Myaskovsky.

It is necessary to note that Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor was created during the period of studying at the Moscow Conservatory. Moreover, this trio is the only piece of chamber music created by the composer. According to Heilman, the musical and rhythmic pattern of the composer’s first works were influenced by his Armenian and Georgian origin, the Russian music tradition, and by the interpretation of folk music typical of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Azerbaijan. As a result, Khachaturian’s focus on different cultures and folk melodies contributed to creating his unique music style that was clearly introduced in his Trio. His first works were warmly perceived and appreciated by other composers, including Dmitri Shostakovich. Khachaturian often paid attention to the fact that his interest in folk music was associated not only with his background and experience but also with his intentions to synthesize modern approaches to music typical of the twentieth century and music traditions of such countries as Armenia and Georgia among others.12

After discussing a specific personal and educational background of Khachaturian, it is also necessary to refer to the experience of Bartók, which influenced his development as one of the famous composers of the twentieth century. Thus, a unique cultural background of Béla Bartók (1881-1945) significantly influenced his music. The composer was born in Sânnicolau Mare, Romania, which was the part of Austria-Hungary in the 1880s. In spite of receiving only the limited music education, Bartók began to compose small works in the 1890s, and he continued his education at the Budapest Academy of Music. There, Bartók developed his skills of both a pianist and a composer. In the 1900s, the composer was interested in studying folk music, and he conducted numerous expeditions in order to learn more about Hungarian, Slovak, and Romanian music traditions. This experience allowed the composer to focus on forming his own music style that became described by critics as rather radical.

Bartók became a popular composer in Europe in 1918-1922 because his unconventional pieces based on folk melodies attracted the audience’s attention. During this period, Bartók was also interested in studying oriental, Turkish, and Serbian music traditions. In the late part of the 1930s, the composer decided to move to the United States. That was the time when Bartók’s doubts and ideas became reflected in his Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano. Thus, Contrasts became his only chamber work to be based on using a wind instrument. The composer was aimed at creating a piece that could be used by Benny Goodman, a clarinetist, Joseph Szigeti, a violinist, and Bartók as a pianist in a trio. Contrasts was planned to be a two-movement piece with the elements of a rhapsody since Szigeti and Goodman expected that this work would be written for their violin and clarinet.

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Still, the motivation of Bartók regarding his emigration caused him to provide a unique three-movement piece that also included piano. The performance of this piece was expected to influence Bartók’s move to New York that became a reality in 1940. In New York, the composer experienced difficulties with adapting to new music circles, but he continued to compose concertos and sonatas that are viewed by critics as masterpieces today. From this point, it is possible to pay attention to the fact that both composers demonstrated their interest in folk music that was affected by their personal cultural backgrounds and aspects of their lives.

The Key Features of Khachaturian’s and Bartók’s Pieces

The analysis of Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano, as well as the literature on these two pieces, has allowed for identifying key specific features of these works that need to be discussed in detail. Khachaturian’s Trio is composed of three parts. The first movement is played as “Andante Con Dolore, Con Molto Espressione.” It is a duet of the clarinet and violin that begins in G and then ends in C. In this part, the piano only supports the sounds of the violin and clarinet, and it is important to note that the clarinet seems to imitate in its sound such Transcaucasian wind instrument as zurna. The second movement is played as “Allegro” with highly accentuated dance rhythms. The third movement of the piece is “Moderato Prestissimo” that represents the composer’s interpretations of Uzbek folk melodies. This part is characterized by emphasized timbre and harmonic contrasts, as well as by a colorful pattern of a melody. As a result, a traditional fast-slow-fast movement form typical of such works was changed by the composer in his Trio.

Researchers explain a significant influence of folk elements on Khachaturian’s Trio not only with reference to his background and interest in Armenian, Georgian, Uzbek, and other traditions but also with reference to the impact of his teacher Myaskovsky, who in his turn was under the impact of Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. Both Rimsky-Korsakov and Myaskovsky recognized the impact of Russian folk music on their works, and Khachaturian was also encouraged to include folk elements in his pieces as the illustration of his musical style. Furthermore, it is critical to state that Khachaturian explained an unusual choice of instruments for his Trio noting that it was important for him to present an Uzbek melody with the help of an appropriate wind instrument, and the clarinet was viewed as effective to support folk melodies and break traditions for ensembles.

