Musical Analysis; Comparing ‘Tonight’ with ‘Maria’; West Side Story.

Comparing Tonight with Maria (Both from ‘West side story’) (Tonight also known as balcony scene – Tony and Maria sing together. Maria – sang by Tony. ) The piece ‘Tonight’ begins in B maj; it opens with Tony stating “the most beautiful sound I ever heard” this is sang in a very recitative style; mainly monotone (D) – rubato. This makes his words seem the prominent element – stressing the drama. The gentile bassoon plays a descending line – while the horn plays a simplified version ~ this ‘decent’ becomes a theme in Tony and Maria’s relationship.
It also plunges Toney into a dream world. This opening line leads swiftly on to the theme of ‘Maria’. Throughout the song there are many variations on ‘Maria’ – however the first time (bar 28) a perfect 4th is used between the ‘Ma + ‘ri’; the ‘a’ is a dissonant – yet is warmed by the sound of the horn (emphasising the ri-a). The instrumentation is thin here- mainly heterophonic , working with the triplets which diminish the rhythm and increase the tension.
In bar 4; the ‘a’ of Maria is resolved on to a D (rather than an E) – this is a descending min 3rd, however the oboe doesn’t resolve- this creates anticipation and leads the music on demonstrating that the song is to grow- reflecting Tony’s feelings for Maria- yet clashing slightly and creating an element of pain- foreshadowing the ‘later’ tragedy. From bar 8, on to bar 9; After the sequential transformation ‘up a tone’ in bar 8 the music changes again as if onto an ‘Aria’ section.

It does so on the ‘Ma’ to the ‘ri’ – The ‘ri’ is sang on an A natural (appoggatura) –making a dim 5th. The instrumentation thickens here, timps and double bass are also added , the bass plays pizz, and its rhythm goes slightly Latin – similar to much of the dance music throughout the musical – and all this creates a colourful image in the listeners head – reflecting the image of Maria in Tony’s head. Bar 15; Instrumentation thickens here as the clarinets, Horns, and trumpets are added, as the music progresses, bar 17; the oboes are added.
In bars 18 and 19 there are two descending lines linking and building up to the 6th variation of ‘Maria’; the flute is added in bar 19, and the trombones are added in bar 20. Full orchestration on the 6th variation of Maria; this variation of Maria is a descending phrase, as it moves down a tone each time: Also rhythmically augmented. Middle syllable is an appoggiatura. {draw:frame} The phrase continues to descend with “say it loud and there’s music playing”.
There is also a diminuendo in bar 23 and the violins take on a more prominent role – this makes the music seem more romantic and soft, Bernstein has used word painting here as Tony describes Maria’s name as soft “almost like praying”, plus on the word ‘praying’ there’s a per5th. In bar 28, the 6th in-between the ‘ri +a’ _(like the 1st version of Maria, but last note turned upside down)_ becomes a countermelody, the theme is played in the contrabass; this constant repeat of ‘Maria’ demonstrates Tony’s worship for her.
In bar 48, the theme is demonstrated in thicker texture again – it leads to an operatic recitative style line from Tony ppp (while the accompaniment is simply semibreves) far from the ‘Latin style dance atmosphere’ demonstrated previously. {draw:frame} Finally in Bar 51 there is one more variation of ‘Maria’ – reminiscent of the first version – but with a per5th (ma-ri), the ‘a’(G) is held for about the last two bars; underneath this, an Eb is held making the ‘a’ sound like a discord.
This creates a certain pain about the last note – foreshadowing future events, suggesting that its all going to end with pain. The balcony scene also begins in Bmaj – and opens with a descending line, reminiscent of ‘Maria’ – linking the two songs and making the ‘descending line’ a theme in their relationship. In bar 3 the theme from Maria is echoed in the violins. This opening piece of music (1-29) is very important; it acts as an underscore – reminiscing previous songs, as it gently continues and goes through many temporary modulations.
In Bar 30 the vocals begin; (Only Maria sings) the instrumentation is thin – with violins holding sustained notes creating a tense, hesitant yet romantic atmosphere. The descending line theme ‘augmented’ in the bass. The tempo is marked as andantino, little faster – as the tension increases. All this forces the vocal melody to be exposed, (making the soloistmore important) demonstrating their vulnerability and innocence. At bar 32 a contrabass is added, marked pizz, – this adds an amazing gently pulsating, heartbeat rhythmical effect – creating much excitement; reflecting their emoticons. draw:frame} The vocal melody is still very exposed and prominent as it rises above the accompaniment in broken chords. In bar 37 Tony sings alone, as he says “Maria” there is a perfect5th between the ‘Ma-ri’ like the actual song, ‘Maria’ – again linking the two songs. Maria then sings solo, for one bar only, she repeats his name twice – echoing his actions, this makes the duet seem more conversational – enhancing the drama. Bar 42; Allegretto – always a little faster, the heart beat rhythm is still present – retaining the excited and heightened emoticons.


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