Harmonic & Structural Analysis of Marcel Bitsch, Concertino Pour Basson Et Piano

TMU302H1 Harmonic & Structural Analysis of Marcel Bitsch, concertino pour basson et piano Marcel Bitsch composed his Concertino pour basson et piano in 1948 prior to accepting the position of teaching counterpoint at the Paris Conservatoire from 1956 to 1988. It is an exciting piece written using the chromatic scale containing two movements. The piece in its entirety is very animated and neotonal, often using non-functional chord progressions and leaving dissonant chords unresolved.

Although the tonal centre is unstable and hard to tell, the overall tonal centre lies around D, with the first movement taking place in a key signature consisting only of Bb which suggests D minor and the second movement with F# and C#, suggesting D major. The movements contrast not only in technical difficulty and feel, but also in instrumental roles and form.

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First Movement: Andante Overall structure: ternary |m. 1 to 15, (15 bars) |m. 16 to 45, (30 bars) |m. 6 to 59, (14 bars) | |Section A: theme 1 in bassoon, strong |Section B: theme 2 in piano then bassoon, |Section A: theme 1 returns in bassoon | |implications of D as tonal centre |strong implications of F as tonal centre |transposed up a perfect 5th and ends with a | | | |cadenza leading directly into the second | | | |movement without a break |

The first movement takes place in ternary form. For the first fifteen bars the accompaniment in the piano involves straightforward repeated solid chords with very smooth voice leading as each chord contains at least one common voice with the chord preceding it. The bass notes of each chord also spell out a descending line in stepwise and mostly chromatic motion, similar to the voice leading technique in the first movement of Beethoven’s Waldstein sonata.

Although tonal centres throughout this piece are often obscured by unresolved chords (mostly 7ths and 9ths), the key signature of the first movement contains only a B-flat, which together with the repeating D minor chord for the first four measures in the accompaniment, suggest a tonal centre of D. When examined more closely, however, one will find that there are several smaller sections within the first movement based around other tonal centres. From measure 5 to 9, the listener may perceive G# to be the tonal centre since it is repeated more than any other pitch in these four bars.

Measures 11 to 15 contain almost no accidentals and use the following chord progression: F7 ( G minor 9 ( D minor 9 ( G minor 9 ( C b9 The C b9 chord is followed by an F minor 7 chord at letter A (m. 16) suggesting F as the tonal centre. However, it is interesting to note that it supports a broken A7 chord in the bassoon line.

Because A7 shares three out of four common pitches with C b9, it may sound to the listener as if it all takes place in C b9 with A as a non-chord note.

Bitsch could have just as easily written a D-flat instead of C-sharp in the bassoon part to make it all one unified C b9 chord, however he specifically spells it as A7 perhaps to suggest a temporary bitonality of D and F. At letter A, this section becomes increasingly chromatic as Bitsch starts using split member chords and added notes. He also uses more traditional devices here such as descending fifth sequences on E-A-D-G-C (m. 21 to 25) and A-D-G (m. 26 to 28).

Theme 2 is introduced in the piano but occurs back and forth between the piano and bassoon creating a call and response dialogue.

The first eight bars of the melody (m. 16 to 23) occur in the piano followed by the bassoon taking over melodic content of the next eight bars (m. 24 to 31), and the last four bars are played in the piano (m. 32 to 35).

It is then transposed up a minor second and restated by the bassoon for four measures (m. 36 to 39), and finally back to the piano for the last five (m. 40 to 44). Bitsch increases the excitement in this section by speeding up the tempo with directions such as animando (m. 24) and sempre piu animato (m.


At measure 33 he changes the note value from straight eighth notes to triplet eighth notes, then instructs the performers to play allargando, possibly to provide a smooth rhythmic modulation back to the slower a tempo at letter B (m. 36). At measure 45, section B makes its exit with a cadenza-like passage played in the bassoon with a figure centred around a broken B7 chord, then an alternating “skip up-step down” figure suggesting a tonal centre of E. At measure 46, the recapitulation of theme 1 begins on E, which is a perfect fifth higher than its original statement.

The accompaniment in this section still uses repeated chords which form a descending line in stepwise motion with the bass notes. However two main differences are that they are now broken into sixteenth notes played rolling inwards, and the chord progression has changed. He now uses split members and added notes, which combined with the placement of register and the inward rolling, created a shimmering, transparent and watery effect, contrasting the original statement of theme 1 which had a considerably calmer and less active accompaniment part.

The chords begin in a very high register then gradually move down to the second lowest register and suddenly back up to the high range. The performers are also instructed to speed up with an animando at measure 55.

This is all done to build up suspense and excitement for a virtuosic solo cadenza in the bassoon at measure 59. At the cadenza the speed is left up to the leisure of the performer and there are no barlines even though it is six lines long.

It is fast, highly chromatic and very rhythmically complex as it uses many triplets and other irregular divisions of the beat into groupings of five, six and seven. Bitsch also places several sudden dynamic changes and grace notes. Another technical challenge is that it uses the entire range of the bassoon and there is only one rest, which requires extremely disciplined stamina on the bassoonist’s part. The cadenza ends with a trill on G#(A at a dynamic level of p, then leads into the second movement with a trill on C#(D.

Second movement: Allegro vivace Overall structure: arch form m. 60 to 81: Section A, 22 bars m. 82 to 106: Section B, 25 bars m. 107 to 125: Section C, 19 bars m. 126 to 149: Section B, 24 bars (same thematic material, but begins on D one octave lower) m.

150 to 188: Section A, 39 bars (same thematic material, but with an added voice a parallel major third higher) The second movement takes place in direct contrast to the first. Whereas the first movement uses the same key signature as D minor, this one shares its key signature with D major.

It has a much more expanded dynamic range with detailed instructions as well as several specifically placed sfz’s and other dynamic and articulation markings. Its harmonic color also has much more variety. A device Bitsch uses quite prominently to enhance the vividness and sense of animation is real planing, which introduces the movement at measure 60 with major chords descending stepwise in chromatic motion.

Planing is also seen in the accompaniment of section B with the parallel fourths descending in half steps (m. 6 to 88), the open fifth chords in measures 99 to 106 leading up to section C, and section C from measures 112 to 125 with the descending minor triads in second inversion beginning with A minor. This movement also goes through several more tonal centres as the use of repetition and sequences are more frequent. The dialogue between bassoon and piano is more active, creating a much more imitative texture than the first movement which was homophonic in comparison.

Needless to say, it is also technically far more difficult as it involves many rapid passages that are sometimes scalar and but also occur over wide skips, as well as passages that are very rhythmically complex.

It is still multimetric, but uses many more triplets that are sometimes in unison between the bassoon and pianist but at other times intersect each other, which can be frustratingly difficult to coordinate. The challenge of ensemble playing also becomes greater because in this movement, the piano and bassoon play essentially equal roles, each taking turns accompanying and playing the melody.