As a result of focusing on representing folk melodies in his piece, Khachaturian supported the idea of pan-Soviet nationalism that was also promoted by Myaskovsky. This opinion is claimed and developed by different researchers in their works. The key focus was on accentuating idiosyncratic folk melodies with the help of the sounds of the clarinet and violin. From this perspective, in all three movements, the piano plays a supportive function, and a piano solo in the third movement is used to accentuate the folk melody, and it further leads to the return of an Uzbek theme. Thus, the key instruments in this trio are the violin and clarinet. Referring to this analysis of the piece, researchers stated that Khachaturian chose to emphasize sounds of these instruments because the violin and clarinet are most appropriate for imitating not only instruments but also voices in folk melodies, including traditional dances and songs. These aspects that link Khachaturian’s Trio and folk tunes typical of Armenian, Georgian, Uzbek, and other traditions can be viewed as the key features of this selected piece.

While focusing on the other musical piece created for a trio of violin, clarinet, and piano, it is necessary to state that Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano is also a three-movement work that represents the composer’s interest in traditional Hungarian and Central European melodies. The first movement of this piece is “Verbunkos” that is known as a Gypsy and a military recruit dance. In the eighteenth century, this dance was traditionally performed by twelve soldiers. Gypsy musicians served to accompany the dance. The second movement of Contrasts is “Pihenő” that means relaxation, and it is the slowest movement in this work. Furthermore, the third movement is “Sebes”, which is a Bulgarian traditional quick dance. Bartók used an irregular meter in order to accentuate its dynamics, and this aspect causes a violinist’s focus on retuning two strings to achieve the expected effect in the sound of the violin. From this perspective, the composer used folk melodies and dances integrated into the pattern of the piece for the purpose of accentuating contrasts in these three movements. This specific feature of the trio was reflected by the composer in the title of the work.

In his musical piece, Bartók put emphasis on contrasts using a variety of means, including timbral techniques and different acoustic approaches. As a result, Bartók’s Contrasts as an example of chamber music became associated with Neo-folklorism. In “Verbunkos”, the composer included violin pizzicato that is supported by the clarinet in order to create a diverse main theme of this movement. The focus is on variations and improvisations that are important in order to accentuate dynamics of folk melodies. In addition, the second movement seems not to address the expectations of performers and listeners in spite of its title that is interpreted as “relaxation.” This approach also contributes to creating the effect of contrasts. Finally, as it was stated earlier, the third movement makes a violinist to retune two strings while focusing on lowering the E string and raising the G string in order to achieve the effect typical of tunes in folk dances. With the help of these approaches, Bartók integrated the Bulgarian Rhythm in his work and strengthened the rhythmic structure of the piece. These summarized aspects are the key features of Bartók’s piece that need to be discussed further in detail.

After discussing Khachaturian’s Trio and Bartók’s Contrasts, it is possible to determine differences and similarities in these two works. On the one hand, these two pieces are similar because they are composed for trios including the clarinet, violin, and piano, and they include three movements. The composers were interested in presenting folk tunes in their works because of the impact of diverse backgrounds. The virtuoso use of rhythms and folk melodies is typical of both pieces. On the other hand, Khachaturian’s Trio and Bartók’s Contrasts have differences in their structures. Bartók selected a traditional fast-slow-fast movement form in order to accentuate dynamics of his work. On the contrary, Khachaturian chose to use a reversed form in order to create his own unique pattern of Trio. Additionally, there are also differences in intentions and motivation for creating the discussed pieces because Khachaturian aimed at combining different folk melodies in one work under the impact of Myaskovsky, and Bartók created the piece for Joseph Szigeti and Benni Goodman following his pragmatic motives. As a result, these works are perceived by listeners differently, and in spite of discussed similarities, the composers created distinctive examples of chamber music that can hardly be compared.

Rhythmic Patterns in Khachaturian’s and Bartók’s Pieces

A rhythmic structure of a musical piece is important to be studied in relation to each of the selected work because rhythms create unique patterns and frames for the melody and main themes. The complex phenomenon of rhythm in music includes such aspects as meter and proportion among others, and the manipulation of these aspects allows composers to create a specific musical pattern. In this context, cross-rhythms can be defined as the use of two conflicting rhythms in order to demonstrate specific rhythmic tensions, break the unity of the pattern, and accentuate two different rhythms. As a result, a regular frame for accents related to the meter becomes contradicted by other patterns of the meter. If there are more than two conflicting rhythms, it is possible to speak about polyrhythm. Different types of rhythms can be observed in Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano.

