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Benda’s “Sonatina in A minor” Piano Play-Along: Post One (Discussion Starter)

Benda Blog Photo 1

Welcome to our September 2015 GET IN SHAPE Piano Play-Along!  with Sonatina in A minor by Jiří Antonín Benda, also Georg Anton Benda  (1722-1795).  For more information on Play-Alongs and how to get started, click HERE.  You may join this Play-Along anytime you wish and continue to reply with comments even after October 10, 2015, the day we all chime in with our final thoughts about this gem.

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Follow @pianoprof on the Periscope mobile app

This is the FIRST TIME we’ve added Periscope to our Play-Alongs!  I think Periscope will be VERY beneficial for demo on my end and discussion among all of us on a LIVE broadcast.  Much more interactive!  I hope all of you liked it Monday.
*** To stay tuned to LIVE broadcasts on Periscope, please FOLLOW @pianoprof once you establish your account on the mobile app – PERISCOPE.  It’s a mobile-only app so you must download it on your phone or tablet.  You can catch broadcasts at www.periscope.tv/pianoprof on your desktop or laptop computer if you don’t have your mobile device with you during a broadcast (but you won’t be able to communicate on the broadcast with comments if you’re on your desktop or laptop).

Click HERE to learn about downloading Periscope….

A little summary of what we talked about Monday, Sept. 21 on Periscope No. 1…..

       Georg Anton Benda (1722-1795)

Background:
This sonatina is definitely Benda’s most popular from his 34 or so keyboard sonatas and sonatinas, according to Wikipedia’s count.  Benda was mostly known for his operas and melodramas which influenced Mozart.  His short and accessible one-mov’t sonatinas are mostly intermediate in level.  This A minor one appears the most often in educational piano collections and is a real favorite among students because of its dramatic flair, tunefulness, and toccata character, all of which are typical of Benda’s keyboard style.

The Focus:
Arpeggiation between hands, cross-overs, part-writing, and rhythmic variation are all present in this short work which seems to always alternate moods.  Wonderful drama is created from these contrasting elements which makes this piece exhilirating to play.

Interpretative Content:
The variety of textures and rhythmic motifs could cause one to alter the tempo from one theme to another.  Students often rush the fast-moving material (16ths) and then slow the tempo on the longer tones.   This tendency could cause the piece to lose its energy so counting aloud is really essential, especially counting in subdivisions as needed.

Study the form (ternary – ABA) and label each section to see where/if the sections share similar melodic or rhythmic material.   Note also where Benda uses A minor or E Major (the dominant) or C Major (relative major) and the primary chords of these keys. Knowing what geography you’re going to encounter speeds the learning process.

Practice Ideas to Get You Started:
You may want to review the key of A minor a bit.  Run a few scales in 16ths (all forms of the minor scales)  and the primary chords and arpeggios.  Look in the score to see where Benda includes the primary chords and how (broken?  blocked?)

After a few slow readings, divide the piece into study sections first by form (A section vs. B section) and then into smaller sections within wherever you see contrast in rhythm or melody.

EX:  Mm. 1 – 4 vs. mm. 5 -8 (16th-note flourishes vs. syncopated melody)

Perhaps study all the 16th-note areas first, solidfying the fingerings and working for evenness and steadiness in each instance.  Then shift to the melodic ideas with longer tones such as the syncopated theme (mm. 5-8 and similar).  The syncopated themes contain diverse material in each hand so be careful to acknowledge the slurs and the legato indications in the LH.

Once you have the continuity in the small sections mastered (and a consistent tempo), join sections to make 8mm. phrases and so forth.  Keep a reliable “working” tempo and gradually increase it daily to an Allegro over the next 14 days.  None of my present editions contains a metronome marking and Benda didn’t write one (since the metronome wasn’t invented yet).  A good rule of thumb for an Allegro is to play 16ths just fast enough to sound like they are indeed 16ths when compared to eighths and quarters.  We can all compare ideas on final tempo later.

I’ll post my final reactions about this piece on October 10,  but I will probably add another blog post or two before then to ask how you all are doing.  Chime in below and let me know if you’re playing-along, OK?

