Rondo For Recorder Quartet

The first piece of music that I’m going to talk about on this blog is one that I composed several years ago, back in 2010.  It was actually written for my music A-level, but I can’t remember if this version was the final version that got examined but I like it nonetheless!  As you can guess from the title, its a rondo and its for recorder quartet!  Have a listen here before I explain a little more about the piece and the interesting features that you may noticed as you were listening!

Now you’ve had a listen, I’ll talk to you about it.  Important parts – its in 4/4 time, (about 120 crotchet beats per minute) and it starts off in the key of E minor, but as you probably heard, it changes key a fair amount!

A rondo is a musical form which is essentially an extension of the ternary form.  The ternary form has the main theme played first, which we’ll call “A” and a contrasting section played next, which we’ll call “B”.  Finally you play A again so everyone remembers the main theme.  A rondo is different though because it has a variety of different contrasting sections all with the main theme played in between, so something like A, B, A, C, A , D, A for as long as your rondo is!  My rondo is slightly different to this, because the A part changes slightly most times you hear it, and it also has some linking sections and a coda at the end.  Below I’ve outlined my composition both in bar numbers and the approximate start and end times on the midi file.

Bars 1-8 – A1 – The main theme – 0:00-0:15
This is the important theme to listen out for when it returns!  It starts off in the rather pleasant key of E minor for a mere 4 bars before it takes a marvellously modern modulation into Eb minor.  The main tune is high up in the descant recorder with the treble recorder providing a harmony below it.  The tenor recorder is playing broken chords, while the bass chugs along in a simple rhythm to hold it all together!

Bars 9-16 – B – 0:15-0:32
I consider this to be the section with all the triplets.  It also changes from a full four part quartet into a polytonal section where each part gets a little twiddle of tune and it bounces around before joining together for the last few bars.  It starts off in the key of D major before modulating to G major after 4 bars ready to flow smoothly into the next section.  I remember recording this piece for my A-level and it took so many attempts to get it right!

Bars 17-24 – A2 – 0:32-0:47
Did you hear the main theme come back again?  Its a lot quieter this time round.  Given as a little solo to the tenor recorder with the bass recorder doing a light staccato accompaniment.  It’s back in E minor and still modulates to Eb minor so its basically the same (just not quite!)

Bar 25-26 – Linking section – 0:47-0:51
Because it just didn’t link smoothly without this little section.  It doesn’t sound like its changed, but its actually switched to being on the treble and tenor recorders so that the treble can be ready for its big moment in the next section!  The first bar is in E minor and the second bar ends in E major – linking smoothly into the next section.

Bar 27-42 – C – 0:51-1:23
This is one of my favourite sections of the whole piece.  It starts in E major and goes round the whole of the circle of fifths – just one bar is given to each key so its a definite blink and you’ll miss it moment!  I’ve broken it down bar by bar and the key its in, just in case you don’t believe me:

  • Bar 27 – E major
  • Bar 28 – A major
  • Bar 29 – D major
  • Bar 30 – G major
  • Bar 31 – C major
  • Bar 32 – F major
  • Bar 33 – Bb major
  • Bar 34 – Eb major
  • Bar 35 – Ab major
  • Bar 36 – Db major
  • Bar 37 – F# major (aka Gb major – but we need to change back into sharps!)
  • Bar 38 – B major
  • Bar 39 – E major – hurrah we made it back!
The final three bars tail the tune off nicely, ending in E major and allow a lovely link into the theme again.  In this section the bass and tenor are defining the keys between them while the treble and descant pass a little melody between them.
Bar 43-50 – A3 – 1:23-1:39
This is my favourite part of whole piece!  The main theme returns almost exactly the same as in the beginning of the piece, except its in a major key!  (Keys E and Eb major if you hadn’t guessed!)  I think this sounds a celebration personally, maybe the whole piece is telling a story – I haven’t thought of that before – does this piece tell you a story?  If it was a story I think it would be about 2 knights trying to win a fair princess’ heart.

Bar 51-52 – Linking section – 1:39-1:43
This link section is useful because it allows me to get from ending in Eb major to beginning the next section in E minor (which the descant recorder player will appreciate!).

Bar 53-60 – D – 1:43-1:59
This section returns to the key of E minor and actually stays in it for the whole length of the section (I know – how boring!).  This is because the bass gets a chance to shine – it has four bars of solo tune with the descant playing some rather high notes over the top – several of them can be really tricky to get without a lot of warming up of your recorder!  The treble and tenor join in for the last 2 bars – the treble to add to the floating descant and the tenor to provide a harmony to the bass.

Bar 61 – Linking section – 1:59-2:01
Simply because it didn’t sound right without it!

Bar 62-69 – A1 (mostly) – 2:01-2:17
The final statement of the main theme, back as you originally heard it with an ever so slightly different ending so it links to the coda.

Bar 70-77 – Coda – 2:17-2:36
To finish it off, I took the key into the relative majors of G and Gb as a little celebration of victory at having made it through the piece – however, E minor wins out and the piece finishes in E minor with a modulation in the very last bar!

So, there you have it – a basic run through of my Rondo.  Personally, I still love this piece and it was probably the best of my school day compositions!  I hope you like it too and have enjoyed listening to it and reading about it!

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