Khachaturian often employed repeating rhythms and quickly changing melodies that allowed for creating the pattern of the piece based on ideas of complexity and clarity. Furthermore, one of the key features of Khachaturian’s rhythmic patterns is the use of seconds that is influenced by his interest in folk music. In his works, including Trio, the composer used a rhythmic ostinato in the form of short repeated patterns where chords are used with juxtaposed minor and major seconds. The use of seconds in this case is influenced by sounds typical of sazandar music and the composer’s focus on oriental or Eastern patterns. According to Hakobian, “the use of such exotic chords instead of the standard minor and major fabric imparts to many pages of Khachaturian’s music a peculiar ‘impressionistic’ spirit that is, perhaps, more akin to the very nature of oriental music,” and the researcher opposes this impact to “the dynamism artificially thrust upon it by adaptations made in accordance with the concept of triadic tonality.” In Trio, the example of using Khachaturian’s seconds is the beginning of the first movement where the chords are viewed as unique with an unusual pattern of using minors and majors (Examples 1, 2).

Khachaturian, Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor
Example 1. Khachaturian, Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor, “Andante Con Dolore, Con Molto Espressione,” violin, mm. 5-6.
Khachaturian, Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor
Example 2. Khachaturian, Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor, “Andante Con Dolore, Con Molto Espressione,” piano, mm. 4-6.

The use of seconds became a key feature of Khachaturian’s approach to creating rhythmic patterns in his works. According to Khachaturian, “these seconds come from the numerous sounds of folk instruments which I had heard as a child: sazandartar, gyamancha, and drum.” Therefore, they are used in many pieces created by the composer. It is also important to pay attention to the fact that the accentuation of rhythms can also be observed in the second movement of the work where Khachaturian referred to irregular rhythms that are helpful to imitate folk instruments. Moreover, the rhythmic pattern of Khachaturian’s work is based on the rhythm of the Armenian language, as it is noted by researchers. The accent in words is expected to be placed on the last syllable, and this pattern is reflected in the second movement of Trio where phrases are divided into sub-phrases in order to keep the rhythmic stress (Example 3). These rhythmic structures are viewed as Khachaturian’s variants of cross-rhythms.

Khachaturian, Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor
Example 3. Khachaturian, Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor, “Allegro,” Clarinet in B flat, mm. 31-36.

In addition to analyzing Khachaturian’s specific vision of rhythm with reference to Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor, it is also important to discuss Bartók’s interpretation of rhythms. Bartók’s rhythmic style is based on opposing symmetry and asymmetry with reference to pitches, forms, and motives in his work. In the first movement, the composer applied the inversional symmetry while pointing out asymmetrical elements in symmetrical pitches and forms. The use of different symmetric and asymmetric rhythms allowed Bartók to put emphasis on different instruments used in Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano, different parts of the piece, and on distinct ideas conveyed in his work. Moreover, Bartók’s interest in contrasts while developing rhythmic patterns is also realized in his accentuation of metric constraints and improvisation. Thus, the composer applied metric dissonance in his work in order to emphasize certain parts of the melody with the help of cross-rhythms.

It is also important to pay attention to the fact that Bartók used Bulgarian meters and treated rhythms typical of folk melodies in a specific manner, accentuating folk rhythm transformations. As a result, he achieved the metro-rhythm progression. Furthermore, he also referred only to basic elements of folk traditions, and his application of a rhythmic structure made works sound rather aggressive, as it is noted by researchers. Therefore, it is possible to conclude that Bartók developed his own system of rhythms that is based on rhythmic folk structures where he determined such fixed rhythms as asymmetrical ones and variable rhythms related to mode-hierarchies, as it is in the second movement of Contrasts (Example 4). In addition, the composer also identified shifted rhythms and the manipulation of certain parts of rhythmic segs. All these features allow for describing the aspects of Bartók’s approach to creating rhythmic patterns in his works.

Bartók, Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano
Example 4. Bartók, Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano, “Pihenő,” mm. 65-68.

