By

Benda’s “Sonatina in A minor” Piano Play-Along: Post Three (Tricky Passages )

Benda TPassages

piano_periscope_icon_mI hope you all have enjoyed the Benda A Minor Sonatina Play-Along with the Periscope enhancements this time.  I’ll continue to “scope”-along with our Play-Alongs.  🙂  I think it brings our score study to life and I enjoy how it builds even more community among participants in our group.  Please comment below with your thoughts on the addition of Periscope, and tell me if there are other aspects I could highlight during a scope session.   I’ll try to add more future student performances as I am able.  And….I’m working on a plan to SAVE some of the Play-Along Periscopes for later viewing after the 24-hour expiration.  Bear with me!

 

instagram-logoDon’t forget to watch the mini-video tutes on Instagram.  FOLLOW @pianoprof at Instagram and Periscope and set your notifications to ON.

 

 

Now that you’ve been playing the Sonatina for approximately 2 weeks, what do you think is the trickiest passage(s) in the piece? Either for you or a potential student?  Please ADD YOUR COMMENT BELOW with measure nos.
Of course, there could be several “tricky” spots for students when they first begin working on this piece and I remarked on those in an earlier Periscope.  For this post, I limiting it to the TWO spots that I think cause the most concern for the teacher and student.

1.  Measures 41-48
Benda Tricky Passage photo
This sudden change in texture really blindsides students at first.  At m. 41 they lose all rhythmic precision and suddenly slow the tempo way down.  I believe the root cause is the rhythmic shift from 16th-note subdivisions (mm.39-40) into eighths, then quarters later, and then dotted eighth-sixteenths, etc.  I find that students try to approximate the pacing of the eighths in m. 41 rather than count it precisely.

As mentioned in my Periscope, students must count like fiends in this area.  There’s just no way around it.  I have students count aloud from mm. 39 forward, by just saying the rhythms aloud first without playing.  While pointing to the rhythms in the score,  I have them count 16ths in mm. 39-40, followed by eighths in mm. 41-43, and so forth.  My students recite  “1-ee-and-a” for 16ths and “ 1 and “ for the eighths (you could choose another counting method if you prefer).  Once they get their lips wrapped around the counting, they truly know it and can direct their fingers to follow what they recite aloud.  While counting they can also listen for the steadiness of their tempo.  Of course, have them work hands apart as needed.

2.  Measure 44
Benda rest
This is the first and only pause in the entire piece.  Did you notice that? And it seems that students park themselves on this rest while they scurry to arrange their fingers quickly for the dotted rhythms.  Again, working hands separately and counting 16th subdivisions very precisely will assist in the entrance, but it’s the quick consecutive double-note manuevers in the RH that cause concern here.

Here’s the fingering I suggest for m. 44 (in the photo above – Supraphon edition):
RH:  5-1 to 4-1 then 3-1 to 2-1 (which lands on beat 1 of m. 45)
LH:  2 to 3 to 1 to 2 (which lands on beat 1 of m. 45)

NOTE:  Two notes for the RH and single notes for the LH. is exactly how Benda wrote it in his first edition according to the Supraphon editors.  For more info about this Czech edition, click HERE. 

PLAYING TIP:  Rather than play directly downward into the keys on the RH double notes, stay close to the keys and use a “sliding” motion with the hand as you play each pair of double notes.  The video below demonstrates.

When you time the sliding motions with your counting it all comes together so much more easily and there’s no fumbling around with the hand jumping about. Do you hear the student counting?  He makes it look easy, doesn’t he? But…..he’s always determined to solve issues by counting.

I hope this helps.  I look forward to your REPLIES below.  Please share so we all may compare notes, OK?  A little Benda “wrap-up” post will soon follow this one. Keep on practicing!

By

Benda’s “Sonatina in A minor”: LIVE Student Performance on PERISCOPE!

FINAL BENDA Periscope

To celebrate the close of the BENDA A minor Sonatina PIANO PLAY-ALONG, join us on PERISCOPE for a LIVE student performance and interview- SAT, Oct 10, 12:15 Central Time. Learn about the student’s perspective of this piece and see him in action. He’ll take your questions LIVE. You must download the PERISCOPE app on your mobile device in order to interact with him. Once you do, FOLLOW @pianoprof and set notifications to ON. *** If you miss it, the REPLAY will be available for 24 hours on your device.

