Although published in 1959 (a date frequently -and mistakenly - attributed to its composition) the Three Miniatures for clarinet and piano were written in 1956, while its composer, 23 year old Krzysztof Penderecki was still a student at the Kraków Academy of Music.(1)
Trained as a violinist in post-war, communist Poland, Penderecki turned his full attention to composition in his late teens. He came to prominence in 1959 when (at the age of 26) he won all three prizes in a competition sponsored by the League of Polish Composers. Two years later, he would become a symbol of the Polish avant-garde when his Threnody dedicated to the 'victims of Hiroshima' won the 1961 UNESCO Prize of the International Composers' Jury.
The Three Miniatures is one of Penderecki's earliest published works. Its
chromatic sound is characteristic of the social and political changes that the communist
world was undergoing in the mid 1950s. The death of Stalin in March of 1953 triggered
a "thaw" in the cultural policy of the Soviet Union and its satellites: 'Socialist Realism,'
the government enforced ideology of Soviet culture, was no longer the only accepted way
of creating art. Composers from the west, such as Stockhausen and Cage were heard for
the first time; eastern composers were allowed (although still not encouraged) to openly
work with atonal and serial techniques, while the All-Union Congress of Composers
attempted to "salvage Socialist Realism form the wreckage of Stalinism" and the Stalinist
cult of personality.(2)
This places the origin of the Three Miniatures at a pivotal moment in the cultural history of eastern Europe. While bearing the influence of Bartók, it was composed before Penderecki was influenced by the western avant-garde. Like his contemporaries, such as Ligeti, Penderecki was working unaware of the musical trends of the west; the Three Miniatures is distinctive in that it represents the composers unique 'sound': the founding of an eastern school of post-tonal music that would not survive the flood of ideas from the west. As I will demonstrate, this has implications for the analysis of the work.
The piece is in three short movements following a traditional pattern of
fast - slow - fast. When first looking at the overall structure of the work, I used the
illustrations on the cover of the score as a clue; it consisted of three triangles each
subdivided into three parts (see figure 1).
Figure 1: Illustrations from the cover of the score.
Since the three triangles were obvious metaphors for the three sections of the piece, I
examined the work for evidence of ternary structure within each of the movements,
reaching the following conclusions:
|1: Allegro||2: Andante cantabile||3: Allegro ma non troppo|
|A: 1-7||A: 1-6||A: 1-10|
|B: 7-16||B: 7-13||B: 11-41|
|C: 16-31 (canon)||C: 14-18||C: 42-46|
Figure 2: Formal Outline
My original plan was to apply Forte Pitch-Class analysis to the first movement in a straight forward manner; however, it soon became clear that the pitch material is not clearly delineated at any point. Most of the notes of the aggregate are in play all the time, yet the work is not 12-tone. Penderecki uses groups of eight or nine notes that constantly vary from bar to bar. Instead, I concluded that the work is constructed around short motivic structures based on the intervals of a major 7th and its inversion - a minor 2nd. These structures are exchanged between the two instruments in transpositions and variations that best maintain the dominance of the dissonant intervals (most frequently by tritone). I would suggest that because of his isolation, Penderecki was constructing his own system of atonal music, one that does not fit the theory of 12-tone music, serialism or Forte Set theory, while its clear atonally makes it impossible to discuss in terms of more traditional systems based on tonality. Therefore, my methodology will be to demonstrate this perceived centrality of interval and motivic material to the first movement of Three Miniatures.
The first movement may be divided up into what I feel is an introductory section (m.1-6) in which all the material is laid out, a primary development section (m.7-16), and a secondary development section (m. 17-30) which seems to be a quasi-canon (note: the use of the terms "primary" and "secondary" do not indicate a level of importance, only temporal order). My reasons for this divisional system are twofold. Firstly, each of these sections changes, both in texture and in the use of dominant motivic material, while secondly, the first measures of these sections include or are preceded by (relatively) long rests in the clarinet. I will begin by present a detailed discussion of measures 1-6 in order to reveal what I feel are the main motivic ideas of the work.
The piano opens the movement with an ostinato pattern, one measure in length, which repeats three times. Although there is a gradual reduction of dynamics, this is the only time in the movement that Penderecki repeats the pitch material of an entire measure. (see example 1) Example 1: Piano's opening ostinato. The sound of the measure suggests that two motives are present in a antecedent - consequent relationship; I have marked these as 'A' (PCS 7-4) and 'B' (PCS 8-Z15). When combined they produce the PCS 9-3 for the entire bar. These are predominantly chromatic sets whose primary compliment (PCS 3-3) contains both a major and minor 3rd. In this case, the compliment is comprised of the notes 'C-sharp,' 'D,' and 'F,' all of which will be heard in the clarinet entry; of particular importance is the 'F' which is first heard in measure four: the first pitch sustained beyond the length of an eight-note. I have included this initial discussion using Forte to demonstrate the inherent problem with a straight forward pitch-class analysis of this movement. In the space of three eighth notes, we are presented with a pitch class of modulus seven. The tempo is such that to make smaller divisions would not be based on any "aesthetic" judgment; in other words, such divisions would not represent any "perceived" patterns in the sound, but would be based on abstract decisions made in the absence of sound. Such an analysis of the work would be condemned to large meaningless pitch class sets.