*** TAKE NOTE! I’ll be doing another Periscope next Monday, Sept. 28, talking mostly about tricky passages and how to work on them.  I’ll also post a mini-video tutorial or two  on INSTAGRAM.  Download the Instagram app on your phone or tablet and follow me at @pianoprof.  See my post HERE for how-to’s on downloading Instagram and setting up your account.  Easy!

See you soon somewhere on social media!

Elizabeth

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September 2015 PIANO PLAY-ALONG: Benda’s Sonatina in A Minor

Benda Play-Along GraphicFROM SEPT 21 thru OCT 10 (approximately), we’ll be practicing Georg Antonin Benda’s “Sonatina in A minor”  Click HERE for all the info you need to get started and learn about the purpose of the Play-Along.  There’s no sign-up, but start now by purchasing or locating your copy of the music.

On Sept. 21 I will broadcast the Play-Along Introduction LIVE from your mobile phone or tablet using the PERISCOPE app.  Periscope is booming all over the world!  You’ll see and hear me and you’ll be able to interact and ask me questions.   I’m not a techie and it took me only 5 minutes to download Periscope and follow someone to view a broadcast.

QUICK PERISCOPE HOW-TO: 

  • Download the FREE Periscope app at the App Store (Mac devices) or Google Play (Android devices). Use your cell phone# or your Twitter account to sign up.
  • Set Notifications to “ON.”  Create your account and choose your @name.  Post a photo of yourself and bio on your profile when you get the chance.
  • Search for me “@pianoprof”  and FOLLOW.  Whenever I’m about to do a broadcast, you’ll hear and see a little tweet alert on your device.  If you miss the broadcast Periscope will save it for you for 24 hours.  You can view it later, but you won’t be able to comment.  LIVE viewers can comment

THIS WILL BE THE FIRST #PIANOSCOPE on PERISCOPE! 

piano_periscope_icon_mto the best of my knowledge!

Look forward to “playing-along” with you.  Share this post with your friends, and tell them to tune in to Periscope for my #pianoscopes!

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NEW Piano Play-Along for September: Cast Your Vote

Sept. Play Along voteHi everyone!

I hope you all enjoyed a great summer. Mine was busier than expected but I’m back to my usual groove and ready to start another Piano Play-Along!  Who’s ready?

We’re voting on topics over at the Piano Play-Along Facebook discussion group, but please vote here in the COMMENTS below if you don’t belong to that group.

And SURPRISE!  This time we’re going to have LIVE BROADCAST with the Play-Along.  You’ll see me broadcasting LIVE on your phone or tablet and you can interact with me.  I’ll show you soon how that works (so easy!) and it comes at no cost to you!

More on this later, so select from these PLAY ALONG choices by SUNDAY EVENING, Sept. 13 if you can. I’ll announce the winning topic on Monday.

1. VINTAGE PRIMER Play Along – I love using certain oldie primers as supplements for my beginners and I’ll give you a tour of one of my favorites.
OR
2. “GET in SHAPE” Play Along – We’ll all practice a certain intermediate-level piece or etude for 2 weeks and then share our discoveries and inquiries with each other via the LIVE VIDEO chats, plus here on the blog, and maybe a little on IG.

Sound good? Are you in? VOTE for #1 or #2. Can’t wait to interact with everyone via LIVE BROADCASTING!

 

 

 

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Heller’s “L’avalanche, Op. 45, No. 2” Piano Play-Along: Post Three (Edition Comparison)

Heller Blog Post 3Thanks to all of you who held in there despite some setbacks in the Play Along schedule so far.  I hope you all enjoyed “getting in shape” with the Heller L’avalanche as much as I did.  I haven’t taught the piece in a while and think it’s time I insert it again into my curriculum.  Matter of fact, I have a young boy learning it this summer.  He was quite attracted to how it scampers about and he said it would be great for Halloween.  Hadn’t thought of that, but it would.  I find that many students are attracted to pieces in minor keys.  Have you noticed that as well?

Anyway, as promised, I will dispel some of the mysteries in the various editions of “L’avalanche”  with this post.  I am taking the Schott edition below (which is probably the most authoritative edition available; no urtext was found) and will perform a little cross-comparison with 4 other student editions on my desk.

