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Strings ultimate challenge: Mahler 5th Adagietto

Wolf68

I should compose something.
I am still waiting for a sale to buy CSS.
Great expressive work btw., Bernard!
 

Rob

Senior Member
btw, am I the only one pondering about that note in bar 6 where the first violins play a d natural against a d flat in the violas? Obviously it must have been a voluntary decision, but really basically every other note would have fit better in a harmonic sense... A, C, Db, Eb, F, G, G one 8a down... I can see Gustav smiling at me :)
 

tack

Damned Dirty Ape
tw, am I the only one pondering about that note in bar 6 where the first violins play a d natural against a d flat in the violas? Obviously it must have been a voluntary decision, but really basically every other note would have fit better in a harmonic sense.
It's just a passing tone to the C, a bit of tension that pretty quickly resolves. Maybe the fact that it quickly resolves is what makes it stand out?
 
OP
Bernard Duc

Bernard Duc

Member
Beautiful job! Thank you for doing this. If I may add some enlightenment, if you haven't seen the orchestration lesson on this very piece it's worth a look. The first of two parts is here.

Steve
Yes, I saw it. Mahler string writing is definitely worth looking at and Thomas makes as usual a stellar job at breaking it down for us!
 
OP
Bernard Duc

Bernard Duc

Member
This is quite beautifully done! Great tone, dynamics, and general musicality. My only real complaint, no fault of yours, is how hissy the strings are in spots, particularly distracting in headphones. As a matter of personal taste, I'm used to Bernstein conducting, so the tempo here feels rather fast to me, haha. Anyway, great work!
Thank you. I don't really hear the hissiness here but I remember noticing it at some point with a different EQ setting. I think it has to do with the fact I am using the lowest dynamic layer, which is otherwise absolutely gorgeous. Probably something for Alex to look into for a future update? It should be easy to fix.

EDIT: Meanwhile I should probably have used a multiband compressor on the violins to control it.
 

Rob

Senior Member
It's just a passing tone to the C, a bit of tension that pretty quickly resolves. Maybe the fact that it quickly resolves is what makes it stand out?
Yeah but everytime I hear that passage I think somebody has played the wrong note... because otherwise the piece is so peaceful and consonant
 
OP
Bernard Duc

Bernard Duc

Member
Yeah but everytime I hear that passage I think somebody has played the wrong note... because otherwise the piece is so peaceful and consonant
Much worse imo, look at the B# in the second bar of the Zurückhalten of the D major section. This one I always think it’s a mistake. Actually I performed it very softly in this mock-up.
 

Rob

Senior Member
Much worse imo, look at the B# in the second bar of the Zurückhalten of the D major section. This one I always think it’s a mistake. Actually I performed it very softly in this mock-up.
Ouch you're right... to me anyway what sounds weird is the violin part, the C sharp on the Amin6 harmony more than the other way around. Same goes for that 6th bar....
 
OP
Bernard Duc

Bernard Duc

Member
Ouch you're right... to me anyway what sounds weird is the violin part, the C sharp on the Amin6 harmony more than the other way around. Same goes for that 6th bar....
Actually I just played it and it wasn’t this spot that bothered me (the B# is actually a C natural in the harmony). I don’t remember which one was bothering me so much... I’m too much used to it now!

And thank you everybody for the kind words!
 

jbuhler

Senior Member
Ouch you're right... to me anyway what sounds weird is the violin part, the C sharp on the Amin6 harmony more than the other way around. Same goes for that 6th bar....
The sixth bar is correct, the second C# in the zurückhaltend is not and should be a C-natural, if it is the moment I'm thinking of. (Edited to add: I haven't checked it against the midi file, and Bernard's reply that crossed mine suggests that he used the C-natural, but there is at least one version of the score on imslp that has the first violins playing a C# in this measure.)Mahler5Excerpt.jpg
 
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OP
Bernard Duc

Bernard Duc

Member
The sixth bar is correct, the second C# in the zurückhaltend is not and should be a C-natural, if it is the moment I'm thinking of. (Edited to add: I haven't checked it against the midi file, and Bernard's reply that crossed mine suggests that he used the C-natural, but there is at least one version of the score on imslp that has the first violins playing a C# in this measure.)View attachment 14961
No, what I meant is that the B# in the celli is enharmonically a C natural, which is part of they harmony. And yes, the first violins are first C# then C natural.
 

