Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Bartók - The Miraculous Mandarin Suite

An Hungarian author by the name of Menyhért Lengyel wrote a piece in 1916 called The Miraculous Mandarin which was published in a Hungarian literary magazine in 1917.  Shortly after it was published, rumors began to float around that the work, called a pantomime grotesque by the author, was going to be set to music by a Hungarian composer who was not mentioned by name.  Whether or not the composer referred to in the article was indeed Béla Bartók is a matter of some debate among historians.

Bartók read Lengyel's piece and immediately wrote down some music inspired by the content of the work.  Bartók played his musical ideas to Lengyel, and the author was delighted with it. The two had not met before then, but became friends and collaborators.  While Bartók  worked on the score for the ballet, he wrote to his wife about the music:
It will be hellish music. The prelude before the curtain goes up will be very short and sound like pandemonium... the audience will be introduced to the den of thieves at the height of the hurly-burly of the metropolis.
The First World War delayed the completion of the score until 1919 with the orchestration taking yet another three years, and the first staging of the ballet had to wait until 1926. The premiere of what was now being called a dance pantomime occurred in Cologne, Germany. A short synopsis of the lurid story of the work in Bartók's own words:
Menyhért Lengyel
Just listen to how beautiful the story is. Three thugs force a beautiful young girl to seduce men and lure them into their den, where they will be robbed. The first turns out to be poor, the second likewise, but the third is a Chinese, a good catch, as it turns out. The girl entertains him with her dance. The Mandarin’s desire is aroused. His love flares up, but the girl recoils from him. The thugs attack the Mandarin, rob him, smother him with pillows, stab him with a sword, all in vain, because the Mandarin continues watching the girl with eyes full of yearning... the girl complies with the Mandarin’s wish, whereupon he drops dead.
 Not many who heard the premiere agreed with Bartók's beautiful story opinion, as the performance caused a huge scandal as reported in a German music journal:
Cologne, a city of churches, monasteries and chapels... has lived to see its first true  scandal. Catcalls, whistling, stamping, and booing... which did not subside even after the composer’s personal appearance, nor even after the safety curtain went down... The press, with the exception of the left, protests, the clergy of both denominations hold meetings, the mayor of the city intervenes dictatorially and bans the pantomime from the repertoire... Waves of moral outrage engulf the city...
Bartók prepared the suite of the ballet that uses roughly two-thirds of the music.  The suite was first performed in Hungary in 1928.

The suite begins with a depiction of the chaos and noise of the city. Three tramps are in a room. They have no money so they enlist the help of a girl to dance seductively in front of their window to try and lure men into the room so they can rob them. The girl's seductive dance is portrayed by the clarinet. The first man that is lured into the room is an old man. He pursues the girl, but once the tramps discover he has no money he is thrown out of the room. The clarinet again depicts the seductive dance of the girl and this time a  young man enters the room. He begins to dance with the girl, and his passion grows. But he also does not have any money so the tramps throw him out.  Again the girl dances, and this time she attracts a wealthy Chinese man, a Mandarin (portrayed by trombone glissandos) The tramps hide as they hear the Mandarin's footsteps up the stairs to the room. The Mandarin stands in the doorway and the tramps encourage the girl to keep dancing. The Mandarin makes a lunge for the girl and embraces her. She escapes and the Mandarin begins to chase her with the tramps close behind. The suite ends with the chase that takes the form of a fugue, and brash chords for full orchestra. The full ballet continues with the repeated efforts of the tramps to kill the Mandarin. They try to smother him with pillows and stab him three times with a rusty sword, but he still grabs the girl. They hang him from a light pole, but the pole falls and the Mandarin's body begins to glow eerily.  The girl finally submits to the Mandarin, and after his passion has been satisfied his wounds begin to bleed and he dies.

Cherubini - String Quartet No. 1 In E-flat Major

Among all the composers alive Cherubini is the most worthy of respect. I am in complete agreement, too, with his conception of the 'Requiem,' and if ever I come to write one I shall take note of many things.
So said Beethoven when asked who, aside from himself,  he considered the best of his contemporary composers. High praise indeed from an artist that could be notoriously blunt in his opinion of others. Unfortunately, Cherubini's opinion of Beethoven was not as favorable. The two met in Vienna where Cherubini was staging one of his operas. Cherubini went to the premiere performance of Beethoven's opera Fidelio and was not impressed. He remarked in French that Beethoven was too rough for his taste.