Schott Edition

You might want to pull out your copy as you read this and make a few notes.  I think it’s easier for me to list inconsistencies measure by measure, according to a particular aspect.  Most of the editions had inconsistencies in pedaling and dynamic (accents mostly).

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Accents:

First, some editions did not include both rooftop and regular accents (horizontal).  The Schott edition differentiates between the two.

mm.1 -12:  Only the half notes have accents (rooftop).  The same is true for similar sections.

mm. 34 and 36 (50 and 52):  There are rooftop accents on the downbeats of these measures.

m. 56:  There is an accent on this downbeat, but it is a regular accent this time around, not a rooftop like before.  Found this odd, but I did see it in a couple of other editions as well.

mm. 57 – 59:  There are no accents at all on the downbeats here.

mm. 69 and 71:  Though these are forte, they are not accented.

m. 75:  A regular accent on the downbeat of the RH

m. 77:  RH has no accent here (probably due to the subito P)

Pedal:

mm. 1 – 8:  There is pedaling on the half notes with a release on beat 2.

mm. 10 and 12:  Strangely, there was no pedaling indicated for these half notes which made me curious.  Mistaken omission?  I might  pedal as in mm. 1- 8.  3 of the 4 editions added the pedal.

mm.13-14:  This is indicated to be played portato without pedal. Almost all editions added pedal here.  If I added pedal, it would only be a speck.  For sure I’d want to keep the chords from blurring together.

mm. 34-36 (and similar sections):  This section has no pedaling indicated, though many editions added a pedal for each chord of the RH.  I would probably add it for warmth and assistance with the cresc.

mm. 44 – 46:  No pedaling is indicated here, but most editions added it probably so it would match the indicated pedaling in m. 47.

mm. 69 and 71:  There is definitely pedaling indicated for each of the two chords here.

mm. 85 – 89:  Believe it or not, these last few measures should be held under one long pedal.  Some editions did include it and some removed the pedal indication entirely. It’s a 19th century thing.  I’d do it.

Dynamics:

m. 43:  No dim. here!

m. 83:  There is indeed a subito P on the downbeat.

m. 84:  most editions used 8va here for the RH, though I found one that didn’t.  Yikes. Lots of ledger lines…..

Other:

mm. 13 -16 and similar:  It’s poco meno mosso and not rit.

m. 82:  One of my editions included this measure on the final system.  Sure made it easier to read the upcoming LH quarter-note entrance on “A.”  Other editions weren’t so friendly. 🙂

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Hope this revelation into the Schott edition helped.  Will be in touch soon regarding our next summer Piano Play-Along topic.  I’m away from July 2-16 presenting at teacher conferences and workshops.  I’ll post where I’ll be and if I’m in your neck of the woods, stop by and stay “hi.”  I’d love to meet you!

 

 

 

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Heller’s “L’avalanche, Op. 45, No. 2” Piano Play-Along: Post Two (Tricky Passages )

Heller Blog Post 2

I’ve decided to extend our Heller “L’Avalanche” Play-Along a few more days what with the past TMTA Convention and future Piano Teacher Camp (June 27) occupying a good part of my time.  Plus…. I wanted to get a couple more IG (Instagram) mini-video tutorials posted and ask for all your input on the following:

Now that you’ve been playing the piece for approximately 2 weeks (shorter for some of you), what do you think is the trickiest passage in the piece? Either for you or a potential student?  Please COMMENT BELOW with measure nos.

I use the word “tricky” because I love how one of my students always uses that word in place of “hard” or “difficult.”  Seems less daunting when described that way.  Of course there might be more than one tricky passage that took you some time to work out or that you estimate would be “tricky” for students.

Here’s mine:

L'avalanche:  mm. 83-85

L’avalanche: mm. 83-85

I’m fairly acquainted with this piece, but during my initial re-reading of the piece, this section caught me off-guard.  A quick insert of contrary motion can certainly cause a little stumble in the reading process.  I had to take a good look at the patterning in both hands.  It’s the first time Heller has the 2 hands working in contrary motion with opposing melodic, rhythmic, and technical ideas.  On the technical side, the LH is involved is a gradual rotation downward with a more open hand while the RH is playing fast passage-work upward with a closed hand.  Tricky stuff.