JohnG

Senior Member
I guess this post both delights me -- lovely music and an ambitious, lovingly-executed rendition -- and yet I felt my shoulders slump to think of the hours it takes to get a piece to sound really good, or even half-decent, as a mockup.

Whether it's writing in a situation where some or none or even all of the pre-records will be replaced by live players, it seems to me that producers have utterly lost any ability or even willingness to consider how much better a live version will sound. Consequently, I find that I spend probably 5-10x the time fiddling with the sound of my pieces as I do writing them. And then far too much time wrestling the result back into Finale or something so the parts can be copied etc.

So, well done. The only problem with a mockup is that there's never really an end to it -- one can always balance things better here or there, add or reduce reverb, make a crescendo more or less dramatic, and so on.

Also, not to pick at something that clearly was a labour of love and faithfully executed, but I don't really think that harp is the best choice, as the OP mentioned. Maybe try Spitfire or another one?
 

jbuhler

Senior Member
No, what I meant is that the B# in the celli is enharmonically a C natural, which is part of they harmony. And yes, the first violins are first C# then C natural.
Yes, what I'm saying is that there is a version of the score on imslp that has a C# for the C-natural in the violin I part for the second statement and so there is a readily available version of the score with a misprint at the exact point we are discussing.
 

Vik

Scandi Member
Looking at bar 6, if you take the melody notes at that spot and consider them arpeggiated chord notes, it's like a C# 6/7 chord (or a C#13 chord), with an added b9 - except that the b7 actually isn't played. This is not an uncommon way to substitute a G dominant chord leading to a C chord; a so called tritonus substitute. Jazz music is full of that - but wasn't invented in 1901/1902 when he wrote this piece.

Instead of going from a G dominant via a tritonus substitute resolving into a C, the somehow expected C chord is also substituted with a tritonus chord, namely the F#7 which immediately changes to a diminished F#7 chord.

It's stuff like this which makes it interesting to listen to the Adagietto again and again - but if the levels are wrong in this somehow strange spot - the C#13 (b9) chord without a 7 - it will of course sound wrong.

The F#7 which changes from a regular dominant 7 chord to a F# dim 7 also means altering the major third to a minor third - which reflects what he just did before that - he sneaked in a G minor chord just after the G dominant chord. It's composition/orchestration at it's best if you ask me, the work of a genius.
 
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OP
Bernard Duc

Bernard Duc

Member
I guess this post both delights me -- lovely music and an ambitious, lovingly-executed rendition -- and yet I felt my shoulders slump to think of the hours it takes to get a piece to sound really good, or even half-decent, as a mockup.

Whether it's writing in a situation where some or none or even all of the pre-records will be replaced by live players, it seems to me that producers have utterly lost any ability or even willingness to consider how much better a live version will sound. Consequently, I find that I spend probably 5-10x the time fiddling with the sound of my pieces as I do writing them. And then far too much time wrestling the result back into Finale or something so the parts can be copied etc.

So, well done. The only problem with a mockup is that there's never really an end to it -- one can always balance things better here or there, add or reduce reverb, make a crescendo more or less dramatic, and so on.

Also, not to pick at something that clearly was a labour of love and faithfully executed, but I don't really think that harp is the best choice, as the OP mentioned. Maybe try Spitfire or another one?
Trust me, as a conductor I would always rather record with an orchestra! As for the producers... well, I can’t really blame them. Before they had only the piano, so obviously they knew that it was going to be very different with an orchestra (and would often ask for changes while recording). But now it’s since it sounds more and more like real instruments I simply don’t think they can realize how different a real orchestra would be. They simply don’t have the training and experience to do so.

As for the time it took... it was long (over three days) and shows why music like that cannot be composed for films. Too time consuming to get a decent mockup!
 

jbuhler

Senior Member
Looking at bar 6, if you take the melody notes at that spot and consider them arpeggiated chord notes, it's like a C# 6/7 chord (or a C#13 chord), with an added b9 - except that the b7 actually isn't played. This is not an uncommon way to substitute a G dominant chord leading to a C chord; a so called tritonus substitute. Jazz music is full of that - but wasn't invented in 1901/1902 when he wrote this piece.

