Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra

Posted by: evory

Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra - 11/13/12 09:28 AM

Hello,

Here's a short composition I wrote for piano and orchestra, based on a theme I came up with about a year ago but never got around to orchestrating until recently. I'm thinking of using this as part of an Arts Supplement for my applications to US universities, so any comments would be greatly appreciated (and when I say comments, I mean feel free to tear it apart, I'm not just looking for affirmation here. If you think it's not good enough for an Arts Supplement please do say so, I'm entirely self taught in composition so I can't say I'm a very good judge of what's "good" orchestration or "good" development".)

The piece is based on a simple rhythmic motif played by the timpani and basses in the opening, as well as an ascending melodic line played by the strings, then the piano, immediately after. The piece then segues into a somewhat fugal section for woodwinds and a bit of brass, while the piano toys with the rhythmic motif hinted at earlier. The B section, for want of a better term, is based on an inversion of the main melodic theme, which fades into a reprise of the piano's opening notes. Following this, the main melodic line returns with a slight harmonic variation, building up to a climax that ends in ascending octaves on the piano.

But enough of my rambling, links are below smile

Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra

Sheet Music
Posted by: Nikolas

Re: Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra - 11/13/12 09:44 AM

Ok,

First of all I'm not entirely sure on what is the 'Arts suplement' so I won't pretend that I know what level of experience is required there. I hope others will be able to chime in.

But for the work itself, I can say a few things:

1. It is an interesting work and the main theme is interesting enough, to keep it going. You have plenty of modulations going about and there are breaking points without the piano, or with only the piano, etc, so that works well as well. It's rather obvious that you put a lot of effort to that.

BUT,

2. Your orchestration is evidently weak. I can't pick up every thing to say that you do not have a solid grasp of orchestration, I'm afraid. The division of the instruments is weak and your ideas of various patterns and motifs is also quite weak. Sorry about that and for being harsh, but...

3. The score itself is not in a bad shape (which is very interesting, considering you've never had lessons)... It's quite clean and while there are several things that need allingment, it's not the end of the world. What is very wrong however is the placement of the piano staves. The piano goes underneath of the percussion and directly above the strings! Even if it's the star, the solo or whatever else! I had a great difficulty following the score only because of that.

Not much else to say really. Hope this helps a bit.

Nikolas
Posted by: Steve Chandler

Re: Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra - 11/13/12 02:01 PM

Hi evory,

If you're applying as an undergraduate then this piece is very impressive. If you're applying as a graduate student in composition it's less impressive, mostly because the musical language is very traditional and they'll be looking for something more contemporary.

Nikolas' comments are certainly valid. Regarding the orchestration midi devices tend not to yield a satisfying result without extensive editing (and expensive sample libraries). I didn't hear much brass and in a piece like this substantial brass would be expected in parts.

Regarding the composition itself it went lots of places and did a lot of things but I didn't get much sense of dramatic arc with satisfying climax. Leonard Bernstein is reputed to have asked many composers if the piece they were asking him to conduct would, "give him an orgasm?" While that may be a bit crass the point is that your piece should have an emotional payoff and I didn't get that from it. However, that is what would be expected from a professional composer, not a student.

So going back to my first paragraph, if you're applying for undergraduate admission to a conservatory this is very impressive work. I would expect a student applying to graduate music schools as a composition student would want to show awareness and some mastery of modern techniques. Somehow I expect you're the former in which case kudos to you!
Posted by: evory

Re: Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra - 11/14/12 08:15 AM

Hello thanks so much for the replies guys smile Maybe I should explain what the arts supplement is: basically, it's an optional additional form you can submit with your college application to (hopefully) enhance your chances at getting into a (ultracompetitive) school. I'm not actually applying for a music-related undergraduate degree at all haha (though I'm definitely going to take the chance to take some theory/orchestration courses in college).

@Nikolas

Would it be possible for you to elaborate just a little more on the orchestration bit? When you say division of instruments, does that mean the balance between the different families/ranges is off, or do I not assign the right melodies/countermelodies to the right instruments? But yeah, proper orchestration is something I hope to learn eventually, I know whatever I'm doing at present is rather sketchy jaja.

(And oh dear, I'm so sorry about the piano placement ><)

@Steve Chandler

I think you pretty much nailed some of the major worries I had with the piece. The only orchestra I've ever played in is a Chinese orchestra, which has next to no brass instruments, so I've never been very familiar with how brass fit into an orchestra. The fact that they tend sound overwhelming when they do come in means I don't use them as liberally as I probably should be. But thanks, it's something I'll definitely keep in mind.

As for the dramatic arc, developing a theme is something I've always struggled with (probably as a result of listening to too much cookie cutter pop music sigh), which is why I resorted to a rather basic A-B-A structure with this piece. Hopefully I'll be able to better exploit this when I start writing longer works haha.
Posted by: Verbum mirabilis

Re: Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra - 12/09/12 04:00 PM

Okay, I'm not a professional composer or anything, but here are some things I noticed:
-The piano is placed in the wrong place (as Nikolas said)
-You don't specify how many instruments you have (you write for at least two clarinets, but in the score it says "clarinet".*
-Your clarinets are above the oboes, usually the oboes are above the clarinets
-You don't write full harmony for each orchestral group
-You might want to duplicate some parts, ie have the bassoons and cellos playing in unisono.
-Usually the violins are divided in two parts, violins I and violins II.

*I would suggest 2 flutes, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 4 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani & other percussion and strings (violins I and II, violas, violoncellos and basses)