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 Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: cigleris 
Date:   2017-09-07 18:00

I'm brushing up on the Stravinsky Three Pieces predominately the third movt. I was considering the dynamic markings and written in 'hairpins'.

I am using the Chester edition from 1993 (brought as a student) which is a type of urtext edition without actually claiming to be.

Stravinsky clearly marks Forte d'un bout a l'autre (from beginning to end). The next marking is sombre le son subito. I'm not sure what everyones thoughts are here but I marked some time ago a piano but it occurs to me to be more of a timbral shift in a way that might mean to 'take the edge off the tone' from the original forte marking. If we considered it that way that might make the cresc. markings redundant. Was Stravinsky purposfully contradicting himself with these markings or was he showing us direction of phrase with these markings?

Curious to hear opinions

Peter Cigleris

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 Re: Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: RBlack 
Date:   2017-09-07 19:27

You bring up a very interesting point, which I have never even considered the multiple times I have performed this piece.
Prompted by your question, I did a quick google, and it appears that some others on the bboard have had similar thoughts in the past:

As for my thoughts, I will have to do some thinking about interpretation next time I brush off this piece. I think you may be on to something regarding a timbral shift.
However, as there are clear markings to gradually crescendo to forte and then diminuendo, I feel as if a dynamic change over the phrase may be appropriate.

(Also let it be known I am using the 1919-20 version, as available on IMSLP. This is because it is the version that was published during his lifetime, and left without revision, leading me to believe it is the version he had settled on)

Sorry for the slightly lengthy response there!


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 Re: Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2017-09-07 23:28

Since one of the posts you reference is by me, I should correct myself: 'sombrer' doesn't have anything to do with tone colour – according to Stravinsky, via
Mazzeo. I hadn't seen the reference at the time.

It just means, 'quieter'.


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 Re: Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: cigleris 
Date:   2017-09-08 00:21

Thanks Tony.

Can I ask your thoughts on the hairpins? Would you consider them as dynamic markings within the forte or phrase markings in that the second note within the slur is less like in bar 34.

Peter Cigleris

Post Edited (2017-09-08 00:26)

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 Re: Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: rmk54 
Date:   2017-09-08 16:17

Be careful of Stravinsky's oral directives. He often changed his mind and gave conflicting information.

Case in point: Listen to various recordings he made of the Berceuse movement of Firebird. There is a place in the bassoon solo where it is unclear whether he wanted a d natural or d flat. The recordings *he conducted* are not consistent in this respect.

Regarding the Three Pieces: Charles Russo told me that Stravinsky told him the indications for B-flat and A Clarinet were added by the publisher and he really had no preference as to which instruments were used. Whether this is actually true or not, I have no idea.

FWIW, I always understood that "sombrer le son" translated to "veiled sound".

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 Re: Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2017-09-08 17:05

The primary meaning of the French 'sombrer' is 'to sink'.


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 Re: Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: JonTheReeds 
Date:   2017-09-08 18:30

Just on the the language, although 'sombrer' literally means 'to sink (perhaps in a catastrophic manner)', I would translate 'sombrer le son' as 'darken the sound', ie. make the tone more sombre

Music is 95% preparation, the other half is performance

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 Re: Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: seabreeze 
Date:   2017-09-08 22:15

It seems clear enough that Stravinsky wants the volume loud throughout but also wants points of relief from the incessant intensity of sound. Translated into colloquial advice, he is saying "stay strong but lighten up in tonal hardness a bit here." Or "make a rounder--but still loud--sound here." You can have a continuously strong image that still contains elements of both light and shadow. So your idea of taking some edge off the tone seems right. There is certainly no way of making these jaunty rhythms somber in the English sense of "sad and serious."

Derek Emch has some helpful insights on the piece in his graduate study "But What is It Saying? Translating the Musical Language of Stravinsky's Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo." His essay can be accessed through Google.

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 Re: Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2017-09-10 20:54

What Stravinsky said as reported by Mazzeo was:

The "sombrer le son" indication in the second line of page 3 does not, he said, mean "darken," nor should the rhythmic drive be less. He intended an abrupt change in volume, but no less spirit...he emphasized that he wanted unrelenting rhythmic drive, especially to be noted in the softer places, where most players might instinctively play with less spirit.
Make of that what you will.

My own contribution to the question of the diminuendi is to say that I try always to consider the acoustic in which I am playing. The instruction to play forte from beginning to end encourages me to play forte WHENEVER I AM PLAYING – in other words, I find that, when I listen, very short gaps between isolated notes 'don't count' as a diminution of drive or spirit.

A bonus to that is that I can achieve the effect of the slurred, diminuendo pairs by drastically shortening the second note of each pair whilst maintaining the intensity. Each one 'sounds like' a diminuendo.

Why I mention the acoustic is that the duration of the gaps and the degree of shortening required varies according to the reverberation time. And whether the gaps or the shortening are achieved by the diaphragm, or by the tongue, or by a combination of the two, likewise varies depending on the situation.

Again, make of that what you will. I'm not trying to start a debate.


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 Re: Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: cigleris 
Date:   2017-09-11 15:01

Many thanks Tony for your insights, most appreciated.

Peter Cigleris

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 Re: Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: Jarmo Hyvakko 
Date:   2017-09-16 08:35

How about playing just a bit easier for a while and then making a crescendo back to forte? :D
The f from beginning to end is the general idea and sombreros are a detail. My experience of the piece is based on numerous performances for schoolchildren. We have a schoolprogram in our orchestra where musicians visit schools and give lessons where they introduce classical music, the orchestra and their instrument. I think playing the piece numerous, perhaps hundreds of times, for children, trying to entertain them, making them laugh, puts the piece in the right perspective. You know, it's a joke.
Spending sleepless nights wearing a sombrero and thinking about different ways of marking an accent is somewhat useless but just to add one sleepless night, try my late teacher's advice: draw a line with a pencil to the score under the passages where are NO accents, you will be surprised.

Principal Clarinet, Tampere Philharmonic, Finland

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 Re: Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: Tony Pay 2017
Date:   2017-09-16 13:40

Ah yes – the disappearing wasps! See:


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 Re: Stravinsky Three Pieces Third Movt
Author: elmo lewis 
Date:   2017-09-22 02:15

I just noticed that in the last 8 notes of the 2nd movement Igor has both "sombrer le son" and "subito meno forte". So either the two indications mean different things or he said the same thing twice in two different ways.

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