The uniqueness of rhythms in Bartók’s Contrasts has been studied with reference to analyzing its first movement “Verbunkos”. The accompaniment pattern used in this movement is dűvő that can be described as a four-measure structure of the meter where there is the accentuation on each second attack in a pair of these attacks. Dűvő is typical of Hungarian folk melodies, and it is played on stringed instruments. In “Verbunkos”, the offbeat dűvő appears along with the accentuation of dotted rhythms, such as r.g. (Examples 5, 6). As a result, the combination of dűvő as an accompaniment pattern, dotted rhythms, and the four-measure structure or a phrase contributes to creating a specific improvisatory pattern.

Bartók, Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano
Example 5. Bartók, Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano, “Verbunkos,” the first dűvő pattern.
Bartók, Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano
Example 6. Bartók, Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano, “Verbunkos,” the second dűvő pattern.

An unusual and folk-based rhythm of the movement is also supported by specifics of its form because “Verbunkos” includes the elements typical of a ternary design, a truncated sonata form, and an arch form. As a result, themes that appear in the movement are restated in it several times in different variants. The key framing motive in the movement is powered by specific dotted rhythms and the role of the piano’s offbeat entrance that add to strengthening a rhythmic structure of the movement. These rhythmic patterns provide the background for two key themes of the first movement, and the main rhythmic pattern used in “Verbunkos” is short-long-short-long durations. In the first theme of the movement, sixteenth notes form the pattern with the stress on long strong beats. In the second theme of the movement, the pattern is formed by triplet eighth notes, and the stress is on short strong beats. The dűvő accompaniment pattern is also present. As a result, two themes appear to sound different and provide unique effects on the audience.

Variations in rhythmic patterns are also explained with reference to the composers’ interest in using contrasts in their works. Thus, Khachaturian used contrasts in tunes and rhythms in order to underline some ideas, as well as to emphasize particular instruments’ lines. Bartók chose to spontaneously change the dominant melody and introduce new lines in his piece, and this approach made his works lively and authentic. The interest of both composers in creating unusual rhythmic patterns caused the development of two unique pieces for trios including the violin, clarinet, and piano. However, the problem is that musicians are expected to demonstrate their advanced skills while performing these pieces with their variety of rhythms and cross-rhythms.

The Use of Folk Melodies in the Selected Works

Folk tunes were actively used by many composers during the early twentieth century in order to add vividness and originality to their works. Both Khachaturian and Bartók emphasized the importance of folk music as influencing their development as composers. Having diverse cultural backgrounds and imitating folk music of different roots, these composers achieved significant results in combining various traditions and cultures in one musical piece. The analysis of the literature on Khachaturian’s and Bartók’s works can show how folk tunes were integrated into the selected two pieces for trios with violin, clarinet, and piano in order to make them sound unique.

The discussion of the impact of folk melodies on the selected pieces should start with Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor. In spite of the fact that Khachaturian’s music is often associated with the use of folk tunes in his different pieces because of his interest in Caucasian music, it is important to pay attention to the composer’s specific approach to integrating folk traditions into his musical pieces. According to researchers, direct quotations from traditional melodies or dances or clear references to popular folk melodies can be found in Khachaturian’s works, but they are rather rare because the composer often used folk elements indirectly. For instance, the application of oriental scales is typical of Khachaturian’s pieces, but critics accentuated elegance with which the composer added them to his pieces. Thus, in his works, the composer followed the pattern typical of Armenian melodies and put the tune climax at the beginning of the movement, and basic tones of the tune were placed after the descending movement. In order to adapt the harmony and structure of scales, the composer also used chords with unusual diminished eighths.

From this point, Khachaturian actively adapted elements of folk music to his works, and in his Trio, the composer accentuated the impact of folk melodies in each movement of the piece. In the first movement, “Andante Con Dolore, Con Molto Espressione,” the clarinet is used to imitate zurna, a Transcaucasian wind instrument (Example 3). The duet of the clarinet and violin creates the impression that a folk melody is combined with a classical form to sound more attractive to listeners (Example 7). This approach is also applied in other two movements of the piece. Furthermore, according to Kushner, “elements drawn from ashug music, such as melismatic melodic phrases, Eastern dance rhythms, modal flavoring, and, in the final movement an Uzbeki folksong, are combined with European features, including French impressionism.” As a result, it is possible to state that folk music also influenced Khachaturian’s use of rhythms with reference to his seconds that are typical of Armenian and Eastern melodies.

Khachaturian, Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor
Example 7. Khachaturian, Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor, “Andante Con Dolore, Con Molto Espressione,” mm. 4-6.