Luigi Cherubini was born in Italy and was a child prodigy. He wrote operas at the beginning of his career, and after feeling stifled by the operatic traditions of his native country, he traveled to England and finally settled in France in 1790. He found the freedom his creativity needed in Paris and his operas became very popular for some years. The opera scene of the time was always in state of flux. What was popular today could become a flop tomorrow. Cherubini's operas felt the fickleness of the opera public as his operas fell from favor. He then turned to music for the church and chamber music. Cherubini was appointed director of the Conservatoire de Paris in 1822.  He was known to be somewhat of a cantankerous man and did not show as much of a gift for teaching as he did as a composer.

He composed 6 string quartets and a quintet from 1814 to 1837. His First String Quartet was written in 1814 but wasn't published until 1836. The quartet has very little in it from the quartet tradition of Haydn and Mozart, but is more of a reflection of Cherubini's operatic writing. Schumann reviewed the work after its publication and thought the form of it somewhat difficult to understand. It is in 4 movements:

I. Adagio - Allegro moderato -  A slow introduction prefaces the movement until the somewhat nervous first theme begins. Short snatches of motives weave in and out of the exposition until a secondary theme is played. The motives return and the exposition is repeated. Themes and motives are dramatically explored in the development until the recapitulation begins. and the movement ends in the tonic E-flat major.

II. Larghetto sans lenteur - The second movement is in B-flat and is a theme and variations. The theme is gentle in nature as are most of the variations except for a more dramatic outburst in the middle of the movement. After that, the music mostly stays quiet and calm until it ends in a gentle mood.

III. Scherzo: Allegretto moderato - The scherzo begins in G minor and has a subtle rhythmic drive that propels it along at a steady pace until it reaches the trio that is in G major and features rapid 16th notes in the violins. The scherzo returns and ends the movement.

IV. Finale: Allegro assai - A short introduction leads to the first theme that is framed in a quirky rhythm. The second theme is a duet between violin and cello. A very short development section full of off-the-beat accents leads to the replaying of the two major themes, and after a short coda the quartet ends with a slight stumble.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Grieg - String Quartet No. 1 In G Minor

Ever since the string quartets of Haydn and Mozart, many composers have taken the challenge of writing for two violins, viola and cello.  Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Dvořák  added to the tradition and development for this most personal of musical forms.

Edvard Grieg was more well known for his lyric pieces for piano and his Piano Concerto In A Minor, but he did make three attempts at writing a string quartet. He completed only one, the String Quartet No. 1 In G Minor.  It was written in 1878 and made an impression on Franz Liszt who said of it:
It is a long time since I have encountered a new composition, especially a string quartet, which has intrigued me as greatly as this distinctive and admirable work by Grieg.
The composition of the quartet was an ordeal for Grieg as he strove to continue the tradition while expanding the possibilities of the form. He was successful and his quartet had a large influence on not only Debussy, whose only string quartet is in the same key of G minor, but on later composers such as Schoenberg and Bartók.

That Grieg indeed strove to write in a different way for the form of the string quartet is evident in his own words about the work:
I have recently written a string quartet, which I still haven’t heard. It is in G minor and is not intended to bring trivialities to market. It strives towards breadth, soaring flight and, above all, resonance for the instruments.
Grieg wrote the work in cyclical form, and used a portion of one of his own songs as the recurring theme, the song titled Spillamæd (Minstrels).  The quartet is in 4 movements:

I. Un poco andante - Allegro molto ed agitato - The work begins with all 4 instruments in unison, one of the devices Grieg uses to impart his own unique sound to the quartet. The original song that the main theme was taken from dealt with a water spirit that would give minstrels great gifts of musical abilities in exchange for their happiness. The main theme is full of rhythmic verve and appears in all 4 movements. The theme is full of  drama and plays itself out until it comes to a full close. After a slight pause the second theme begins, a lyric tune that has outbursts that remind the listener of the opening.  The opening theme returns and alternates with the second theme in a section that can be thought of as the development. The recapitulation brings the back the drama of the opening, along with the full close and slight pause before the second theme commences. There is an extended coda that continues to deal with the two themes and parts of them, including a short section where the cello plays solo while the other three instruments play tremolo and close to the bridge (sul ponticello) which gives the accompaniment a glassy, shimmering effect, until the instruments join in a loud, dramatic ending to the movement.