QUICK PERISCOPE  HOW-TO:

  1. Download the FREE Periscope app on your mobile device – cell phone or tablet.  Go to the Apple store or Google Play to download the app.
  2. Use your cell phone# or your Twitter account to sign up.
  3. Set Notifications to “ON.”
  4. Create your account and choose your @name.
  5. Post a photo of yourself and bio on your profile later if you prefer.
  6. Search for Elizabeth Gutierrez or “@pianoprof88”  and FOLLOW.
  7. Whenever I start a broadcast, you’ll hear and see a little tweet alert on your device.  You may REPLAY the broadcast later, but it expires after 24 hours.

Without the mobile app, you may view LIVE on the web here — www.periscope.tv/pianoprof88— but you receive an alert or be able to chat with everyone. REPLAY is available for 24 hours.

FOR ADVANCE NOTICE of FUTURE #PIANOSCOPES (piano teacher workshops on Periscope), go to the SIDEBAR just to your right and LIKE the Piano Camp for Piano Teachers FACEBOOK page.  In the LIKE area, choose GET NOTIFICATIONS.

That’s it!  See you Saturday on the #pianoscope!

 

By

Benda’s “Sonatina in A minor” Piano Play-Along: Post Two (Edition Comparison)

Benda Post 2 header
piano_periscope_icon_mThanks to all of you who joined in on the PERISCOPE this past Monday morning, Sept. 28.  Hope you’re enjoying this method of relaying info!

THE NEXT PERISCOPE will be TIPS for TRICKY PASSAGES & PRACTICE TECHNIQUES – Tuesday, Oct. 6, 10 AM
Stay tuned to INSTAGRAM for video tips!

Here’s a summary of Monday’s PERSICOPE when I compared a researched edition of the Am Sonatina with the the modern editions available to us. I shared information I found in the Supraphon edition below ( a 1984 Czech edition edited by a Dr. Jan Racek and Vaclav Jan Sykora). The editor of the Suprahon edition, Mr. Sykora, consulted a rare print of Benda’s own 18th-century publication of sonatinas to create this edition below.

Supraphon

Editio Supraphon Praha – 1984

I located this score at the International Music Score Library project website HERE.  This website is an invaluable source to any musician looking for public domain music whether it be urtext editions, early editions, or something more scholarly than what you may own.  Downloads are available to you under some conditions which are stated at the site.  You should definitely refer to this site often when you question the authenticity of any score you own (for public domain music only; composers who died before 1922).
_____________________________________________________________________
STATEMENTS MADE in the SUPRAPHON PREFACE that apply to the A minor Sonatina:

  • Benda was indeed friends with CPE Bach whose friendship stimulated his growth as a musician.
  • The Allegro tempo indication is Benda’s own.
  • The notation in our modern editions is correct, with the exception that Benda used the soprano clef instead of the treble clef. The Supraphon editors         changed it to treble in their edition.
  • Benda always included specific ornamentation and it should be realized according to CPE Bach’s Essay on the True Art of Playing Keyboard Instruments (according to the editors).  After all, the two were close colleagues.
  • The rhythm in our modern editions is true and accurate, including the division of the hands (16ths).
  • – Dynamics are almost non-existent in Benda’s original, so what you see in today’s editions is editorial.  The Supraphon editors added dynamics based on the hammer action of the modern piano (i.e., areas of the piece with lots of rhythmic activity would be louder than those with little)
  • Phrasing that you see in our modern editions has been added (by this I mean slur markings) to follow modern principles of interpretation. Benda used phrase marks rather haphazardly.
  • Pedaling is entirely lacking in Benda’s original!  What you see in our modern editions is editorial.  Interesting…..
  • Fingering is not mentioned in the preface, but more than likely Benda didn’t include it.  In those days you were expected to know how to finger appropriately.

_____________________________________________________________________ COMPARISON of the SUPRAPHON edition vs. MODERN STUDENT EDITIONS on my desk. Get your pencils out.

PEDALING:
Note that Benda DID NOT include pedaling in any of his music according to the editors of the SUPRAPHON edition, so don’t be so inclined to strictly follow what you see in our modern editions.  The editors of the SUPRAPHON included some suggestions for pedaling the 16ths for a more “modern interpretation” and perhaps this is what our modern editors have been following.  In keeping with the Pre-Classical tradition, I would only add pedal for warmth and resonance in certain areas of this piece.  I advocate “half-pedalling” or “dabs of pedal” in order to make the piano ring a bit more in the forte areas.  The clarity of the 16ths should never be compromised or obscured.  I advise “undetectable” pedaling in this piece (i.e., no obvious blurriness).