In addition, it is possible to state that Khachaturian’s Trio combines not only folk melodies and patterns in its structure and mood but also jazz harmonies. This effect was achieved because Khachaturian paid much attention to employing modern instruments in order to produce sounds typical of folk or traditional instruments, including dohl, kamancha, or duduk. According to Hakobian, “the force of Khachaturian’s music consists in the vividness of his initial musical ideas. His imagination is concentrated especially on inventing the main musical impulse, which usually plays the role of thesis that pierces the whole form.” Therefore, Khachaturian’s music, including Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor, is full of references to folk music, but they are modernized and original in their character.

It is also important to note that researchers have different opinions regarding the purpose of applying folk tunes in Khachaturian’s works. According to Kushner, Khachaturian “was an enthusiastic supporter of Communistic ideals, including expansion of ideology,” and his Trio seems to reflect “the aesthetics of the RAPM in its formal design and the folkloric features promoted by Stalin.” In this context, RAPM is the abbreviation for the Russian Association of Proletarian Musicians. However, in his scholarly work, Schultz referred to the words by the composer, and Khachaturian also claimed the following: Russian oriental music “showed me not only the possibility, but also the necessity of a rapprochement between, and mutual enrichment of Eastern and Western cultures, of Transcaucasian music and Russian music.” From this perspective, the focus on folk melodies in Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and other pieces was a reasonable step for the composer to accentuate his identity.

The impact of folk melodies on Bartók’s music in general and on Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano in particular is significant. It is possible to state that Bartók succeeded in applying folk melodies in his works because, as a theorist, he paid much attention to studying the folk legacy of Europeans with the focus on traditions of Eastern and Central Europe. A variety of musical traditions examined by the composer influenced his own style in terms of employing chromatic variations, using certain chords, and applying folk songs and dances. In his works, Bartók used folk tunes that he had studied carefully during his expeditions. Bartók is the author of written works on folk music of different ethnic groups, and he is also the author of several collections of folk songs and dances that were recorded. The careful study of this material allowed the composer to pay more attention to selecting instruments, arranging meters and rhythms, as well as adapting folk melodies and themes to the modern context of the twentieth century.

However, it is also important to note that Bartók was interested not only in European folk traditions but also in Eastern ones. Thus, according to the composer, “the folk songs are magnets that pull me toward the Orient.” As a result, the variety of folk influences can be studied with reference to the composer’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano. The title of the work was used by the composer in order to attract the audience’s attention to the complex character of this piece because each movement is influenced by different folk and classical traditions. Thus, in spite of the fact that “Verbunkos” represents melodies and rhythms typical of Gypsy and Hungarian dances, these motives are also combined with the elements of jazz and blues with the focus on timbral and rhythmic differences in themes. As a result, the first theme, including violin pizzicatos, is followed by the folk-based second meno mosso theme. These effects are strengthened with the help of further cadenza performed by the clarinet and the return to the theme made by the violin.

The impact of folk music on Bartók’s Contrasts is obvious as he referred to not only elements of verbunkos as a dance but also to the Romanian melody observed in the second theme of the first movement. The further development of folk melodies is observed in other two movements. “Pihenö”, which is the second movement of the piece, was added to Contrasts after completing the other two movements. Initially planned as a two-movement rhapsody, Contrasts was expanded, and the “relaxation” part was also added under the influence of folk traditions. Thus, the composer chose to add a slow interlude to the piece that was marked as Lento in order to contribute to creating a mystery effect typical of traditional songs that were popular in Eastern Europe. This approach made the melodic pattern of Contrasts more vivid.

The third movement of the piece is “Sebes” or a fast dance that reflected traditional Hungarian-style music themes. Still, the third movement is also characterized by Bartók’s adaptation of folk tunes to his variant of a fast dance because it is almost impossible to associate the key theme of the movement with any folk melody spread in Hungary (Example 8). However, other researchers state that “Sebes” is a quick dance typical of a Bulgarian tradition, and a virtuosic combination of different folk tunes allowed the composer to create a unique melody inspired by traditional European tunes.

Bartók, Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano
Example 8. Bartók, Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano, “Sebes,” mm. 116-118.

