A Review of Christopher Schlegel's Symphony #4 in F Major

G. Stolyarov II

A Journal for Western Man-- Issue XXXVI-- June 21, 2005

Christopher Schlegel’s Symphony #4 is modeled after his favorite work of his favorite composer, which also happens to be my favorite work of my favorite composer: Beethoven’s Seventh Symfony. Like Beethoven, Mr. Schlegel is highly skilled in employing all the possible contrasts of melody, tempo, key, and instrument type in order to convey the essence of his work. The Symphony #4 is both a model for the efficacy rational compositional techniques in conveying just about anything, and for the sense of life that Beethoven shared, which few in our contemporary era even recognize: a sense of proud, undiluted, triumfant grandeur, a sense to which our society desperately needs to return, and which Mr. Schlegel serves as a guardian of in these troubled times.

Movement 1: Andante Non Troppo; Allegro Con Spirito

This movement is filled with contrasts in tempo, volume, and mood, with pauses and extremely soft passages juxtaposed alongside intense, rapid-fire fanfares. At the beginning of the third minute, at the end of the fifth, and at the beginning of the eighth, an assertive theme melody appears, in a brilliant, flowing major key that characterizes the entire movement. The transitions in this work are rapid, and the consequence of each transition is often a development quite dissimilar to its starting point. However, Mr. Schlegel prepares the listener for these changes well, often inserting pauses to build suspense and readiness for what is to come next. In this movement, the “andante” and “allegro” parts do not occur with one entire part wholly after the other, but rather with each one being in between the other. The undiluted major of this work renders it quite receptive to the ears, without any impression of chaos and unpredictability that a less optimistic piece of this nature might convey.

Movement 2: Andante Maestoso

This movement possesses more continuity in the structure of its melody, though its dominant element is the use of major/minor contrasts, with major and minor passages intertwined in a way that would have made Beethoven proud. The main theme of the movement is moderately paced, possessing ample volume and expression, and constantly transitioning between F major and F minor. The strings and winds perform impressively quick and ornate work throughout the movement, yet Mr. Schlegel manages to integrate their parts into the main melody without detracting from its steady and even character. The placement of string and wind voices, along with the major/minor contrasts, helps create, through rational techniques, a sense of tension in the work, much like the one Beethoven was famous for. Measures where the rapid string/wind parts emerge and the melody transitions to a minor key are moments when tension is established; the return to major is the relief of tension.

Movement 3: Scherzo; Valse Grazioso

Typical of many late 18th and early 19th century symfonies, the third movement incorporates into itself the structures of a formal dance (which was often a minuet or waltz in those times). The waltz which characterizes this movement is preceded by a monumental major fanfare that develops into a magnificent, heroic melody in which Mr. Schlegel employs all the instrument categories at his disposal. Toward the end of the second minute, the waltz itself emerges, dominated by smooth string voices that convey an impression of lightness and grace, a contrast to the formidable forward sprint of the “scherzo” component of this movement. Again, Mr. Schlegel intersperses the two dominant elements of this work, rather than just offering them one after the other. The fanfare and accompanying melody reappear in the middle of the fourth minute, though this time exhibiting greater dominance by the string instruments, which highlights some similarities between this part and the waltz preceding it, similarities found in two highly different modes of expression and used to unify the movement. After five minutes have passed, the waltz reappears again; it is a contrast that is quite fitting to this piece. By analogy, the “scherzo” portion might be compared to progress, while the waltz portion—to the sense of leisure and beauty which progress leads to. After one has worked intensely and with dedication, one can, in a more relaxed manner, enjoy the fruits of one’s effort. Of course, progress must never be halted, and thus the fanfares and rapid melodies recur after interludes of leisure and grace. One such fanfare closes this movement, and sets the stage for further endeavors.

Movement 4: Allegro Con Brio

Like the final and most impressive movement of Beethoven’s Seventh Symfony, this work seeks to captivate the reader through colossal volume, abundance of instruments, and melodic mastery. Like the last movement of Beethoven’s masterpiece, this one is characterized by speed, determination, and grandeur, a most important element that Mr. Schlegel has inherited from Beethoven and preserved in an era that sorely needs it. In a Beethovenesque manner, this movement employs a frequently present rapid accompaniment in the string voices, which add intensity and purpose to the melody. However, in keeping with the dominance of contrasts in this work, a softer melody for a few wind voices emerges as an interlude in the latter half of the third minute. Mr. Schlegel then uses it as the starting point for a new gradual development of the melody, again onto the heights of volume, complexity, and breadth. Major/minor contrasts also feature prominently here, as the melody battles intensely through the minor parts to culminate in the major ones. Every contrast possible, of tempo, volume, instrument type, and key, is employed here, and fittingly so, as this is the apex of the symfony and must therefore develop the elements hitherto introduced in full. Of course, the swift, glorious, joyful major element triumfs in the end, as is also fitting in a work that uses contrasts to demonstrate the highest and best that man can accomplish.

G. Stolyarov II is a science fiction novelist, independent filosofical essayist, poet, amateur mathematician and composer, contributor to organizations such as Le Quebecois Libre, Enter Stage Right, the Autonomist, and Objective Medicine. Mr. Stolyarov is the Editor-in-Chief of The Rational Argumentator. He can be contacted at gennadystolyarovii@yahoo.com.

Christopher Schlegel is a musician and composer of Objectivist convictions. He is additionally a writer of short fiction and essays, and a contributor to The Rational Argumentator and its store. You can also visit his website (http://www.truthagainsttheworld.com) and contact him by e-mail.

If you are interested in purchasing a CD of Mr. Schlegel's Symphonies # 1 & 2, send a check or money order for $10.00 to:

Schlegel Entertainment
1995 Old State Route 76
 McKenzie, TN 38201

This TRA feature has been edited in accordance with TRA's Statement of Policy.

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Learn about Mr. Stolyarov's novel, Eden against the Colossus, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's comprehensive treatise, A Rational Cosmology, explicating such terms as the universe, matter, space, time, sound, light, life, consciousness, and volition, here.

Read Mr. Stolyarov's four-act play, Implied Consent, a futuristic intellectual drama on the sanctity of human life, here.

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