Classical Music Stories #1: Anna Karenina (Part 3)

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Holberg Suite, Op. 40: III. Gavotte (Allegretto) by Edvard Grieg

General Story:

This movement sounds like a sophisticated, formal ball to me. I can just picture the nobility in their fancy suits and ball gowns as they dance the evening away.

(1:21) Then the music switches to two clear voices–the low cellos and high violins seem to be conversing or trading off, like we’re seeing a specific man and woman dancing.

Finally, we come back to the general, formal atmosphere before the piece ends.

Anna Karenina:

In Tolstoy’s novel, Anna and Vronsky often attend the same balls, and while they outwardly attempt to maintain a sense of propriety, the amount of attention they pay to each other more or less gives them away.

It’s interesting then that we move from Anna’s passionate and socially unacceptable feelings for Vronsky in the previous movement to this formal, calm, and controlled setting.  It shows the very real dichotomy between Anna’s inner and outer feelings.

(1:21) It makes sense then that the two voices who are trading off are Vronsky and Anna dancing. Outwardly they comply with the regulations of society, but their love for each other is always there under the surface, dying to shine through.


There are only two more movements…do you think the music will end happily or tragically? What other situations might the last two movements remind us of?

Stay tuned for the next installment…

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