Kabalevsky, Op. 39, Play-Along: Post Two (Nos. 1 – 4 Reaction)
It’s time for the first reaction post for the Kabalevsky Piano Play-Along! If you haven’t played through the first 4 pieces, some of what’s ahead may spoil it for you, so use a little caution!
Have you seen the entire Play-Along plan yet? You can read it HERE. Don’t forget! Reply at least 3 different times here on the blog or on the Facebook discussion group page, and you just might receive a prize from Hal Leonard (thank you, Hal Leonard!).
Quick scan thoughts:
All four of these pieces would serve as good introductory Kabalevsky works for mid-to-late elementary students. The first 3 pieces have both hands playing in the treble clef which would reinforce that type of reading if your student hasn’t had much experience with that. Though each is very short, Kabalevsky seems to be concentrating on phrasing (mostly parallel phrasing) and varying articulations.
Thoughts while playing….
No. 1 – Melody
Lovely piece for melodic RH playing in legato style using simple intervals. The first question a recent student asked me was what were those “lines on the half notes?” This is a great piece for introducing tenuto (held; sustained) to a curious student.
The student must negotiate a legato LH shift from a blocked 5th using fingers 5 and 2 to a blocked 3rd using 3 and 1. Students should release the 3rd with a wrist lift to return to the 5th with ease. Here’s a video of young student negotiating that maneuver. Notice how she counts in order to time it.
No. 2 – Polka
This cheerful dance (not too fast, only allegretto) offers LH the opportunity to be expressive. The legato phrases should be delineated by releasing the slurs with gentle wrist lifts. For those who haven’t played much syncopation with the RH, the hands together (HT) coordination could be a bit tricky. I recommend this rhythmic preparation as a prep to HT playing (I asked the student to tap with dynamics and play the LH longer as opposed to the shorter, lighter RH):
Playing one hand smoothly while bouncing the other lightly, plus timing the releases of the LH with the RH – yikes. Notice how the student in this video below times the LH release with the RH staccato on beat 4.
Fingering – the Authentic Edition begins with RH 2 and 4 (which I like for a smooth transition to the next measure). In the last measure, RH ends with 5 and 1 moving to 4 and 2 which might be a stretch for small hands when aiming for double legato. 5 and 1 to 3 and 1 would work if the top voice remained legato.
No. 3 – Rambling (I see “Marching” in a different edition; what about your copy?)
I noticed immediately the inclusion of staccato, tenuto, and staccato/tenuto marks. Varied articulation seems to be the point of this “etude” in what really sounds like a march (a somber Dm one). I would tell the student to create more of a plodding effect in the LH vs. the bouncier, lighter staccatos of the RH, and also to hold the tenuto notes (half notes and whole notes) for as long as possible.
Let’s see if this student comes close to this idea:
The RH does seem to “ramble around” as the title indicates. The LH in m. 4 (authentic edition) has 3 and 1 indicated though a 2 and 1 would work. The student and I thought that perhaps Kabalevsky wanted a stronger attack into the keys, hence the 3-1 choice.
No. 4 – Cradle Song
This piece looks like it should be played fast, but I reminded this student here in the video that it was a lullaby. He immediately changed his approach. The dynamic and the 2-note slurs should work together to create a tender, soothing sound. The authentic edition uses finger 5 moving to 4 on the descending 3rds in the RH. The student here in the video said that it does make a quieter sound compared to 5 to 3 (though he does have bigger hands and can handle the 5 to 4 easily).
When releasing the first slur in each measure, the student needs to know what note is coming on beat 2 in order to target it. I might have the student practice only the first 3 eighth notes saying “E-G-E” and then continue with m. 2 saying “E-G-D” and so forth. Practicing the LH alone many times for the sake of it’s own independence wouldn’t be a bad idea.
The first 3 pieces are wonderful for teaching balance between the two hands. Whenever the two hands are so close together with LH in the Middle C area, balance can be particularly difficult. The middle area of the piano keyboard can easily drown out the treble area just above it.
Each of the 4 pieces presents a different technical problem which qualifies these as small etudes. They certainly don’t sound like typical etudes. That’s the beauty behind these. I would definitely have the student locate common intervallic patterns within each piece for quick learning and work with them to truly make a difference between staccato, tenuto, and staccato-tenuto.
What are your thoughts on Nos. 1 – 4?
Just in case, here’s the Play-Along Schedule:
- Introduction Post: June 1
- Kabalevsky, Op. 39, Nos. 1 thru 4 reaction: June 2
- Nos. 5 thru 8 reaction: June 9
- Nos. 9 thru 12 reaction: June 16
- Nos. 13 thru 16 reaction: June 23
- Nos. 17 thru 20 reaction: June 30
- Nos. 21 thru 24 reaction: July 7