As a result, all three movements of Bartók’s Contrasts are illustrations for the composer’s integration of folk music into his original pieces. From this perspective, the works of both composers are full of folk elements that are viewed as attractive to performers and listeners even today. Khachaturian and Bartók not only applied folk tunes typical of their cultures and ethnic backgrounds, but they also created unique expressional variants of these tunes’ adaptations in their works for trios including the violin, clarinet, and piano. Therefore, it is also important to discuss how musicians can succeed in rehearsing these musical pieces.

Rehearsal Techniques and Performance of Khachaturian’s and Bartók’s Pieces

The researcher or author of this study is a violinist and belongs to the trio of performers. The ensemble includes the clarinet, violin, and piano, and the works by Aram Khachaturian and Béla Bartók are often performed by this ensemble. While referring to personal experience in performing Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano, it has been important to describe effective rehearsal techniques that can be used by other performers in order to improve their practice and understanding of these works’ specific features. The reason for focusing on the performance of Trio and Contrasts, as well as associated rehearsal techniques, is that in spite of other researchers’ interest in folk melodies and rhythmic patterns used in these works, there is a lack of literature on the performance of these complex pieces. Khachaturian’s Trio and Bartók’s Contrasts are important works for the repertoire of trios including the clarinet, violin, and piano because there are not many pieces created for this type of ensembles.

Although a lot of literature exists on historical and cultural backgrounds of these works and their connection with folk music, more attention should be paid to the performance of these pieces and effective rehearsal techniques to be used by musicians. These compositions were viewed by contemporaries as rather unusual and provocative because of the combination of modernist tendencies with folk melodies. Therefore, much attention should be paid to organizing the process of rehearsing in the most appropriate manner to guarantee that musicians understand the role of traditional idiosyncrasies in performing these pieces, the use of specific techniques, and the correlation with the cultural context of the work.

A rehearsal is an important practice in order to work on a new musical piece as an ensemble and prepare for the concert. In spite of the fact that rehearsal procedures used for ensembles usually do not differ significantly depending on the selected composition, the work with folk-based pieces can require more efforts to make rehearsals efficient. The first step is the work with the scores and annotations that were originally made by the composers. In order to achieve the authentic sound, it can be critical to refer to the edition of the scores that was created and noted by the composer. Different publishers and editors can use various letters and numbers for annotating. At this stage, it was also important to identify the most famous recordings and performances of the selected pieces. Thus, for Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano, it was important to refer to the original performance of the piece by Joseph Szigeti (violin), Benny Goodman (clarinet), and Béla Bartók (piano).

Rehearsals for these pieces were added to the schedule, and the musicians started to work on Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor. However, for the purpose of illustrating important rehearsal techniques to be used by musicians while performing these pieces, it is necessary to refer to the examples of rehearsing the performance of Bartók’s Contrasts. The second step was the planning of rehearsals and the work with the scores. It was expected that, before starting rehearsals, each member of the ensemble had learned the scores to use and discuss during sessions. During the first rehearsal, it was important to read and discuss the scores and notes made by the composers. It was also necessary to refer to the history of creating the selected piece and music trends during that period. Recordings for demonstrating other musicians’ performances were also used in order to show how it is possible to interpret the composers’ notes, work on virtuosic parts, and cope with the most complicated moments. Much attention was paid to examining musicians’ fingering and bowing techniques at this stage.

The next step is the organization of regular rehearsals with the focus on those sections or moments that cause troubles during sessions. Referring to the example of Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano, it is important to concentrate on the rhythmic pattern of the piece. While playing the first movement, the clarinetist is expected to concentrate on the dotted rhythm of the melody and effectively use the Lydian/Mixolydian polymode. The violinist is expected to support this rhythm with the focus on pizzicato chords in order to allow the clarinetist to accentuate embellishments in the tonal pattern at the end of the theme. From bar 21, the main attention should be paid to the violin and the rising pattern of fourths that becomes supported by the piano. The focus on differences in rhythmic patterns that need to be followed by performers allows them to support each other’s parts and follow the same tempo. Thus, the violinist needs to balance the shift to the middle part of the movement and the necessity of accentuating the intensive rhythm leading to the climatic section

If it is required, the ensemble can repeat performing the first movement of the piece till achieving the balanced performance. This practice is important for improving the manner, technique, and the collaboration of the musicians. In this case, the focus should be on such rehearsal techniques as the concentration on bowing, fingering, rhythm, and articulation. The consistency of the sound produced by the clarinetist, violinist, and pianist depends on their interpretations of articulations. While working with those pieces that are based on the folk material, performers need to pay more attention to reading notes of the composers and putting accents accordingly to guarantee the tone of the whole ensemble is balanced. More focus is also required on phrasing.

