Andantino from Pictures from Childhood by Aram Khachaturian (1903 – 1978).

The andantino, from Khachaturian’s Pictures from Childhood, is written for solo piano. Although it is a relatively short work, lasting only twenty-nine bars, it contains many elements which are common to Khachaturian’s compositional style, such as a strong folk music influence.

The melody, whether Khachaturian’s own or an existing folk melody, provides the work’s form. The regular four-bar phrases, which connect into three eight-bar phrases, divide the work into a simple ternary form, with a single bar introduction and a four-bar coda.

 

Intro – bar 1

A section – bb. 2–9

B section – bb. 10–17

A section (with slight variation) – bb. 18–25

Four-bar coda – bb. 26–29

 

The first A section melody essentially decorates the perfect fifth descent between G and C, the dominant and tonic degrees of C minor. The descent is interrupted at the end of the first four-bar phrase by the mediant note (E flat).

And Ex1

The second A section’s melody, although slightly embellished, outlines the same perfect fifth descent.

And Ex2

 

The B section is built from melodic motifs found in both A sections, the B section, however, decorates two different intervals in its eight-bar duration: the first four bars decorates a perfect fourth descent, while the second four bars decorates the familiar perfect fifth descent between G and C.

And Ex3

 

 

The final four-bar coda decorates the note C.

And Ex4

 

Although the work is notated with a C minor key signature and has a strong melodic connection to that key, Khachaturian’s harmonic accompaniment makes full use of chromaticism and modal elements to colour the basic C minor tonality – even the melody includes several instances of modal inflection (see below).

To achieve modal inflections in the harmony, Khachaturian cleverly builds the accompaniment for the two A sections and coda on a descending sixth interval: major sixth for the first A section and minor sixth for the second A section and coda.

The descending major sixth of the first A section occurs between the root and third degrees of a C minor triad

And Ex5

while the second A section’s descending minor sixth occurs between the third and fifth degrees of a C minor triad

And Ex6

The coda’s descending minor sixth occurs between the submediant and tonic of C minor.

And Ex7

The notes of the C minor triad which frame both A sections’ sixth intervals are connected with a chromatic descent

And Ex8

The coda’s minor sixth is similarly connected, although its descent includes major seconds and is therefore not a true chromatic descent

And Ex9

The B section is built on a minor seventh interval, although a minor sixth interval is found between the first and last notes of the seven-bar section (F – D flat). The minor seventh of the B section occurs between the lowered supertonic and mediant of C minor – the lowered supertonic is also used melodically in bar 16, and to create the work’s final cadence, a Phrygian cadence, in bars 28–29.

And Ex 10

As with both A sections, the framing notes of the B section’s minor seventh interval are connected with a descent which, although mostly chromatic, includes a major second in bar 16

And Ex11

 

The descents in all sections and the coda form a continuous descent broken by leaps in bars 9–10 and 17–18; the leaps keep the descent from moving below the bass staff.

And Ex 12

The descents of the first A section, B section and coda are essentially harmonised in thirds but also include tritones (bars 14–16) and a perfect fifth in the final bar (bar 29).

Harm 3rds ABcoda

 

The B section is mainly harmonised using major thirds as opposed to the first A section which uses mainly minor thirds; the coda also uses mainly major thirds. The use of ‘brighter’ thirds in the B section and coda  provides further contrast between the sections.

The descent in the second A section is harmonised in sixths as it is an inversion of the harmonised thirds of the first A section.

Bsection 6ths

It is the use of the harmonised thirds, sixths and occasional tritones combined with the melody which creates the work’s harmonies. However, the chord used to complete each eight-bar section is always a C minor triad, either inverted or in root position,

Cm inversions

this creates cohesion and helps to ‘resolve’ the accompaniment’s chromaticism. It also connects all of the harmonies to ‘C’ – many of the chords do not create functional progressions as they are formed as a result of the harmonised descents rather than from any one scale or mode. However, the scales and modes from which most of the chords could be drawn all contain C as their tonic; in this way Khachaturian’s harmonies are also connected through pitch axis.

Scales and Modes

 

 

 

 

 

 

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