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Cory Hall, pianist-teacher-composer-publisher

A piano blog for your musical enrichment and instruction!

In Homage to Brahms: "Broken Intermezzo" for Piano

Peter Lanier

BUY THE SHEET MUSIC HERE: It was two years ago, in 2011, that I experienced my greatest activity as a composer. In April 2011 I composed a beautiful piano piece called Broken Intermezzo, where "Broken" refers to the separated or broken up sections and "Intermezzo" refers to the overall Brahmsian character of the music. Broken Intermezzo consists of two sections -- a melodic section with chords in the right hand and a folksy melody in the left hand (Section A), and a harmonic section that exploits four against three, 4:3, cross rhythms (Section B). These two remarkably contrasting sections, in A-flat major and its relative minor of F minor, fit together like a hand and glove. The overall form is almost entirely symmetrical, which provides the listener with sense of total completion and satisfaction. Even if one does not consciously analyze the form when listening to it, one inevitably experiences a sense of total completion. Here is a layout of the form:

A (all) -- B -- A (first half) -- B -- A (second half) -- B -- A (all) -- coda

Not only does the form fit into a satisfying symmetrical plan, but the musical ideas themselves offer a constant source of joy and accomplishment to the pianist. The folksy melody in the left hand of the A section reminds me of a couple of pop songs (such as John Denver or the Beatles), which wasn't intentional. I use the word "accomplishment" since the B section consists of a constant sequence of fours against threes, which every pianist knows presents a formidable technical challenge. However, these are not fast and virtuosic 4:3 rhythms, but rather slower and more melodious ones over a rich harmonic progression that requires much damper pedal. This section sounds a lot like Brahms. The chord progression here is the "Pachelbel Canon" progression but in a minor rather than major key (F minor). This famous progression is totally disguised in a minor key with 4:3 rhythms. In fact, had I not mentioned the "Pachelbel" progression here I am willing to bet most listeners -- even highly educated ones with music degrees -- would never recognize it.

I love contrast and my advice to aspiring composers is to use as much contrasting elements as possible within the same composition. Broken Intermezzo is an ideal example of just how effective contrast can be. Consider the two sections and their contrasting characteristics, especially the general dichotomy of "simple" vs. "complex":

A section: A-flat major, "melodic" in style, features "simple" melody, "mono-rhythmic" rhythms in melody of eighth-eighth-quarter, sparing use of damper pedal and clear textures B section: F minor, no melody featured, "harmonic" in style, uses repeating chord progression, "complex" 4:3 polyrhythms between the hands, liberal use of damper pedal and rich textures

After the two sections are stated alternatively seven times -- the number "7" traditionally symbolizing "perfection" -- a coda appears at the end which brings the piece to a peaceful conclusion. I love playing and listening to this piece and hope you do also. If you are a pianist and would like to purchase the sheet music, simply click on the link below!