. Of more value is a consideration of the two hands as separate parts. The right hand is dominated by downwards leaps of a major 7th and upwards jumps of a tritone; the combination of which undermines any sense of tonality. As we will see, these intervals form the central motive of the movement. The left hand plays a series of major and minor thirds which, when organized into a linear pattern are a clear subset of an octatonic scale. While the octatonic set does not return with any frequency to suggest it as a basis for the movement, it does suggest that Penderecki is treating the hands as being located in separate pitch zones: the right hand by a small group of notes related through the two intervals, and the left hand by the octatonic scale. This will be the case later in the work, when the piano's hands are divided between motive fragments. The two hands are closely related however as the (with the exception of the third beat) the notes of the right hand fill or extend the pitch space established in the left hand: beat 1 - 'A-flat' and 'A-natural' between 'B-flat' and 'G-flat': beat 2 - 'E-flat' and 'A-flat' around 'E-natural' and 'G-natural.'
Example 2: Clarinet entry
The clarinet entry at measure 3 ( example 2) articulates a series of minor 2nds (both related and contrasting with the major 7ths of the piano) before the major 7th leap to the 'F-natural' in measure 4. This is accompanies by a break in the piano ostinato and a change in the piano texture; the opening figure of 'A-flat' down to 'A-natural' in the right hand moves up by a semitone, while the left hand abandons the major and minor 3rds moving to a chromatic single note line in measure 5 contrasting in both rhythmic density and direction to the right hand. Meanwhile, the clarinet's rising figure in measure 5 uses semitones in contrary motion, to play around the pitches of 'D-flat' and 'G-natural' - a tritone, linked by its mid point 'E-natural' - before reaching the high 'D-flat' in measure 6 (example 3).
Example 3: Clarinet - measures 5 and 6
The descending line into measure 7 uses all of the aggregate with the exception of 'A-flat' and 'G-natural' (one of the target pitches of the previous bar), while the upward line of the piano moves through a series of semitones to reach the high 'F-natural' at the beginning of measure 7 forms a compound major 7th with the clarinet's low 'G-flat.' Measure 7 marks the end of what I feel is the introduction of all the material used in the movement.
Example 4: Motivic material
Example 4 illustrates what I feel is the four main ideas Penderecki uses to
construct the piece: motion by a major 7th followed by contrary motion (often by a
tritone): interlocking semitones: consecutive 3rds with chromatic voice leading: and pairs
of semitones in contrary motion. As well as these four ideas, the use of perfect 4ths and
5ths is quite common although not in a conventional tonal system. I will now examine
how this material, combined with a series of voice exchanges - at times resembling
canonic form - is used to structure the movement as a whole.
Following the introduction of measures 1 to 6, comes what I am calling the
primary development section. All four of the motive ideas from example 4 are in play;
however, the source of the primary melodic material is a variation of example 4a -
interlocking semitones first heard in the piano in measure seven (see example 5a). The
motive is heard in a two octave unison, with an increase in dynamics, during the
clarinet's rest. This initial statement of the motive is followed by the clarinet, transposed
down by a tritone. The clarinet enters in the intermediate range left open by the piano,
"filling in" the register. A variation of the pattern, now an accented chromatic climb, is
heard in measure 11 (example 5b) The clarinet sounds first (in an incomplete version)
followed by the piano transposed up a compound perfect 4th. An examination of the
score will reveal that the transposition (although giving the impression of a dominant-tonic
Example 5: Motivic variations
relationship) actually results in formation of dissonant vertical intervals - simple and compound minor 2nds - between the clarinet and piano.
Example 6: Details of measure 9
Linking the two statements of the motive is a complex passage best illustrated by measure 9 (see example 6). Starting in measure 8 the left hand of the piano begins a series of consecutive 3rds with predominantly chromatic voice leading, while the right hand plays an angular line consisting of primarily major 7ths and minor 2nds. In a surprisingly tonal turn, the clarinet plays a series of consecutive perfect 5ths; however, the notes almost always form a dissonance with the piano. Example 6 shows how methodically the measure is constructed to generate the maximum number of dissonant intervals. Almost every note is involved in the formation of at least one dissonance, while the consecutive thirds in the piano's left hand cover the range of exactly one octave. Then, in measure 10, the instruments "switch" parts as they did (and will do) with the motivic material. The legato sixteenth note motion of the piano, compressed (like the left hand of the piano) into a single octave, becomes the clarinet's chromatic passage work, governed primarily by interlocking semitones, and consecutive semitones in contrary motion (example 4, a and d), while the linear perfect 5ths of the clarinet move to the vertical structures of the piano maintaining the staccato 8th note phrasing. Penderecki exchanges material between the two instruments three times in six measures.