II. Romanze. Andantino - The movement begins with a happy, waltz-like theme, after which a more sinister and nervous middle section that is related to the main theme is played.  After a transition, the waltz returns with a few differences. The nervous theme interrupts the waltz a few times until the waltz music ends the movement in the high register of all 4 instruments.

III. Intermezzo. Allegro molto marcato - Più vivo e scherzando - The song theme that opens the work returns at the start of this movement.  The music remains rough around the edges as it rhythmically makes its way to the middle section where Grieg flexes his contrapuntal skill as the cello begins a theme by itself, and each instrument enters in turn while the others play pizzicato. This section is repeated and then developed. The first theme returns, a few references are made to the middle section, and the movement scurries to an end.

IV. Finale. Lento - Presto al saltarello -  The solemness of the opening of the quartet returns as an introduction before the music turns into a saltarello full of cross rhythms, syncopation and frenzy.  Near the end the music turns back to the main theme of the work and alternates between major and minor mode versions until at the very end the major mode wins out and the work ends in G major.


Friday, July 31, 2020

Bottesini - Concerto For Double Bass No. 2 In B Minor

Giovanni Bottesini began his life in Crema, Lombardy and his first instruction in music came from his father who was an accomplished clarinettist and composer. Bottesini studied violin and most likely would have stayed with this instrument, but because of a lack of money his father had to try and get him a scholarship to attend the Milan Conservatory. There were but two instrument positions opening, for a bassoon or double bass.  The young Bottesini chose the double bass, and within weeks played it well enough to be admitted to the conservatory.

After 4 years of study, he became a traveling double bass virtuoso. His playing was so masterful, he earned the title of The Paganini Of The Double Bass. He spent time in America, and was a member of an orchestra in Havana. Cuba for a time. He was very popular in London and made many trips there.

He composed and conducted as well as performed on the double bass, with some of his operas having success in Europe. He conducted an opera company in Paris from 1855-1857, and sometimes during intermission he would bring his double bass on stage and play paraphrases and variations on themes from the opera he was conducting  that night. Performing high pitched notes on the double bass requires some major body bending, which led to Bottesini caricatures being published, but it was all part of his popularity as being one of the virtuoso double bass players of the Romantic era.

The 2nd concerto for double bass, along with some of his other works, take double bass technique to dizzying heights.  He also was one of the first double bassists to use the French style, or overhand grip for the bow.

The 2nd concerto for double bass exists in many versions besides the original in B minor for orchestra. There are versions for string orchestra and double bass, versions in C minor, and versions for piano and double bass, with many of the transcriptions done by Bottesini himself.

The Concerto For Double Bass No. 2 In B Minor is in 3 movements:

I. Allegro - The video below is of the version for string orchestra and soloist. The strings play  a short introduction, which I haven't been able to find on any of the versions of the sheet music online. But there are many versions, and in any event it suits the concerto well. When the soloist enters with the main motive, it sounds more like a cello than a double bass. The music stays pretty much in the high register of the instrument with a few dips into the depths of double bass tone for contrast. It takes strong fingers to be able to press down on the much thicker and heavier strings of the double bass, as well as having a strong back to bend over the instrument to reach the higher end of the fingerboard. Every technique from double stops, to harmonics, to rapid runs are used, but all to serve what Bottesini instructs the performer at the very beginning of the piece - expressivo. Bottesini wrote the fiendishly difficult cadenza, but some modern performers have created their own to showcase their virtuosity.

II. Andante -  A subdued accompaniment helps the soloist show how the somewhat ungainly double bass can sing when a musician knows how to coax it.

III. Allegro - The finale rounds out the concerto with more virtuosity for the soloist, with another opportunity for a cadenza if the soloist chooses.

I wanted to include a video performance of the concerto, which is below. The performer is Edgar Mayer, perhaps the leading double bass virtuoso of this era. I wonder, being hunched over so much, if his back is a problem for him?

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Prokofiev - Piano Concerto No. 3

 Prokofiev wrote a set of variations for piano in 1913, and over the years continued to expand on it until it took form as his 3rd piano concerto in 1921. The work is now one of Prokofiev’s most popular, but that wasn’t the case after its premiere. It took a few years for the concerto to develop in popularity until it became one of the mainstays of piano concerto literature in general, and one of the best concertos of the 20th century.