ARTICULATION:

  • The staccatos you see in the modern editions are indeed Benda’s own, but note that the first 16th of the piece (RH “A”) should not be staccato as I notice in a couple of editions.
  • Slurs were not written by Benda, but if so, rather haphazardly.  The editors of the Supraphon editors included what you see in your scores for the most part, with a couple of minor instances in the LH.  (EX:  mm. 23-24 — the LH is detached).  Playing the LH quarter notes in detached style throughout would be considered stylistic for the time period if you preferred to do that.
  • Accents — m. 5 (F) and m. 29 (A) are the only accents included in the Supraphon edition, but the editors did not indicate if they added them or if they were Benda’s.
  • The leggiero indication in m. 17  — added by the Supraphon editors, but no mention of whether it’s Benda’s.  But it’s a good idea given the texture and the toccata style of this piece.

DYNAMICS:
Benda did not include any in his original, including hairpin cresc. or dim. marks. The editors of the Supraphon edition included the following  suggestions based on what keyboardists may have performed on early pianos (or harpsichords) of the time.

mm. 1 – 16 (A section):  All forte
m. 17 – piano
m. 23 – crescendo toward m. 25 — forte
m. 33 – piano
mm. 35-36, 39-40 – swells (cresc., then dim.)
m. 41 – piano
m. 44 – forte

* I generally agree with the editor’s suggested dynamics based on the texture and the performance practice of the time.  You certainly could add hairpin cresc. and dim. marks to certain areas of 16ths to create more melodic shape.  Nothing wrong with making your 16ths sound melodic on the piano, right?

ORNAMENTATION:  The only ornament Benda included is the trill in m. 42.  Since the sonatina is from the Pre-Classical period, it’s best to follow the practice of the time and perform the trill as a 4-note trill (E-D#-E-D#).

_____________________________________________________________________  Hope this revelation into the Supraphone edition helped.  Please feel free to comment BELOW with any other questions you might have about your score.  
See you TUESDAY, OCT. 6, 2015 at 10am CENTRAL TIME on PERISCOPE!  (find me @pianoprof)

By

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.

piano_periscope_icon_m

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

By

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!

 

 

 

By

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).

_____________________________________________________________________

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. 🙂

_____________________________________________________________________

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!

 

 

 

By

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…..


 


Stephen_Heller

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

By

Indispensables of Piano Teaching #6 – Good Lighting

This indispensable seems like a no-brainer, but how many of us really give our studio lighting proper attention?
Untitled
#5 – GOOD LIGHTING

I used to think that a “proper” piano lamp should be one of these:

pianolampWhile it does look lovely on a grand piano and illuminates the music rack quite well, I later discovered just how hot these little babies get when I accidentally burned my hand on one.  Ouch!  I learned fast not to reach up and adjust it while it was on (!).
As I started adding more young students to my studio, I began to worry about their little hands reaching up to adjust it and forgetting about my warning to them about the lamp’s heat, so….. I now use this one instead:
Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 9.42.43 PM

OttLite Battery Task Lamp

I originally purchased this compact Ottlite for my needlework (it’s intended for craft work), but it’s been wonderful sitting on the left side of my music rack shining clean “daylight” on sheet music.  I can see all the fine print with ease with hardly any glare and almost no heat.   And who needs more heat while teaching during a Texas summer?

I also like that this little lamp is energy-efficient and I just fold it down to turn it off like this:

Screen Shot 2015-03-04 at 9.43.10 PMMine can run on a rechargeable battery so I can move it around to wherever I need it, but not all styles have that feature.    It weighs only 4 lbs with a very stable base and so far it hasn’t fallen over.  There are some that weigh less, and besides black or white, Ottlite offers them in some cool nifty colors.  I purchased a floor lamp style (for almost 1/2 price!) which I now use for my needlework and sewing.  Love it!

BEST PRICE:  23.68 to 49.99 for a desktop version at Amazon HERE, depending on the particular features you desire.  Joann Fabric and Craft stores has them on sale this week HERE and in their stores. The store will always honor the online price. If you miss the sale, check for weekly coupons at their site.  They come in handy! 

So do you have a particular lamp you really favor for your studio or studio piano?  Please share if so.  Remember….be kind to your eyes! And that of your students as well!

 

 

 

 

 

By

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!

By

Bartok, For Children Vol. I, Play-Along: Post Six (Nos. 31-35 Reaction)

Thanks for your patience in receiving this set of observations.  I’ve fallen down on the job by 2 weeks!  ‘Tis the season for a multitude of piano contests, theory exams, and festivals.  I’m sure you feel the same pain from what seems to be endless preparation…..

