Correlating particular instrumental colors with pitch chromaticism, three early twentieth-century scholars demonstrate how a methodical use of colorful winds, less colorful strings, and wind-string mixtures informed actual orchestrational practices. After demonstrating how Wagner’s use of instrumental “residue” creates an “articulate unity” in a passage from Lohengrin, Theodor Adorno describes how Alban Berg’s orchestration of the Frühen Lieder combines particular instrumental colors and generalized orchestral sonorities into articulate Mischfarben that distinguish whole-tone scales from functional harmony. After defining “absolute color” in the context of Gluck’s orchestration, Ernst Kurth demonstrates how “absolute” wind instrument colors delineate “absolute” “destructive” harmonic colors in Wagner’s Tristan instrumentation. Finally, Arnold Schoenberg’s functional orchestration of the “Rondo alla Zingarese” from Brahms’s G-minor Piano Quartet matches “indirectly related” harmonies with vivid wind and percussion colors and “closely related” harmonies with string-centered sonorities.
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Research Article| October 01 2013
Jeffrey DeThorne; Absolute Color, Fluctuating Mischfarben, and Structurally Functional “Gypsy” Orchestration. Journal of Music Theory 1 October 2013; 57 (2): 193–243. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00222909-2323470
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