I. Andante - Allegro - The work begins with a soft rendition of a theme, first by a solo clarinet that is joined by another. The orchestra takes up the theme, but briskly whisks it away as it builds in speed and volume. The soloist enters with a different theme, and this builds to a climax, after which the soloist plays a short cadenza that fades away as another theme is played by the winds accompanied by the strings and the clicking of castanets.
The piano and orchestra comment on some of the material heard until the orchestra takes up the opening clarinet theme. The soloist plays an expansive variant of the theme. After tremolo strings softly play in accompaniment to the piano, the piano descends in a delicate figure that ends with the orchestra beginning to chug out the opening of the fat-paced material heard in the beginning, and orchestra and soloist rapidly bring the themes back from the exposition.  The whirlwind of piano and orchestra returns one more time and brings the movement to a close with a bang.

II.  Tema con variazioni -  The theme is played by flute and clarinet, and is followed by 5 variations:
1.      The piano broadens the theme and is joined by the orchestra that repeats the theme, as the soloist plays high in the treble.
2.      A trumpet plays the theme as soloist and orchestra play a rapid accompaniment.
3.      The theme is barely recognizable as it is torn asunder by the soloist as the orchestra tried to get things back on track, but not for long.
4.      The theme has transformed to an ethereal dream as the orchestra and soloist slowly unwind the mystery.
5.   The music quickens as orchestra and soloist pound out parts of the theme, as it builds to a climax that quickly dissolves into a more recognizable appearance of the theme. A coda helps the music wind down further, until a low E minor chord ends the movement.

III.  Allegro ma non troppo - Bassoons and pizzicato strings play the A minor first theme while the soloist interrupts periodically with a theme of its own. These two themes are developed until the tempo and dynamics slacken with the second theme in C-sharp minor. The piano interrupts this theme as well with another of its own before the C-sharp minor theme returns with the mood taking a late Romantic turn as it is developed. Shifting harmonies change the theme as the soloist plays rippling scales. A climax is reached, and the quiet return of the first theme begins.
The soloist’s part becomes a virtuosic tour deforce as the pace is quicked, along with very difficult maneuvers such as double-note glissandos for each hand. Prokofiev’s piano technique must have beene impressive, for he premiered the work in Chicago in 1921 as soloist.  The piano and orchestra continue to battle each other until the final C major chord. 

Monday, May 4, 2020

Prokofiev - Piano Concerto No. 1 In D-flat Major

Sergei Prokofiev was one of the original Russian 'bad boys' of music.  His early compositions were fraught with dissonance and did not sit well with the musical establishment. But there was something more to his music than just noise and cacophony. He used dissonance as a great chef uses seasonings. He could be bold and innovative, and he could also be very subtle and subdued. He had a great gift of melody, and was highly imaginative.

He was born in 1892 and heard his mother play the works of Beethoven and Chopin in his early childhood. After studying privately with Reinhold Gliere, he was introduced to Alexander Glazunov who was so impressed by some of Prokofiev's compositions that he persuaded his mother to enroll him at the St. Petersburg Conservatory at the age of 12.

He wrote in most genres of music; opera, symphony, ballet, but he is most well -known for his compositions for piano. He was a virtuoso pianist himself and debuted his first 3 piano concertos as soloist with orchestra.  The 1st piano concerto was written in 1911-1912, and was received almost unanimous negativity.  It is in one movement, but has three distinct sections as a conventional concerto. But Prokofiev suggested that it could be looked at as written in a one-movement sonata form:

I. Allegro brioso - The first section is similar to the exposition section of a sonata movement. Strings and brass by way of introduction herald the beginning of the movement with three chords of D-flat major. The soloist appears and the broad main theme is played with full orchestra. The orchestra then plays the theme without the soloist. The key signature changes and the soloist alone for a time in music that is typical of his style that was already formed at 19 years old. Driving rhythm, large leaps up the and down the keyboard and a tendency to treat the piano as a percussive instrument. This leads to another spiky theme for the piano with accompaniment. The theme continues as the key changes back to D-flat major, and switches back and forth in key until the music slows and the key changes to E minor.  

To the melancholy theme played in the orchestra, the piano adds a more subdued accompaniment in single notes for both hands that range from high to low on the keyboard, to the melancholy theme played in the orchestra. Piano glissandos that are usually used for more dramatic effect by composers appear in the background. The piano then plays a solo section that leads to the tempo being gradually increased as instruments make an entrance along the way to increase the tension and drive, until the opening broad theme reappears in the orchestra. After a climax is reached, the music slowly winds down and ends with lone notes by the cellos. After a very brief pause, the next section begins.

