Tag: British

Henry Balfour Gardiner – Five Piano Pieces – No. 2

Henry Balfour Gardiner (1877 – 1950) was a British composer and teacher who was a contemporary of Delius (he later bought the house that Delius lived in in Grez, France for him). He was part of the Frankfurt Group which consisted of British and colonial composers who studied at the Hoch Conservatory in Frankfurt in the 1890s. After having written a variety of works for different genres (including two symphonies) he gave up composition in 1925 to concentrate on a new afforestation programme on his Dorset pig farm. His style of composing is similar to Delius’ and many other British composers of the time, though there tends to be less use of chromaticism than in Delius’ writing. Many of his compositions were lost (or destroyed by the composer himself), and his only well known work is the choral piece Evening Hymn which he wrote in 1908.

Less well known are his works for piano, one of which I’ll be analysing here. The full score is available to view here. The only available recording of the piece I can find is here (at 1:41).

The piece begins (after no introduction) with a statement of the main melody.

opening-8-bars

In the simplest terms, this translates to

opening-8-bars-simple
The first half of this 8 bar section is a sequence melodically, rhymically and harmodically. In other words bar one is replicated exactly down a perfect 4th to form bar two and down another major 2nd from there to form bar 3. We then return back to chord I in Db major to end the phrase on the 3rd. This completes the descending contour of the melody and we end an octave from where we began. The left hand creates movement in these 4 bars by accenting the 2nd quaver of each bar (the gaps in the melody) with the root of each chord.

The next 4 bars of this section retain roughly the same rhythm in the melody but this time with an ascending contour. Underneath this the left hand plays an arpeggiated figure landing on the Db pedal note which is heard underneath the V-I cadences on top of it. Up to this point everthing has been completely diatonic.

The next section begins in a similar way:

next-8-bars

The first 4 bars of this section are almost identical to the opening of the piece, only this time the left hand adds even more emphasis on the 2nd quaver of each bar. As before the left hand then plays arpeggiated figures, though this time for only two bars. A new triplet idea is then introduced in the melody alongside a slightly unexpected Gb7 chord in the harmony. This IV7 chord has a slightly bluesy implication, especially in that it follows (and resolves to) chord I as in the first 4 bars of a conventional blues. This triplet idea is then echoed in the left hand an octave lower than the original (though not an exact repeat of the right hand). Two extra bars then complete this section with the harmony moving back to chord I whilst the triplet idea is heard again to form a sequence. I have written a simplified version of this below.

simplified-triplet-thing

The next section becomes more animated and moves through a few keys via V-I relationships.

middle-section

Again, the same rhythm is retained in the melody and a rising sequence is used as before. The left hand also continues to accent the off-beats, now landing on the 4th quaver of each bar as well as the 2nd. The melodic sequence and the left hand off-beat chords both abruptly end in the 6th bar of the section in which the melody, reaching its climax, begins to descend again. Underneath this are strong, full chords which accent the strong beats of the bar. This only last for two bars however as the left hand chords return to the off-beats towards the end of the section.

In simple terms the harmony of these bars is as follows.

middle-section-simplified

The harmony here has evolved slightly from earlier in the piece. We pass through more frequent key centres, arrived at through fairly conventional V-I relationships (Bb7 – Ebm7, F7 – Bbm). From the F7 in bar 4 of this section everything moves up in 4ths for the next 4 bars, eventually landing back on the tonic of the key (Db). In the last two bars there is a series of secondary dominants to end on the dominant of the same key.

The next few bars are calmer and more static following the crescendo and climax of the previous section. We remain on the dominant chord which seems to have almost become a temporary tonic, reinforced by the repeated V-I cadences in the key of Ab major (with 9th and b9th extensions on some of the dominant chords). An Ab pedal note is also held under all of these chords, not to create tension but to suggest a sense of stillness. The rhythm of the melody differs here from the opening of the piece. We no longer hear the dotted quaver followed by a semiquaver rhythm which characterised the melody up to this point, although the melody does still accent strong beats of the bar. This 4 bar melody is then repeated though slightly altered in its first few notes. In a subtler way than before, the weak beats of the bar continue to be accented in the left hand, with each arpeggio beginning on the 2nd quaver of each bar.

quiet-section
The next section continues in a similar vein;

quiet-section-2
The left hand here abandons the Ab pedal and repeats a 2 bar arpeggio figure, an octave higher on every repeat. The chords on top of this take us back to the key of Db major with a clear II – V progression, the voicings ascending in parallel with the left hand.

In the next section there is a return to the original melody which opened the piece, though this time harmonized differently. The first four bars of this section gradually descend in register with each harmonic change, bridging the gap between the high register ostinato figure heard in the left hand in the previous few bars and the much lower left hand arpeggios in bar 5 of this section.

second-climax

In simplified form, this section is as follows:

second-climax-simple
Melodically, the only difference from the opening bars of the piece is that the first four bars (aside from the last quaver) are played an octave higher, and the last two bars have become slightly more complex, ending with an appogiatura rather than an Ab minim.