Look forward to your REPLIES below!  Share so we can all compare notes….Ok?

 

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Heller’s “L’avalanche, Op. 45, No. 2” Piano Play-Along: Post One (Discussion Starter)

Heller Blog Post 1

Welcome to the first GET IN SHAPE Piano Play-Along!  with L’avalanche, Op. 45, No. 2 , by Stephen Heller (1813-1888).  For more information on this play-along and how to get started, click HERE.  You may join in anytime and reply with comments even after June 15, the day we all chime in with our thoughts about this gem.

A little discussion-starter here to get us going…..


 


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Stephen Heller (1813-1888)

Background:

This particular etude is probably Heller’s most popular from his sets of etudes — Ops. 45, 46, and 47, which all stem from the year 1866 when he was at the height of his career.  His etudes are actually character pieces at the intermediate level and students love to play this one because of its high energy and showy style.  Most of Heller’s etudes bear titles, though it is unlikely Heller supplied them.  Generally, publishers added them at the time of publication. Read More

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Wondering How Instagram Works?

In case you were wondering….. I plan to use my Instagram account to shoot you some video tutorials for the Play-Along beginning on Monday, June 1.   With Instagram being so “instant,”  it’s a much quicker way for me to post short videos with text underneath and you can reply instantly with a tap of your finger.  Believe me, IG (Instagram) is easy (and easier on the eyes in my opinion).  It’s similar to Facebook, but without all the “noise” in the sidebars.

instagram-logoWhat exactly is Instagram?

Instagram is a free photo and video sharing app available on Apple iOS, Android and Windows Phone. People can upload photos or videos to Instagram through the app and share them with their followers or with a select group of friends. They can also view, comment and like posts shared by their friends on Instagram. Anyone 13 and older can create an account by registering an email address and selecting a username. Read More

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Welcome to the GET IN SHAPE Piano Play-Along!

First, thank you all for submitting your votes for a summer Play-Along topic.  The majority of folks voted on getting their fingers in shape for now, but not to worry… we’ll cover the other Play Along topics later this summer.   

FROM JUNE 1 through JUNE 15, we’ll be practicing Stephen Heller’s “L’Avalanche.”  Click HERE for all the info you need to get started and learn about the purpose of this particular Play-Along. Read More

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New PLAY-ALONG for JUNE – Cast Your Vote!

11233584_1629948270575000_6855710208367958764_oThe theme for our Piano Play-Along beginning in June 2015 will be “GET IN SHAPE!”  We’ll all practice a certain intermediate-level piece or étude for 2 weeks and then we’ll all share our discoveries and findings, and then we move on to another piece for 2 weeks, etc.  We’ll get our piano technique in good shape while intensely studying a well-regarded teaching piece.  Sound good?  The 2-week period allows everyone ample opportunity to work around vacation schedules, summer camps, etc.

Of the 5 pieces below, with which would you like to start? (for June 1 thru June 15)
1. Burgmuller’s Arabesque Op. 100/2

2. Burgmuller’s Ballade Op. 100/15

3. Heller’s L’Avalanche Op. 45/2

4. Benda’s Sonatina in A minor

5. CPE Bach’s Solfeggio in C minor.

Are you in?  Let me know by replying in the comments below and cast your vote for your preferred study piece.  I’ll reveal the winning choice tomorrow!

 

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Bartok, For Children Vol. I, Play-Along: Post Seven (Nos. 36-40 Reaction)

Here we are. The final homestretch!  How many of you made it this far, as of this writing (Feb. 28, 2015)?  Even if you’re reading this at a later date, I hope you’ve had a chance to read all 40 pieces from Vol. I and that you discovered some new and interesting aspects about Bartok’s piano writing.  I know I did.  If you haven’t yet had a chance to read the entire set, please start HERE, move along at your own pace, and feel free to comment with your own observations/questions in the Comments section below.  There’s no absolute close to a Play-Along. Jump in anytime!