II. Andante assai - This part is considered an insertion or episode between exposition and development. The key changes to G-sharp minor as muted and divided strings softly begin the section. Short motifs are played by the clarinet and horn until the soloist enters. The piano is much more subdued as Prokofiev gives the instruction of dolcissimo, but it isn’t quite tamed completely. Large spread chords punctuate the delicate 16th note accompaniment in a piano solo.  The music grows more impassioned and gets louder as the piano large chords against the strings. Slowly orchestra and piano grow quiet until the flutes, clarinets, horns and strings fade out to leave only the piano to end the section.

III. Allegro scherzando - This section comprises the development and recapitulation of a sonata form movement.  The key changes, perhaps to C major at least by having no sharps or flats in the signature, but pizzicato strings, horns and tubas play a strange chord that consists of A-flat in the bass, G-flat - C - E - G natural. The piano trips upward in a chromatic scale with added grace notes, as the music becomes hard driving again.  A secondary theme from the first section appears in the trumpets and horns. The piano then takes this theme and develops it solo. The melancholy theme from the first section then returns briefly. The music grows in texture and volume until the main theme from the first section enters and serves the function of a recapitulation. The music ends as it began, with a chord of D-flat major.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Rachmaninoff - Rhapsody On A Theme of Paganini

Sergei Rachmaninoff initially wanted to be a composer, but he had to rely on his abilities as a pianist  to make a living after he left Russia. The revolution of 1917 saw the loss of Rachmaninoff's estate (he was a member of the bourgeoisie), and his way to make a living. He was 44 years old when he left his native country in late 1917 and he never went back.

In 1921 he immigrated to the United States and toured extensively as piano soloist and conductor. He completed only six compositions between 1918 and 1943, the year of his death. His home in the U.S. reflected his homesickness for his native Russia, as the household practiced Russian customs and had Russian servants. He did build a vacation home on Lake Lucerne, Switzerland where he spent his summers. It was there that he wrote Rhapsody On A Theme Of Paganini in 1934.

 Rachmaninoff himself was the pianist at the premiere of the work with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Leopold Stokowski conductor. Rachmaninoff admitted the work was very difficult and that he had to practice it diligently. Paganini's 24th Caprice For Solo Violin is the theme used for the variations, a theme used for other sets of variations by Liszt, Brahms, and other composers. 

Coincidentally (or not) Rachmaninoff writes 24 variations on the theme, the same number as Brahms. The work is played non-stop, but the variations are arranged in three groups that roughly coincide with the usual fast-slow-fast movement plan of a conventional piano concerto.

Introduction : Allegro vivace - A nine bar introduction that uses a fragment of the theme.

Variation 1 (Precedente) - Instead of playing the theme itself, Rachmaninoff plays the first variation on it. Actually a variation on the bass of the theme, as Beethoven did in the last movement of the Third Symphony ‘Eroioca’.

Theme -  The theme is first heard in the strings as the soloist plays a simple outline of the harmony in A minor.  

Variation 2 - It is the piano’s turn to state the theme at the beginning of this variation. The piano then outlines the theme in arpeggios as woodwinds, horn and strings trade off playing fragments of it.

Variation 3 - The piano plays a simple counter melody while the woodwinds and strings chatter amongst themselves.

Variation 4: Piu vivo -  The tempo increases slightly, the piano has each hand in turn take up a fragment of the theme as an accompaniment to the strings and single woodwinds.

Variation 5 - Alternating chords in the piano play chords that soon lead up to a few sparse octaves and snatches of the theme played an octave apart in each hand.

Variation 6 - A quiet variation that has the piano play a part of the theme, and a cadenza-like ritard that ends the phrase. The piano part becomes slightly more complex and louder, and then returns to the quiet of the beginning.

Variation 7 : Meno mosso, a tempo moderato -  While a solo bassoon plays the theme, the piano quotes the ancient plainchant Dies Irae, something of a fixation for Rachmaninoff as it appears in other of his compositions.

Variation 8 : Tempo I - The music grows more intense, the piano part more complex as the variation progresses.

Variation 9 -  Violins and violas are instructed to play col legno, with the wood of the bow. The strange clicking sounds that result are played in triplets with the rest of the orchestra that have the first beat in the triplet as a rest, thus giving an off the beat feel to the music. The piano plays the theme in eighth notes separated by an eight rest, which further adds to a disquieting rhythmic pattern. The dynamic range of the variation stays mostly on the quiet side. All of it adds up to appropriate music after the ‘Day Of Wrath’ of the Dies Irae appearance, as strings played col legno have been compared to the rattling of bones.