In the case of the discussed ensemble, the musicians regularly rehearsed the most complicated transitions to new themes and specific changes in rhythms that are typical of Armenian and Hungarian folk melodies while speaking about the experience of working on two most interesting examples of trios for the ensemble including the clarinet, violin, and piano. The focus was on maintaining rhythmic precision with reference to using dotted rhythms and cross-rhythms typical of Khachaturian’s Trio and Bartók’s Contrasts. The work with rhythms also involves balancing the sound of the whole ensemble because of the necessity of focusing on slowing or speeding the parts according to the annotated scores. At this stage, it is also important to return to intonation in order to make sure that all musicians intonate according to the scores and listening to the parts of each other.

When the work on the first movement is completed, it is possible to rehearse the second and third movements. At the beginning of “Pihenő”, it is important for musicians to balance their performance while playing Klangfarbenmelodie and using the upper voices of clarinet and violin. In this part, the pianist plays agitated figures, and much attention should be paid to oscillations and falling chains. All these effects need to lead to interlocking fifths and reflecting major thirds by the piano. The performance of the final part of Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano also makes musicians focus more on the meter, tone, and rhythm in order to cause the unison of the sounds in spite of manipulating major and minor chords and changing rhythms. From this point, the explanation of appropriate rehearsal techniques with the help of examples of working on Bartók’s Contrasts contributes to understanding what tools and approaches can work better in cases when it is necessary to perform pieces based on folk melodies related to different cultures.

The reference to the history of creating the pieces and the folk material, on which they were based, is important to help musicians perform these compositions. For instance, during rehearsals of Bartók’s Contrasts, it was important to remember that the piece is not only based on Hungarian folk music, but it also was planned as a two-movement piece arranged as a lassu-friss form of a rhapsody where slow and fast sections are paired. As a result, these sections should be played with the level of expression that is usually required for lassu-friss rhapsodies.

At the last stage of rehearsing the selected pieces, it is necessary to turn to the use of articulations, intonation, and rhythms in order to make sure that the ensemble performs the piece in the most appropriate and balanced manner while accentuating the parts of the clarinet, violin, and piano depending on the composer’s expectations and guidelines. Musicians need to understand the specifics of shifting from one movement to another and concentrate on changes in rhythms and melodies. In the selected pieces, much attention should also be paid to the virtuosic component. In this context, the reference to the composer’s marking and notes is important and helpful. However, printed scores cannot provide all required information for performers, and more interpretation can be needed. To address this need, musicians should listen to the performance of other ensembles in order to analyze their approach to balancing their parts.

It is important to conclude this section with final comments on rehearsal techniques. Thus, musicians as part of ensembles are expected to make video recordings of their sessions at different stages of working on the musical piece in order to monitor the progress and work on mistakes. In addition, more time and efforts should be spent on rehearsing the most difficult passages of the piece and on achieving the balanced sound in spite of rhythmic, tempo or other musical challenges typical of the selected piece. Furthermore, the analysis of the rehearsal techniques used for preparing for performing Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano indicates that the work on the material based on folk music can provide musicians with more challenges and barriers to overcome. Therefore, this discussion is important to contribute to the practice and knowledge of performers.

Discussion and Conclusions

The review of the literature on Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano has demonstrated that it is possible to speak about the relationship or link between these composers’ backgrounds, their interest in folk music, and their use of rhythms and folk melodies explained by their cultural and ethnic identity. The existing literature on the topic and the close analysis of the selected pieces have provided information in order to state what particular key features of Khachaturian’s Trio and Bartók’s Contrasts should be identified and described. Making conclusions about the specific features of these two pieces, it is important to state that both works were impacted by music trends of the beginning of the twentieth century as the composers concentrated on a particular ensemble including the clarinet, violin, and piano. Additionally, both works were created under the influence of the composers’ backgrounds and folk music. However, Khachaturian and Bartók chose different approaches to organizing their movements using a fast-and-slow pattern. From this perspective, the first research question has been addressed, and the features of these two works were discussed in detail.