It seems like this particular set of five pieces has taken a turn in a different direction.  I noticed some interesting characteristics in Bartok’s writing here which I haven’t observed in the previous pieces.  How about you?  More on this below.

Quick-scan observations about Nos. 31-35:    

  • All pieces are I (Intermediate) level.
  • Continued use of variations form – A A’
  • Melody in the RH mostly.
  • The LH accompaniment has a more extended range now.
  • More frequent use of chords to create a richer texture – either broken chords or 3 or 4-note blocked chords
  • Bartok incorporates more pedaling than before.
  • He continues using 2 mm. and 3 mm. phrases throughout all.
  • Noticeable use of this syncopated rhythmic motif throughout — eighth note, followed by dotted-quarter, followed by half note.

No. 31  – Untitled (Andante tranquillo)

Impressions While Playing:  I returned to this rather haunting, plaintive piece several times to give it more playings, and each time I noticed something new.  It’s the first time in this set that Bartok has used more than 2 flats in the key signature, and also the key of F minor.  The F minor tonality adds a beautiful warm color to the sad melody.  There is definitely a tranquil effect about it as indicated.  I think it’s characterized through Bartok’s simple melody, disjunct phrasing (he uses 3-measure phrases in succession), pedal effects, F minor tonality, thin textures, etc.   It has a quite a Romantic feel which you don’t normally associate with Bartok.

Teaching Value:  This is a great lesson in phrasing for an intermediate student.  The main melodic theme (mm. 1 – 12) consists of 4 short phrases, each 3 mm. in length — 3 + 3 + 3 + 3.  You don’t encounter this phrase structure often.  Did you notice how the melodies in each 3 mm. phrase always end in half notes?

It gives the piece a sense of repose and calm, yet did you notice how each measure of the 3 mm. phrase comes to a stop at the end of the measure creating additional pause?

Despite all of this “stop and start,” a performer must carry the line towards the concluding half notes in the phrases (mm. 3, 6, 9, and 12). This is also a good piece for tonal control.  Notice that most of the piece is rather quiet, with the exception of one “mf” indication in m. 21.

Take Note:  Notice how the LH accompaniment creates a blended harmonic color through the use of broken chords held with the pedal. Bartok tells exactly where he would like you to depress the pedal.  Did you also catch Bartok’s “tie-downs” in the LH?  Each LH arpeggiation begins with a quarter note which must be held down.  If it isn’t held, you don’t hear the sustained effect in the harmony.  He’s so specific about the sounds he would like, isn’t he?

Recommended For:  A more mature intermediate student experienced in varied articulations and pedalling.  And one who knows how to direct a melodic line to a destination.

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

No. 32  – Untitled (Andante ) Scroll to 1:38

Impressions While Playing: You can’t help but immediately notice the wide leaps in the LH – the widest keyboard range of all the pieces thus far.  What makes the leaps even more unusual is the fact that they begin on beats 2 and 4 and work opposite of the RH.  The pedal marks look rather erraticly-placed at times.  Bartok seems to implies that you change the pedal with every double note in the LH – lifting the foot when striking and depressing once the keys are down (syncopated pedaling).  Note that later he changes it to the opposite (see mm.16 -20 for example).  Overall, the pedaling requires some detailed attention here.

Teaching Value:  Besides the pedaling, this is an excellent piece for LH security. NOTE: Keep the LH moving laterally while shifting from high and low.  It’s much more efficient and the tones will remain more calm.   This is especially helpful in keeping its activity lessened during the quieter sections (see the last line).  I also think the wide assortment of dynamic changes (every 2-3 measures!) will certainly keep a student on his/her toes!

Take Note:  Did you happen to catch the harmonic conflict between major and minor in this piece?  You notice it in the opening ( F Major and F minor), but is seems that every time Bartok strongly resolves to F Major (see mm. 12 and 24), he shifts immediately to a minor mode in the next measure.  This piece takes on many harmonic colors.  Notice in m. 13, how the new pedal point in the bass (D), plus the new harmonies, really change the mood of the melody when it is repeated.  And then again, notice how the new pedal point in m. 25 (D-flat) gives the final snippet of the melody an even darker color.

Bartok Observation: So far in several of these pieces, Bartok’s go-to form for a piece is merely a repeat or two repeats of a single melodic theme. However, with each repeat his melody is always harmonized differently, sometimes only in slight subtle ways.  Your ear may not completely catch the difference upon a first listen to a recording, but if you play it you’ll definitely notice!

Recommended For:  A student who is already adept with the pedal,  and one who can dramatize the melancholic mood of this work.