Quick-scan observations about Nos. 36-40:

  • All pieces are I (Intermediate) to LI (Late Intermediate) in level.
  • Continued use of variations form – A A’
  • Melody in the RH as usual, but two pieces incorporate melody in the LH
  • Extended range for both hands, with more LH involvement overall.
  • Continued use of chords to create a richer texture – either broken chords or 3 or 4-note blocked chords
  • Melodic figuration becomes more intricate with part-writing and voice leading concerns.
  • More virtuosity appears with dramatic differences in dynamics and tempi (EX:  extended cresc. or dim.; accelerando)

No. 36  – Drunkard’s Song

This is Nos. 34 through 36 played as a set (as intended).  Scroll to 1:03 for No. 36 only.  Effective student performance.

Impressions While Playing:  This piece is one of the faster and more aggressive pieces seen so far in the set.  It’s also one of the richest in texture, with bolder dynamics and a wide range.  There’s only one measure of “calm” –m. 14 (with rallentando).

Teaching Value:  At this writing, I’m currently teaching Nos. 34, 35, and 36 as a set to a 10-year old boy at intermediate level.  He decided to start with this piece which was the one that instantly attracted him.  Despite the controversial title, I could see how a boy would be attracted to the masculine sound of this work.  The playing involved is bold and showy and yet it’s a short work that could be mastered in a relatively short amount of time.  It requires good control of the quick, rhythmic 4-note chords (mm. 3-4) and a student would need to prep for quick hand position changes throughout.  I like the fact that Bartok included all types of accents, tenutos, plus staccato and very specific pedalling indications — a lot for the student to take in and absorb.

Take Note:  Once again Bartok utilizes his favorite variations form seen so far in many of the pieces — A A’.  I really enjoyed his re-harmonization of the tune the second time.  His use of the C9 harmony in m. 9 creates depth and much different mood with the Key of B-flat Major at the center rather than the previous G minor.  I intend to discuss Bartok’s variation in harmony as my student gets his head wrapped around the notes.  If he can i.d. harmonies (chords), it will make it much easier for him to memorize the piece.

Recommended For:  An intermediate student who likes bold, outward playing with high impact in just 20 measures of time.

Correlates To:  Faber Piano Adventures mid-Level 4 or higher (I)

No. 37  – Swine-herd’s Song

Impressions While Playing:  Another boisterous piece in the key of G minor, but it feels faster than No. 36 due to the moving eighth notes. I haven’t noticed so much quick LH work in any of the previous pieces and that was refreshing. I liked hearing the tidbits of G Major (mm. 12, 26-27) which added levity to the mostly minor mode.

Teaching Value:  I asked a couple of students (ages 9-11) what a “swine-herd” was and they hesitated and had to think on it some. I asked them about “swine” and then it all started to make sense, but admittedly they said they hadn’t heard of a swine-herd before.  I told them that Bartok must have seen several because he refers to them more than once in his piano pieces.

This is an excellent etude in quick 2-note slurred groups with a workout in doubled notes as well.  Quite tricky as the hands often move in opposed directions.  Independence of each hand is a must for efficiency in achieving the final tempo. Once again, Bartok is great at providing specifics on fingering.

Take Note:  Again Bartok uses a simple form:  LINE 1:  A + B phrases  LINE 2:  C + B’ phrases.  He then just re-iterates particular 4 mm. phrases using different harmonies.

Similar to No. 36, he incorporates a fast-moving section (Coda) for a driving close to the piece.

Recommended For:  A student who would like a short technical challenge that’s impressive, skill-building, yet short.

Correlates To:  Faber Piano Adventures Level 5 or higher (Late Int.) – due to tempo and extensive LH figuration

No. 38  – Winter Solstice Song

Impressions While Playing:  A busy, but cheerful ostinato work.  It’s commonly taught and very appealing to students because of the overall cresc./dim. contained within.  The final crescendo blast of a Coda is fun.  The tempo of 160 seems fast but the non-legato effect can be easily handled at this tempo with bounces from the wrist.  If often refer to this motion as “shaking it out of your sleeve.”

