Most piano students will have been assigned a Burgmuller selection or two during their formative years of study. And most likely, these would have been snatched from the composer’s Twenty-Five Progressive Pieces, Op. 100 that advance by steps in difficulty, though it can be argued that all contain unique technical challenges.
Composed in the Romantic style, this music is strikingly beautiful while it advances specific technique-related goals.
One of my favorites, “La Tarentelle” in a fast and furious tempo, has its origins steeped in fear.
“In the region of Taranto in Italy, the bite of a locally common type of wolf spider, named “tarantula” after the region, was popularly believed to be highly poisonous and to lead to a hysterical condition known as tarantism. The stated belief in the 16th and 17th centuries was that victims needed to engage in frenzied dancing to prevent death from tarantism using a very rhythmic and fast music. The particular type of dance and the music played became known as Tarantella.”
It’s no surprise that over time, many composers tried their hand at writing their own Tarantellas. (Italian form)
Rapid, frenzied passage work characterizes Burgmuller’s “Tarantelle,” which requires whole arm activity and supple wrists.
And while it may seem that the fingers are propelling the composer’s music along, they can easily tire if not fueled by a bigger physical energy.
Breathing long, relaxed breaths, being in the moment and thinking slowly through fast stretches of notes, keep the music flowing.
Rolling through three note group figures that are characteristic of 6/8 time, also helps to style and phrase streams of eighth notes. This is where a supple wrist allows an infusion of energy when most needed. For shaping lines, it’s indispensable.
(Notice a SLOW MOTION video-only replay that’s sandwiched into the Lesson video)
A defined section of punctuated quarter note chords found on page 2, shifts the mood and character of the composition giving it a robust, march-like character. At this point, it’s best to style, cajole, and phrase the notes in such a way, that draws listener interest.
Playing Tarentelle in tempo:
La Chasse (The Chase) by Burgmuller