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    Dynamics in Dido and Aeneas Essay

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    Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas, an early opera composed in 1680. In Act I of the opera, Dido and Aeneas meet, leading to their immediate love for on another, which they are unable to pursue when the witches, who hate Dido, plan to ruin her fate. The atmosphere and emotions in the first Act are portrayed successfully, with the dynamics playing a major role in helping create the desired setting. Purcell’s use of dynamics in Act I is never consistent; in some pieces he uses many dynamic markings, with nothing left to the will of the conductor, however, in other pieces, Purcell tends to leave out dynamic markings.

    It is possible that these may have been lost over the years due to the music being transcribed several times, although it is unlikely that so many dynamic markings have been left out. In general, the most common dynamic markings used are piano, forte and crescendos. The use of the dynamic markings mezzo piano or forte, as well as fortissimo and pianissimo, are uncommon in Act I of Dido and Aeneas. An example of a song in which Purcell uses many dynamic markings would be the No. 11 Chorus, in which Purcell uses dynamic throughout the piece, leaving little to the conductors interpretation.

    The piece starts in ‘forte’, which echoes what is going on in at the time, as Aeneas is about to pursue his love for Dido. All instruments as well as the chorus start the piece, and all are given the dynamic marking of forte, which creates the a loud and joyful atmosphere which Purcell effectively creates. When the phrase “and the cool shady fountains” is sung, the chorus as well as the instruments are now marked as piano. There is no diminuendo preceding it, and so it is a sudden change of dynamic.

    The piano markings, accidentals, and what is being said all create a dim atmosphere for that particular phrase. Immediately after the phrase, there is a mezzo forte marking, which crescendos into forte two bars after. It is note able that after this point there are no further crescendos or mezzo forte markings in the song. In fact, Purcell only uses piano and forte markings from this point onwards. This sudden change of dynamic adds liveliness to the piece. The No. 2 song is also a great example of how Purcell uses dynamic markings in Act I.

    Here, the use of dynamics and stress points are crucial to create the atmosphere required: Dido is in a state of distress, and that is echoes through the dynamics. It begins in piano, to echo Dido’s solemnness and distress, the only forte marking used is countered two bars later with a piano marking. The song grows louder, through the frequent use of crescendos, which portrays a greater level of torment for Dido. The phrase “Yet would not” is stressed, suggesting that it is the most powerful and climatic part of the song. This is further confirmed as from this point, the piece gets softer, with only a single piano marking after it.

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    Dynamics in Dido and Aeneas Essay. (2017, Nov 19). Retrieved from https://artscolumbia.org/dynamics-dido-aeneas-28735/

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