Music Appreciation Final Examination

Review and Take-Home Essay Questions



During this semester, we have studied the music of three major historical periods in concentrated detail: the Baroque, the Classic and the Romantic. (Other important periods -- including the Medieval, the Rococo and the 20th Century -- have been discussed only in passing and will not be a part of the final exam.)

The final exam is your opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the music of those three major periods in as much detail as possible.

You will hear selections which are representative of each of the three periods. The music will be taken from your CDs and will be pieces which have been assigned on your syllabus and/or pieces we have discussed during the semester.

1. Include in your answers a brief discussion of the following topics:
     a. Melody;
     b. Harmony;
     c. Rhythm;
     d. Texture;
     e. Length (performance duration);
     f. Structure/form.

2. Using the same six topics above, include the reasons why a selection cannot be a product of any other period.

3. Review each composer's biographical information and the historical background of the specific musical example. This information will be helpful later in the test.

4. Review relative culture/historical landmarks. You may mention representative paintings, sculpture, architecture, and/or literature (including poetry and plays) as well as major political/social events in your answers.

Before the final, review the following terms, titles, names and dates:

Tone Poem
Bel Canto
Nationalism (examples of Italian, French & German)
fin de siècle
Verismo opera, Musical Drama (Wagner), Operá Comique, Singspiel, Opera Seria & Opera Buffa
Liszt and Pagannini
Absolute/Program Music
Cosima Wagner
Fanny Mendelssohn
Ritornello/Ideè Fixe/Leitmotive
Georges Sand
Incidental Music
Clara Schumann
12-Tone Music
Leontyne Price
"New Times For Music"


Choose one question from each of the three major periods listed below, for a total of three essay answers. Each essay question must contain at least one specific musical example (title and composer) and must be expressed in a minimum of four, grammatically correct sentences.


1. Explain the term "Contrapuntal Music" and give musical examples of your description.

2. Explain the term "The Golden Ratio" and give musical examples of your description.

3. At the end of her lament, Dido cries out "Remember me! Remember me!". How does her plead capture the mood of the Renaissance? Do her words make her a Greek or Roman heroine? Why?

4. Describe in detail a typical work week in the life of JS Bach. Begin with Monday morning and conclude with Sunday services.

5. Describe the standard formula for the music found in a typical Baroque opera or oratorio. Be sure to include a discussion of the musical form which provides plot information and that which expresses a character's thoughts.


1. Analyze the finale of Act II in The Marriage Of Figaro. Begin with Susanna's solo and continue through the next 20+ minutes until the curtain falls. Your answer must include a comparison with the standard opera form which existed prior to this composition.

2. Diagram the three major sections of a composition in the Sonata (Allegro) Form in complete detail. Include the name of an example which supports your answer.

3. We made a list of ten possible composition techniques that a composer might use in the development section of a Sonata (Allegro) form or as part of a variation in a "Theme And Variations" composition. List and describe any six of those techniques now.

4. Explain two of the primary differences between the development section of a Sonata (Allegro) form and "Theme And Variations".

5. Explain how Susanna (The Marriage Of Figaro) and Leporello (Don Giovanni) are radical characters and thereby symbolic of the entire Classical period. Your answer must include a discussion of the musical and social/political implications presented by each character.


1. Discuss the premiere of Beethoven's 9th Symphony, including the week long rehearsal period leading up to the performance and the audience's reaction.

2. Detail the musical journey down the Moldau. Explain how the composer created each vignette.

3. Explain the music and political connection between Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss and Adolf Hitler. Include a discussion of Hitler's use of their music, and his love of the last line of Act I of Die Walkuere: "Now let our race continue".

4. Discuss the term "impressionism". How did it originate? What were the aesthetic goals of the composers/painters/writers, etc. of that period?

5. Explain the stylistic difficulties for a pianist performing a Chopin nocturne. Include the left hand style vs. the right hand style.

6. Discuss the Metropolitan Opera premiere of Salome. Include the final dress rehearsal, premiere and subsequent actions of the city of New York.

7. Discuss the events immediately following the premiere of Igor Stravinsky's Rite Of Spring in Paris.