Burgmuller, a German composer living in France during the Romantic era composed these delightful programmatic pieces in order of “progressive” difficulty; I’ve chosen 3 favorites to showcase: “Arabesque,” “La Chasse” (The Chase) and “L’Harmonie des Anges” (Harmony of the Angels)
Arabesque (“beautiful decoration”) is a sprightly, fast paced miniature in “A” minor, that basically utilizes an open hand position. There is just one shift of the thumb under other fingers, in the “A” section. The challenge is to observe punctuated accents and learn to shift the 16th notes from right hand to left hand with as much facility as possible. The piece whizzes by so fast that it’s easy to forget the precise phrasing, articulation of notes, etc. The best approach is always exaggerated slow practicing with attention to detail until the student is able to pace himself at a faster tempo and not lose sight of Burgmuller’s phrase marks, dynamics, accents, etc.
The Chase: This is a hunting song in C Major, with a punctuated chordal Introduction followed by three distinct sections. The “A” section is tricky to master, because the composer has triplet staccato figures over legato, dotted quarter length chord progressions that emulate the hunting horn motif. (harmonic sixth, fifth, third) Hands should be separated in slow motion before playing “up to tempo” is undertaken.
The “B” section is in G Major (the Dominant key) and is less technically challenging as compared to part “A” Once again, slow and steady practicing always helps in the overall learning process.
The “A” section then returns before a distinctly contrasting “C” section begins.
This is a beautifully spun out part of the compositions, with broken chords in the left hand over a gorgeous lyrical minor (sad) melody in the right hand. This is a good opportunity to block the left hand chords alone as a preliminary, and then play the melody over these chords, before the chords are broken as written.
Finally the “A” section returns again with an added Coda concluding the piece.
“Harmony of the Angels” strikes a real contrast to the preceding two pieces from Burgmuller’s collection. It is totally spun out broken chords crossing from hand to hand, and should be seamlessly played if at all possible. A supple wrist, and rotating hands will assist in the communication of a limpidly flowing melodic line.
What a simply heavenly composition this is, and a nice one to conclude with.