Teaching Value:  I’ve taught this piece on a couple of previous occasions.  Students are drawn to the pervasive LH ostinato and the effect of both hands “pouncing” all over the place. It’s also an excellent listening exercise as the piece gradual gains volume and then gradually decreases.  What makes it a bit intricate is Bartok’s very specific indications for accents and tenuto.  I spend most of my time getting students to realize this differences quite precisely.  And once again, variations form here with a Coda.

Take Note:  Did you notice a few other details by Bartok?  — 1.  m. 5 – how he indicates the use of both RH fingers 1 and 2 for the low F.  This creates a much sturdier marked effect.  2.  The use of marcatissimo in m. 53 increasing to a ff rather than the usual marcato seen in mm. 5 and 88.  I often tell my students to beware of making too quick of a dim. on page 2.  They often arrive at m. 71 too quietly.

Recommended For:  Someone who needs needs to come out of his/her shell a bit and get creative with gradual sound build-up and decay.

Correlates To:  Faber Piano Adventures latter part of Level 4 or higher  (Late Int.) – due to the non-legato, a technique which may be unfamiliar to some intermediate-level students.

No. 39 – Untitled (Allegro moderato)

Impressions While Playing:  This is very sophisticated writing. How often do pieces start with a LH melody so low on the piano? And how often do both hands get to play the melody three 8ves apart (see m.9).  Bartok creates somewhat of a chilling effect here.  For this entire piece, he simply variates an 8-mm theme until the final Coda in m. 63, but he does so in such an interesting way each time.  How could a player ever get bored?  He even includes an accel. variation!  Yippee! Permission to rush on purpose….;-)

Teaching Value: The more I play this piece, the more I think young students would really enjoy it, but I believe it would require a very effective demo performance to sell them on the idea of learning it.  What a great piece for teaching expression, mood, character, and balance!

Take Note:  The recording above is acceptable as a demo for a student, but I do think the performer pauses a bit too often.  I also think the accel. should gradually increase and arrive right at the Presto section at tempo = 138  without any pausing.  The transition into the Presto would be much smoother and effective in my opinion.  Did you notice the 4 different tempo indications in this short work?

Recommended For:  A highly-imaginative student who would find it interesting to “dress up” a theme and bring all the variations to life in different ways.

Correlates To:  Faber Piano Adventures mid – Level 4 or higher  (I)

No. 40 – Swine-herd’s Dance

Impressions While Playing: Again, like the Winter Solstice Song above, I’ve had a few late intermediate students select this Bartok piece for study, especially after I play a demo or if they hear a recording.  It contains the same gradual cresc./dim effect through the course of the piece.  Plus a PPPP at the end.  Students love that!  The pervasive pedal tones in the LH also give the piece constant energy which makes it sound vibrant even when it’s rather quiet in dynamic.  It truly does sound like a flute in the RH and dance-like with its syncopated rhythms.

Teaching Value:  Rhythmically, this piece is a treasure. It’s filled with rhythmic variance and syncopation, but it’s the details in articulation (RH) that must be present in order to characterize the flute and Bartok is again so particular and precise about what he wants.  This is an excellent tool for getting students to plan, play slowly, and listen closely to what they are doing in the RH.  I did that this week in a lesson with a student who discovered he had ignored ALL or most of the 2-note slurs!, some of which involved  two very quick 16ths.

Take Note:  You’ll see in the notes in the back of the Boosey & Hawkes edition that this piece and the No. 37 Swine-herd’s Song are derived from portions of a folk flute tune.  In the YouTube recording above you’ll hear Bartok’s cylinder recording of the peasant flutist playing the tune.  Quite interesting…..I had not heard one of Bartok’s collected recordings before.  I plan to play this video for my student as proof!

Recommended For:  A student who likes fast finger work, but who might need to dig into details (like mine!)

Correlates To:  Faber Piano Adventures latter part of Level 4 or higher (LI)

This concludes our Play-Along for Bartok’s “For Children, Vol. I”.  Congratulations to you if you read through them all and thanks for your patience in receiving my reactions.  What a feat!  But totally enjoyable for me.  Please post your comments below.  I’d love to hear your reactions to things you’ve never realized about Bartok’s piano writing.  I have a final Bartok wrap-up which I’ll post  in few days.  Until the Play-Along!