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  • Folia Folia Folia

    i'm outside with a little fire and a coffee listening to Folias as the cars roll by on Sunset Blvd.

    So the academic class we are taking with the Great Robert Winter dictates that we listen to and understand the shapes and forms of music... oh and that we Fall in Love With Music. I'm listing to music. Amazing music. It's mind-blowing.

     The Folia is a Portuguese and Spanish style in the Theme and Variations form. Its 15th century early character is lively, sometimes very frantic and can also be seductive and slow. 

    The entire form is ten measures long consisting of six measures with a two bar coda at the end, used to either return to the top (da capo or the head) or end the performance after a number of sung verses or variations in the same key. This is your blueprint. The relative minor to the major fifth and then swiinging through the relative minor tonic to the relative major and then recapping with the dominant and the tonic at the end.

     Dm - A - Dm - C - F - C - Dm - A - (Dm)

    i - V - i - VI - III - VI - i - V - (i)

    The very distinctive thing about the Folia after it's incessant repeats is the ground bass. You can follow along to this very solid pattern 99.9% of the time with it. Check out the example pictured here from Judith Nagley of the Grove, Oxford Dictionary of Music. 

    Big names for this style are Vivaldi, Marais, Caccini, Frescobaldi, CPE Bach... 

    *Especially remarkable in this collection is the MUSICA NARRANS baroque ensemble. This is how to shoot a classical video... and mic it too, and pick either an amaze/ location or a great reverb patch (ha!).  It's a pretty remarkable cast and crew.

    I wanted to draw your attention to The Liszt 1863 "Rhapsodie espagnole pour piano S254 R90" played by Xiangdong Kong. It is particularly captivating and gives a real semblance of how a then-modern went about paying tribute to a 200plus year old style.

    With such a dominating form, you can really hear Liszt's composition language shine through in his typical bravura virtuosic fashion. Not that Liszt is anywhere near typical, mind you. 

    It's really fun in the beginning of the work. I think to myself, "Wait, where's the Ground Bass?" It is hidden. In what is-from the audience perspective-a blazing number of measures starting with a metallic A major fortissimo BANG on the keyboard (1:31 in the video), in the score is nine measures of the form. Liszt rhapsodizes on measure nine  going from A to F#m - E  F#m E  A F7 A F+  Dm6  Bb A B#m D C7 Gm7 E7. And then as your confusion rises, questioning whet her or not this its really a Folia, he drops the pretense in two seemingly inconsequential C#'s. But AHA! It is that tonic minor that starts the epic ground bass. After that, itsz off to the races following where Liszt goes in the consequent variations of the form.

    At last, what sounds like a typical Romantic period piece can now be seen as the robust interpretation of an historical form, The Folia!