Measures 13 to 16 represent seem to be a transition into what I am calling the secondary development section. The clarinet articulates a series of variations on the motive from example 5 before coming to rest for over two measures (the longest pause it has in this movement). During this pause, the piano introduces a new ostinato pattern derived from measure 1, followed by a "prefiguring" of the main motivic fragment of the final section.
This melodic idea is indicated as 'b' in example 4: downward motion of a major 7th, followed by contrary motion. The number of times major 7ths occur in the movement, both melodically and harmonically, are too numerous to mention: however, most occur to quickly to be heard as melody. The final third of the movement is dominated by the fragment, becoming almost canonic, except that no counter subject seems to accompany it. The first clear 'entry' occurs in measure 17, in the clarinet (it is prefigured in the piano, in the previous bar but it is difficult to hear)accompanied by a second variation of the piano ostinato. Following the initial statement, starting on 'A flat,' a variation of the theme is restated in measure 19 starting (in rhythmic diminution) on 'D natural'; the motive has been transposed up by a tritone (example 7). The piano replies with a "stretto" style entry on beat 2 of measure 19, and once again the motive has been transposed up by a tritone to the original 'A flat' now one octave higher. Entries are linked in measure 18 by semitones in contrary motion. A second series of entries begins
Example 7: Motivic entries - measures 17 to 19
in measure 22; the clarinet enters on an 'A flat' followed by a stretto entry in the piano starting on 'G sharp'; note that while these are enharmonic equivalents, Penderecki chooses to write them as 'A flat' and 'G sharp,' giving the impression of downwards motion. Note also that the third note of the motive moves from 'F natural' to 'E natural' giving the impression of downward motion by semitone. We next hear it in the clarinet a measure later starting on 'B flat' followed by an entry beginning on 'B natural' in measure 24. Although lacking the obvious tritone pattern of the earlier series, this set is linked by a more subtle relationship (see example 8).
Example 8: Motivic entries - measures 22 to 24
The four entries create the effect of two pairs of semitones in contrary motion: 'A flat' to 'G sharp' (with the above explanation), and 'B flat' to 'B natural.' The last clear entry is heard in the piano at measure 27 (a final entry?) before the clarinet enters in what might be called a recapitulation or codetta. The main indication that this is the case is that the clarinet entry in measure 27 is a variation of its entry in measure 3 (see example 2), once again transposed by a tritone. Also in the spirit of the "return" is the piano's momentary allusion to the ostinato of measures 1 to 3, found at the end of measure 28 (marking the first time Penderecki has returned to the consecutive 3rds since measure 15), as well as the vertical structures from measure 10 now inverted as consecutive perfect 4ths instead of perfect 5ths. The canon-like entries of this section are linked by a series of chromatic filigree passages. The clarinet's line in measures 20 and 21 is composed of a series of interlocking semitones covering a perfect 12th, accompanied in measure 20 by a piano figure featuring semitones and major 7ths.
The following is a summery of the above discussion:
|A||1-6||Introduction of material - based on clarinet line with climax at m6, beat 2, during piano rest.|
|B||7-12||Thematic exchange based on interlocking semitones, linked by chromatic passages.|
|13-15||Piano transition to third section.|
|C||17-25||Thematic exchange based on descending major 7ths, linked by chromatic passages.|
|26-30||"Codetta" - restatement of clarinet entry, restatement of piano ostinato and consecutive thirds.|
Figure 3: Structure of movement 1
A graphic version of this chart is presented in the score at the end of this paper (example 9). The motivic nature of the work, combined with an intense chromaticism is such that standard approaches such as Schenkerian analysis or Forte Pitch Class analysis are of little use. Voice leading is important only in the chromatic alteration of the consecutive thirds rendering Schenker mute, while most of the notes of the aggregate are sounding, most of the time leading to large, unwieldy (and somewhat empty) pitch class sets. The overriding factor in the construction of the work is the maintaining of the major 7th interval in as many vertical and horizontal voices as possible. This would suggest a possible application of Schoenberg's Grundgestalt, or basic shape; however, the chromatic nature of the movement still creates problems.
This relates to the points made at the beginning of this paper; the work was
written in something of a post-Stalinist vacuum, by a young composer. Rather than
following any established model of composition, he seems to have forged his own path,
resulting in a work requiring an adaptation of established analytic methods. After
repeated listenings, I concluded that this work was based on short melodic and intervalic
fragments; my analysis had to reflect my reception of the sound. This is an important
lesson for any would-be analyst: one must make the analysis fit the music, not the other
Bibliography and Discography
Penderecki, Krzysztof. 3 Miniatures for Clarinet and Piano. Melville: Belwin
Penderecki, Krzysztof. "3 Miniatures for Clarinet and Piano." from Presenting...
Valdepeñas, Clarinet with Patricia Parr, Piano. CBC Records: MVCD1016,
Schwartz, Boris. Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia: 1917-1981.
Bloomingdale: Indiana University Press, 1983.
Schwinger, Wolfram. Krzysztof Penderecki: His life and work. London: Schott, 1989.
1An annotated score of the first movement may be removed for reference from the back of this paper.
2Boris Schwarz, Music and Musical Life in Soviet Russia: 1917-1981. (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1983), 300.