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

No. 33  – Untitled (Allegro non troppo) Scroll to 3:05


Impressions While Playing: This is one of the more well-known pieces from the latter part of Vol. I and odd as it is, students are drawn to it.   I played this as a child and recall how much I loved to play it over and over again.  I recall liking the wonky, gymnastic feel of the LH leaps in the opening theme and the contrast of the quiet B theme with the hands closer together (see m. 5).  But the inconclusive harmonies really catch your ear as well.  In which key is this piece, really?  I like how Bartok leaves you hanging on a PPP solitary E at the end…..huh?

Teaching Value:  The LH leaps are a perfect opportunity to practice stride-piano technique for sure.  Note how Bartok specifies accents only on the low notes.  I can already predict how students may play the chords too loudly, or worse yet, have a difficult time playing the chords on target.  Be sure to move the LH laterally from low to high rather than in an arc.  The closest distance to a target is via a straight line, right?

Take Note:  Technically this piece is only 10 measures long, correct?  The first 10 measures just repeat themselves with a different harmonization in the LH.  Easy, right?  But….learning and memorizing the two different LH accompaniments might be a little troublesome for some students since they are quite different even if mostly on the white keys.  Separating and learning the 2 different bass lines in a linear fashion should help.

Recommended For:  A student who has already had a little experience with a jumping LH accompaniment and who enjoys pieces with a gymnastic bent.

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

No. 34  – Untitled (Allegretto)  Scroll to 3:56

Impressions While Playing: The opening two measures of this piece sound quite romantic in character, don’t they?  Then in m. 3, we’re back to rhythmic Bartok with vertical, strident chords played in a proclamatory style.  Though Bartok doesn’t indicate pedal, it sounds as if Mr. Jando does employ it in the recording above. I like the added, undetecteable pedaling for added resonance in this section.  The form consists of a simple A + B + A + B + A phrase grouping that is so brief it sounds like a mere introduction (hence the attacca into No. 35).

Teaching Value:  A great opportunity for double-note playing in both hands.  Sometimes the texture is 4-part and at times, 5-part.  Compare mm. 3-4 with 6-7 to notice again the subtle changes Bartok makes when repeating a melody, both in texture and harmony.  I would certainly discuss with a student how the piece shifts from a G minor opening to a feeling of E-flat major (m. 8) and then a slight resolution to E-flat minor (m. 13), only to return to G minor.  A singing soprano line in the upper fingers of the RH is a must.

Take Note:  Did you catch Bartok’s use of wide leaps in the LH here as well?  And similar to No. 32 he seems to have a penchant for this rhythm pattern:  eighth note, followed by dotted-quarter, followed by half note.

Recommended For:  A student with previous experience in 4-part texture and the ability to voice a soprano line quite clearly.

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

No. 35  – Untitled (Con moto) Scroll to 4:32

Impressions While Playing:  The tempo moves along here after the attacca and Bartok retains the Key of G minor.  Again another brief piece in A + B (extended) + A + B + A form, but this time the more “romantic” theme is the B theme (mm. 3 – 9, then mm. 12-15).  The A and B themes are quite different in character from each other similar to No. 34 above, and also like No. 34, this piece ends with a poco rall. followed by two measures of a tempo which moves directly into the next attacca.Teaching Value:  If I were teaching this, I would definitely teach Nos. 34, 35, and 36 as a complete set.  It doesn’t make sense to isolate these movements.  In fact, as of this writing, I am teaching No. 36 to an intermediate student.  He loved the idea of an attacca and instantly asked to do all three after hearing them played one after the other.  I think their brevity was a plus.  Three one-page pieces for an intermediate student isn’t much to ask.

Take Note:  You can’t help but notice how the B theme (the more “romantic” theme with pedal – see m. 3) is written in 3/4 time.  This adds a nice sweeping lilt to the piece after such a straightforward, rhythmic opening.  A great opportunity to teach expressive phrasing here. Again, note the LH.  The wide leaps from before have returned.  The deep bass notes and expanded range between the hands add great depth and resonance which we haven’t seen in previous pieces

Recommended For:  A student with capricious flair who can mingle whimsy with grandeur.Correlates To:  Faber Piano Adventures Mid – Level 4 or higher (I)

* I enjoyed Mr. Jeno Jando’s interpretation of these 5 pieces in the videos above.  Tasteful and poignant in his expression.  

I look forward to teaching Nos. 34, 35, and 36 as a complete set over the next couple of months.  I’ll update this post with more explicit findings as the student progresses.