The second research question has also been answered with reference to the results of this study. The researcher can conclude that Khachaturian and Bartók used rhythms and folk melodies in their pieces in a different manner in spite of integrating these features in their works. Thus, the analysis of the rhythmic structure of Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor allows for focusing on specific Khachaturian’s seconds or a rhythmic ostinato. The accentuation of these rhythmic elements allowed the composer to emphasize the lively character of the movements in his work. Khachaturian’s seconds are often mentioned in researchers’ analyses of the composer’s musical style, and they are described in detail in this research.

For his works, Khachaturian found inspiration in his cultural backgrounds that allowed him to combine traditions of different ethnic groups in unique musical pieces, and their pan-nationalist character helped them become familiar or close to a wide audience. Although some researchers claim that Khachaturian’s use of folk melodies and music traditions was explained by his orientation to the authorities of the Soviet Union, it is still possible to argue that the primary motive of the composer was to reflect his own vision of his people’s history. It was also necessary to focus on his identity reflected in his works that combined elements of Caucasian folk music, European folk music, Russian traditions, and Oriental traditions in a way that was most appropriate for Khachaturian.

While concluding regarding the rhythmic patterns and folk tunes used in Bartók’s Contrasts, it is possible to state that the composer realized his vision of the authentic musical piece in this work. The composer was not limited in his interpretation of different folk traditions in this piece, and it seems that Bartók actively shifted from one folk tune to another while making vivid accents with the help of cross-rhythms and other rhythmic elements in order to make the sound rich and colorful. The result of this play with folk melodies, tones, meters, and rhythms is the piece that is closely associated with not only Hungarian traditions but also Bulgarian, Gypsy, and Oriental ones. While performing this piece, musicians receive an opportunity to demonstrate their virtuosity by manipulating all contrasts that are related to this unique work as a vivid example of chamber music of the early part of the twentieth century. Therefore, it is possible to state that the analysis of both works and related literature allows for concluding about specifics of using rhythms and folk tunes in Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano.

The response to the third research question has also been provided in this dissertation because specific rehearsal techniques that can help performers improve their performance of Khachaturian’s Trio and Bartók’s Contrasts have been described referring to the literature and unique personal experience of the researcher. While summarizing these techniques, it is important to note that the musicians in the trio are expected to pay much attention to working with the scores and notations made by the composer in order to understand what specific sounds are expected and associated with this or that theme because of the impact of folk tunes and traditions. Furthermore, it is important to pay much attention to fingering and bowing techniques for the violinist in order to make sure that the sound has effects that are required by the composer. In addition, the later sessions and rehearsal techniques should be closely related to the achievement of the balanced performance of the piece.

The reason is that the trio including the violin, clarinet, and piano needs to follow certain rules in order to succeed in terms of producing the balanced and harmonious sound. In addition, the selected pieces are rather complex in their rhythms, and this aspect creates additional barriers to performers. Therefore, it is expected that musicians are focused on rehearsing their performance as much as possible, and the outcomes of such efforts will be positive because it is important to guarantee that the violin, clarinet, and piano support each other in Khachaturian’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano in G Minor and Bartók’s Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet, and Piano.

Bibliography

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Bartók, Béla. Contrasts for Violin, Clarinet and Piano. London: Boosey & Hawkes, 2002. Print.

Rumanian Folk Music: Instrumental Melodies. Ed. Benjamin Suchoff. New York: Hague, 1967. Print.

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Hakobian, Levon. Music of the Soviet Era: 1917–1991. 2nd ed. New York: Routledge, 2017. Print.

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Leong, Daphne, Daniel Silver, and Jennifer John. “Rhythm in the First Movement of Bartók’s Contrasts: Performance and Analysis.” Gamut: Online Journal of the Music Theory Society of the Mid-Atlantic 1.1 (2008): 1-34. Print.

Marcus, Urdea, and Hannah Phyllis. “Klezmer Elements in Paul Schoenfield’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano: A Violinist’s Perspective.” Diss. Louisiana State University, 2018. Print.

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Discography

Bartók, Béla. Violin Sonatas Nos. 1 and 2, Contrasts. Perf. György Pauk, Jenö Jando, and Kálmán Berkes. Naxos, 1993, CD.

Eimer Trio. Khachaturian, Stravinsky, Keuris & Bartók: Works for Clarinet Trio. Perf. Eimer Trio. Naxos, 1994, CD.

Chamber Music in the Early Twentieth Century
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