Instead of going from a G dominant via a tritonus substitute resolving into a C, the somehow expected C chord is also substituted with a tritonus chord, namely the F#7 which immediately changes to a diminished F#7 chord.
This is a sketch of the traditional theory explanation: Measures 4-5 expand and tonicize C (as V of F) (without ever explicitly stating a C triad because of the interesting treatment of the pitch E); m. 6 to the beginning of m. 8 expand and tonicize G (first as V of C (V/V) then as ii of F). The pattern in the bass in mm. 4-6 is a variant of the old descending tetrachord, the lament bass, 1-b7-6-b6-5 (in C), and the G that arrives on the downbeat of m. 6 is V of C that would be the expected half cadence that comes at the end of the conventional pattern. (Here as V7 because the F is held through.) Measure 7 follows with vii7 of G, the Bb on the downbeat is part of a 4-3 suspension, but with a diminished fourth suspended (also the suspension sounds like a half diminished sonority, adding to the functional confusion). The end of measure 7 moves to an explicit dominant of G (with D in the bass), though retaining the melodic Bb in the first violin, the arrival of G minor in m. 8 is then a re-expression of G as ii of F. (But note as well the second violins playing the viola line from m. 6 in diminution, C# now understood as Db (b6) of F and harmonized that way.) That suggests the second half of m. 6 as G minor harmony with root retained from the beginning of the measure (hence arpeggiation in first violin) and C# as passing tone; but there is also a hint at C# diminished of D, that is, as a dominant of the V of G minor to come in in m. 7. Note that slides of diminished sevenths (C#dim7-Cdim7 [=F#dim7]) are not that unusual in music of this period or even earlier, since functionally they map onto the circle of fifths progression. Part of the strangeness of the second half of m. 6 comes from the fact that the root of the G does not sound in the second half of the measure, making it more difficult to decide whether the C# or the D is the chord tone.
 

jbuhler

Senior Member
Trust me, as a conductor I would always rather record with an orchestra! As for the producers... well, I can’t really blame them. Before they had only the piano, so obviously they knew that it was going to be very different with an orchestra (and would often ask for changes while recording). But now it’s since it sounds more and more like real instruments I simply don’t think they can realize how different a real orchestra would be. They simply don’t have the training and experience to do so.

As for the time it took... it was long (over three days) and shows why music like that cannot be composed for films. Too time consuming to get a decent mockup!
How long would it take you to prepare a newly written piece of this sort for a recording, that is, when you and the orchestral musicians don't know the piece and so would have to rehearse?

I think a difficult thing about scoring pieces like this for virtual instruments are that they are not written for the sweet spots of sample libraries. String sections of a good orchestra have access to an almost infinite variety of articulations, whereas the best string libraries are still dealing with comparatively few.
 
OP
Bernard Duc

Bernard Duc

Member
How long would it take you to prepare a newly written piece of this sort for a recording, that is, when you and the orchestral musicians don't know the piece and so would have to rehearse?

I think a difficult thing about scoring pieces like this for virtual instruments are that they are not written for the sweet spots of sample libraries. String sections of a good orchestra have access to an almost infinite variety of articulations, whereas the best string libraries are still dealing with comparatively few.
It depends on how good the orchestra is. But with a top orchestra and conductor the first reading would be already very good, only very small details would need to be rehearsed. That's if the conductor spends the necessary hours before, building in his mind an extremely strong and detailed idea of the interpretation.
 
OP
Bernard Duc

Bernard Duc

Member
Looking at bar 6, if you take the melody notes at that spot and consider them arpeggiated chord notes, it's like a C# 6/7 chord (or a C#13 chord), with an added b9 - except that the b7 actually isn't played. This is not an uncommon way to substitute a G dominant chord leading to a C chord; a so called tritonus substitute. Jazz music is full of that - but wasn't invented in 1901/1902 when he wrote this piece.

Instead of going from a G dominant via a tritonus substitute resolving into a C, the somehow expected C chord is also substituted with a tritonus chord, namely the F#7 which immediately changes to a diminished F#7 chord.

It's stuff like this which makes it interesting to listen to the Adagietto again and again - but if the levels are wrong in this somehow strange spot - the C#13 (b9) chord without a 7 - it will of course sound wrong.

The F#7 which changes from a regular dominant 7 chord to a F# dim 7 also means altering the major third to a minor third - which reflects what he just did before that - he sneaked in a G minor chord just after the G dominant chord. It's composition/orchestration at it's best if you ask me, the work of a genius.
I wouldn't try to analyze functionally this last beat, I see it as mostly non chord tones. But for your information the subV (tritone substitution) kind of exists in traditional harmony. It's the bII and is called the neapolitan sixth (because it's most often in first inversion). The only difference is that it works as a subdominant rather than a dominant so it would still usually be followed by the normal dominant. But even Beethoven would love playing around the expectations of this chord and use it to modulate.
 
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