Well, this wraps up the Play Along for this brilliant set of pieces by Mr. Khachaturian. I really enjoyed getting to know these better and I hope you did too.
Quick scan thoughts:
- No. 7 “Ivan’s Hobby Horse” – A persistent horse here on quite the journey with the consistent galloping ostinato effect throughout. The two hands play closely together. One of the trickiest of the set, in terms of rhythmic coordination.
- No. 8 “A Tale of Strange Lands” – I love pieces that imply a narrative. The key of A minor lends itself well to a mysterious telling. The dotted rhythm is pervasive.
Thoughts while playing….
No. 7 – “Ivan’s Hobby Horse”
Before playing a piece with a tricky ostinato figure like this one, one should have some experience in other pieces that contain ostinato effects. It’s an effect we as pianists don’t play often in the standard repertoire and a good skill to have. Playing a galloping figure like this one opposite of a rhythm that changes from quarters to eighths can be tricky at first. I often have students break it down into small sections and teach each hand its behavior before trying them together. EX: Here’s a video of how I might have a student practice m. 4 going into m. 5.
Measures 56-57 can catch you off-guard rhythmically because both hands switch gears at this point. Here’s a short video of a hands-together practice segment. Go more slowly as needed.
Quick Note: I found the LH ostinato easier to master at first (see m. 28 and continuing). It would be easy for the LH to drown out the RH due to the close proximity of the hands at this point. Careful!
Something I found very interesting…..
As I played through the piece many times, I kept trying to listen for a distinct tonal center. I did sense a little preference toward “A” but nothing completely convincing. What I did notice was that the piece seemed to flow along, shifting from one 7th chord harmony to another. Try blocking out chord outlines as you play and tell me what you hear. It’s an interesting overall tonal progression.
No. 8 – “A Tale of Strange Lands”
I can predict that several of my students would love the exotic sounds of this piece. As I played I imagined how wonderful this piece would sound if it were orchestrated. I would ask students: “What instruments would be playing here? and here?” Alongside this questioning, I would ask about what would be happening in the “tale.” I find that students really latch on to a piece when I keep it interesting.
For the LH fingering in the opening, I preferred a smoother option: 5-2-1-3-2-1 demonstrated in this video:
The pedaling I performed in the video was 2 pedal changes per bar. The score indicates pedal for the first half of measure and no pedal for the 2nd half which I found too contrasting (wet, then dry) so I kept it consistent with 2 pedals per bar, but I often only half-pedaled. Full pedals sounded a bit mushy.
I love the contrasting rhythms in this piece, especially the hemiola effect in mm. 55-58 demonstrated in this video:
Here’s a way to practice the repeated-note gesture for mm. 71-73 in the RH. To secure a quick repeated motion in the hand, I often tell students to pretend that they are “shaking something out of their sleeve.” The imagery of this motion really loosens up the arm for a quick, bouncy gesture. Here’s a video demo:
Keep the thumb light as you repeat and lean toward the 5th finger for better voicing of the melody. Quick Note: I prefer a slightly slower tempo for this piece, maybe quarter note = 60 or so. It made it sound less forthright and more mysterious. You’ll hear a fast tempo in the video below.
Below are two video performances of both Nos. 7 and 8. I really hoped you enjoyed our discovery and study of Khachaturian’s Adventures of Ivan! Until next time……
Ivan’s Hobby Horse
A Tale of Strange Lands