Variation 10 - The Dies Irae returns, and the music slowly reaches a quiet conclusion to the variation. From the beginning of the work to the end of the 10th variation has all been in the key of A minor, and these variations have been considered representing the first movement of a concerto.  

Variation 11 : Moderato - This variation remains in A minor, and is considered to be the start of the slow movement of a concerto.  The tempo has slowed; the mood is more melancholy than fierce. The piano weaves chromatic runs and octaves as the orchestra adds discreet accompaniment. The piano takes off on a fortissimo run of arpeggios and is accompanied by glissandos on the harp, after which the piano winds down and plays a solo.  

Variation 12: Tempo did Minuet to - This variation is in D minor, and as indicated is in the tempo of a minuet - a slow minuet.  The orchestration is very sparse with alternating solos for clarinet and horn, with accompaniment by the harp.

Variation 13 : Allegro - Still in D minor, the music picks up the pace and volume as the strings play the theme while the piano hammers out chords.

Variation 14 - The key shifts to F major, the volume increases, and the piano takes a rest while the orchestra plays the varied theme. When the soloist does enter, it mostly at an accompaniment level.

Variation 15 : Piu vivo scherzando -  The piano plays a rapid, brilliant solo in F major before the orchestra joins in. The piano keeps up its virtuosity until the variation ends with a quiet chord in the piano.

Variation 16 : Allegretto - The key changes to B-flat minor as muted violins and violas softly begin the movement. The oboe and cor anglaise take up the theme while the piano plays a harmonic counter theme.  A solo violin plays while the piano changes to a short chromatic run. After the dialogue between piano and violin, the variation returns to the beginning as the violins lead to the next variation.

Variation 17 -  The piano continues in B-flat minor as it plays slow arpeggios to accompaniment by woodwinds with the violins and violas punctuating with tremolos. The piano makes a wonderful modulation along with the cellos to the next variation.

Variation 18 : Andante cantabile -  The piano begins in D-flat major with the variation that is known all by itself, a variant of the original theme where the 4-note motive of the theme is inverted.  This variation not only shows Rachmaninoff’s mastery of the piano and orchestration, but also shows his gift for melody. The piano plays the variant by itself until the strings take it up. It then plays accompanying chords. The music keeps building until upon the third repetition of the inversion the volume, passion (and rubato) increase as the piano continues to accompany with chords. The music slowly begins to grow quiet until the piano ends the variation pianissimo. The end of this variation suggests the end of the slow movement of the piano concerto.

Variation 19 : A tempo vivace -  The next variation begins with 4 bars of pizzicato strings, and it is back in the key of A minor. The soloist enters and plays in eight note triplet arpeggios that are marked quasi pizzicato.  

Variation 20 : Un poco piu vivo -  The music increases in tempo as the strings race in sixteenth note figures. The soloist skips around the keyboard in single notes for each hand and finally switches to octaves. Clarinets and flutes join in with the running sixteenth notes as the variation builds to a crescendo and then back to quiet at the end.

Variation 21 : Un poco piu vivo - The piano plays in triplets in each hand as the orchestra punctuates the harmony. The music keeps on building in intensity.

Variation 22 : Un poco piu vivo (alla breve) - The piano plays short, clipped chords with an indication of marziale. The accompaniment is light to begin with, but as the soloist grows in volume and intensity, more instruments start to play. The music builds to tremendous climax, after which the piano plays triplets in each hand. The triplets become sixteenth note arpeggios. Soloist and orchestra trade off statements in triplets until the climax is reached. The soloist plays a cadenza that leads to the next variation.

Variation 23 -  The piano plays the theme in A-flat minor (!) before the strings bring it back to A minor.  The soloist has another cadenza and that leads to the finale.

Variation 24 : A tempo un poco meno mosso - The tempo slows slightly as the piano plays another theme variant to a light accompaniment.  Piano and orchestra grow more involved until a final loud appearance of Dies Irae is heard in the brass. The piano is all but drowned out by the orchestra as things are leading up to a big finish that includes a double glissando by the soloist. The volume is fortissimo, the music slips into the key of A major, but after one last outburst, the music ends with the piano quoting the opening of the original theme’s first notes quietly with an equally quiet accompaniment.