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Sunday, January 25, 2009

D-minor update

I had a chance to hear Beethoven's Sonata No 17 in D Minor,
Op.31, no 2 "The Tempest" in performance.

I love the idea of D Minor as the saddest key/Dorian mode etc etc and this was a piece on my list to hear.

It was lovely, but I did not find it particularly sad in feeling, nor do I consider Shakespeare's The Tempest, upon which it is apparently based, to be a sad play.

Kind of a disappointment, really. I love sad music.

I guess I should check and see if I can find someone else's list of D Minor music and work my way through it.

Actually, Widipedia says Mozart's Requiem is in D Minor - reason enough to call it the saddest key - as is Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

And my correspondent from months ago telling me that it is a Spinal Tap joke is correct - it is, but not original to them - Nigel Tufnel credits Mozart and Bach for inspiring his work in D Minor.

Further update:
Meanwhile, Verdi's Requiem seems to be in G Minor, but Brahms's Requiem seems to be - yes! in D Minor (like his First Piano Concerto.)

Added note: I have added a link under Music Links to Wikipedia's (somewhat) incomplete explanation of Dorian mode, which also has a note about Aeolian mode, for anyone who is reading in the comments about Gorecki.

And: this Wikipedia article refers to The Beatles Eleanor Rigby, as a pop song in Dorian mode. It certainly makes sense for a song that is undoubtedly about loneliness and is perhaps the saddest Beatles song of all. Perfect.


  1. Dear Souci (Nervous Marigold?) ... your post inspired me to listen again to The Tempest sonata, which has been my background these last couple of hours, running on repeat in the background while I work (writer, Australia).

    I don't know what key it's in (if there's something sadder than D-Minor, then that's the key it's in!), but if you would really like to listen to some sad music, really wallow in sorrow and melancholy, then the most fun you can have is to obtain a recording (not just any recording, but a particular recording) of the Symphony Number 3 by the contemporary Polish composer Henryk Gorecki (pronounced Goretski, if you're saying it aloud in your record store). Does the fact that the symphony's sub-title is "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" give you an inkling as to how majestically sad and sublimely beautiful it is? I heartily recommend it to you as a veritable orgy of sorrow. But you must obtain the recording by the London Sinfonietta under David Zinman, featuring the soprano Dawn Upshaw, whose voice will transport you instantly to paradise, which is where that girl is from, I promise you. This recording came out in about 1992. It's on the Elektra Nonesuch label, catalogue number 7559-79282-2. This recording was so popular at the time that the CD actually made it onto the pop charts. David Zinman was somewhat nonplussed at its phenomenal success. I recall an interview where he modestly said that he relished his newfound celebrity status but hastened to point out that groupies were hardly lying in wait outside his hotel, anxious to have his baby! I think I detected a note of regret! But it is a wonderful recording, quite outstanding, and Dawn Upshaw's voice will thrill you. The symphony was written about 1976, Gorecki's Opus 36, and is based on words and fragments written during the Holocaust by Jewish prisoners. I mean, it doesn't get any sadder than that. Enjoy!!

    Best wishes,

    Peter Byrne, Melbourne, Australia.

  2. I have that recording and now I will listen to it. Love sad music.

    I cannot see what key it is in, but I will ask around until I find out.

    I also found I have a recording of Górecki's "Miserere/Broad Waters". I'll have to listen to that, too. Bound to be quite sad too. And a Deutsche Grammophon recording called "Tristesse: Romantic Piano Music". Well...

    Thanks for sending my to my shelves and digging around. it is just what I want to do.

    Meanwhile, may I recommend that you read (if you have not) Markus Zukak's book "The Book Thief"? He is the Australian child of German emigrants and the story is about children living in Munich during the war. Heart-breaking. Actually an original treatment of those sad facts that are so well-known now.


  3. OK - Wikipedia says the first movement is in the Aeolian mode starting on C (compare with D minor relating somehow to Dorian mode).
    The second movement seems to be folk melody and drone, the third movement is in A minor, ending on an exultant A major.

    Can we hear that when we listen???

  4. And a little more:

    Wikipedia: Symphony No. 3 (Górecki)

    Górecki's most popular piece is his "Third Symphony", also known as the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" (Symfonia pieśni żałosnych). The work is slow and contemplative, and each of the three movements are composed for orchestra and solo soprano. The libretto for the first movement is taken from a 15th century lament, while second movement uses the words of a teenage girl, Helena Błażusiak, which she wrote on the wall of a Gestapo prison cell in Zakopane to invoke the protection of the Virgin Mary.[33] The third uses the text of a Silesian folk song which describes the pain of a mother searching for a son killed in the Silesian uprisings.[34] The dominant themes of the symphony are motherhood and separation through war. While the first and third movements are written from the perspective of a parent who has lost a child, the second movement is from that of a child separated from a parent.

  5. WOW you get some deep comments on this blod, Souci...
    I have no idea whatsoever why nobody is so attracted to my blog.
    Enjoy your popularity!