For those of you who don't know much Classical music, let me try to explain in words
some of what is going on, and why I like these composers.
I love Bach because, in part, the music is based on mathematical relations.
The C minor prelude melody fragment or motif is 4 quick notes
long. Then the motif is played upside down. Then the motif and upside down motif are repeated. The next measure repeats the whole 16 note pattern but varies the notes. The third measure
continues this pattern. The fourth measure again continues the pattern and completes the phrase, or musical sentence.
How long will the next idea be? 4 measures? 8 measures? Something that is not a
multiple of 4? It turns out to be 10 measures - miraculous how it sounds so right but is not symmetrical! It goes on, glorifying these numbers and more!
Bach wrote Baroque music. Baroque
music is based on equality of the different registers, or voices; i.e. the melody may be the highest notes we hear, which we call the soprano, or in the middle notes with higher tones and low tones surrounding it,
or in the low notes or bass. The final repetition of the main theme of the C minor fugue is in the bass, which comes just before the ending where the bass finally rests by repeating the main note, or key, of
the piece (C ). Each of those Cs are held for 4 beats.
In Beethoven's music, the voices are no longer equal. Each voice has its distinct role, and the themes are generally not equally heard
among the different voices. Also, the sound itself is now important - i.e., in the first movement, the 3 note pattern of the right hand in the opening movement, tied together by holding the pedal down,
drone over the bass notes that are held for considerably longer periods. Another example is in the last movement where the climbing pattern of 4 quick notes (16th notes) is interrupted by suddenly accented 2
notes (eighth notes). The music has a substance, however, beyond the drama, which leaves me satisfied long after I've finished playing.
Schubert continued in Beethoven's tradition, furthering
the idea of prominent melody being accompanied and enhanced by single notes and bunches of notes (chords) in the left hand. Occasionally the hands will switch roles. The music seems "right"
like its going on an inevitable path, but in fact it's quite inventive.
Chopin added a lot of chromaticism to his melodies, that is, notes that are dissonant, or in between the notes of the scale.
Also, what makes his music interesting is that he combines classical forms with Polish folk melodies and rhythms.
Debussy makes a real break from previous composers. The phrases often float, not having
to come to some inevitable conclusion. The pieces I selected are actually some of his earlier work, where he still feels some obligation to make it sound like the previous forms of classical music, i.e. where
there is a main theme that has variations, and returns in its original form by the end of the piece.