The harmony here is very interesting. The first four bars just between the tonic and distantly related dominant chords. This is partly a result of the left hand descending line which seems to move by semitone on every strong beat of the bar as a rule.
left-hand-line

Some of these dominant chords can be seen as more functional than others, for example the D7 can be viewed as a tritone substitution for Ab7 (chord V), meaning that they have the same 3rd and 7th, albeit reversed. In general though, it seems that these dominant chords as used more as modal sounds than functional harmonic elements.

The second half of this section is more simple, again using a pedal note (this time the tonic) underneath V – I chords. The only exception to this is the Edim7 chord which can be seen as a C7b9 chord without its root, which would naturally resolve up a semitone to Db major.

This melody is repeated one more time, now back in its original octave;
misc-bit

The harmony of these four bars is actually the same as in the last section, with all of the Db majors taken out, i.e. G7, D7, C7, G7. Although the melody remains diatonic to Db major, we temporarily move through a few different keys here. On top of this, all of these chords are also played with extensions, the first G7 and D7 include b9ths, the C7 a b13th and the final G7 a b9th and a #11th. The left hand also emphasises the second quaver of each bar as it did in various places earlier in the piece.

Next we hear completely new material back in a more tonally stable key centre.
misc-2
In the context of the piece this section marks the calm before the storm with the final climax beginning with the crescendo in bar 3. The melody here, which is not heard anywhere else in the piece is a two bar phrase repeated verbatim. The harmony, however, is markedly different on the repeat;

new-material

In a much more conventional way than the rest of the piece, the harmony here resolves to Bb minor via a simple II – V – I relationship. This then leads to a series of dominant chords moving around the cycle of 5ths which leads into a Delius-esque descending line which characterises the climax of the piece;

mega-climax

The melody here (aside from the last note) uses the Db major pentatonic scale, but the simplicity of this line is contrasted by the much richer harmony beneath it. A distance of a 12th is covered by the descending lower line which is mostly diatonic but includes several chromatic steps.

descending-bass-line
The harmony here actually stays fairly centred to the key of Db major, with only occasional diminished chords which substitute for secondary dominants.

mega-climax-simple

The Gm7b5 in the first bar of this section can be interpreted in two ways. It can either be viewed as a temporary modulation into the closely related key of F minor, or, I think more realistically, it can be seen as simply a chromatic movement in the bass which is effectively filled in with harmony, rather than acting as a chord within a key.

The Gbdim7 can be interpreted as a B7b9 chord without its root. This chord would then resolve in a conventional way down a 5th to Eb7, which again has been substituted for a diminished chord (Fbdim7) implying Eb7b9. This chord then also resolves down a 5th, this time to a full Ab7 chord. In other words, this series of chords is simply a series of secondary dominants.

Following this the harmony becomes much more diatonic, moving down the key in parallel 1st inversion chords (Ab/C, Gb/Bb, Fm/Ab). Similarly to the first bar, The Gdim7 in bar 5 can be seen as ‘filling in’ the harmony between the Db and Bb melody notes and the G natural bass note. A diminished chord would be the obvious option with the chromatic movement in the bass taking precidence over the chords themselves.

The D9 chord which ends this passage is a simple tritone substitution of the chord which preceeded it (Ab7 and D7 have the same 3rds and 7ths, albeit reversed). Voicing the Ab7 chord in 2nd inversion and following it with a tritone substitution means that the chromatic descending line continues in spite of the simple dominant function which occupies these two bars.

After this dramatic climax the piece begins to die down in anticipation of its end;

whole-tone-bit

The melody here becomes much more static and consists of longer notes. In the harmony the descending bass line finally arrives at the tonic, which is then followed by another D7 chord (a tritone substitute for chord V) and back again.

The whole texture then completely changes and we hear a impressionism-esque whole tone scale which rises, falls, and rises again. This one bar of whole tone harmony is completely at odds to everything which surrounds it and is used as a final flourish before the piece ends to lead back to the tonic.

ending

After arriving at the tonic chord, we hear a brief reference to the G7 chord earlier in the piece when the original melody was stated for the 3rd time. This temporary abandonment of the D flat major harmony is reined back in with two whole tone chords (a possible reference to the whole tone scale just heard). These chords can be interpreted in various ways in terms of their harmonic function. The first can seen as an Eb7(b5) chord, whilst the second suggests Bb7(b5), though it is also worth remembering that these chords act more as a representation of whole tone harmony than they do as chords in themselves. The E and Bb of the second of these chords moves in contrary motion to resolve to the F and Ab of the final Db6 chord which ends the piece.