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Harmonic Rhythm, melodic twists, and emotional shifts in Chopin’s B Minor Waltz, Op. 69, No. 2 (Video)

The harmonic flow of a piece is one ingredient of phrase shaping, along with melodic contouring that springs from the human voice and its natural breath. All have emotional consequence as music pours out of the heart and soul of a performer.

So getting below the surface of a piece of music, means delving into its harmonic and melodic outline, to say the least.

A pianist only begins to arrive at decisions about interpretation in this exploration, besides examining a composition’s historical context and attendant performance practice.

In the Chopin vernacular, tempo rubato (or flexible time) is central to the music as it plays out. A sense of improvisation must be captured though hundreds to thousands of notes in a score are carefully notated with specific directions about dynamics and articulation.

Evelyn Glennie, world-famous percussionist, no less, makes the point that all the dizzying notes in a manuscript tell very little about how a piece will spring to life in the act of playing it.

I can’t agree more.

In fact what’s noted on paper is a small clue to a world of musical magic and illusion.

Ironically, today’s video that I prepared as a second supplement for a Skype student was in response to footage he sent me of his latest playing. (Chopin Waltz in B minor)

From that point of departure, we kicked ideas back and forth through e-mails.

On my third mailing, and third video supplement, I decided that I needed to more clearly emphasize the interaction of harmonic rhythm and emotional poignancy–not to mention how a twist or turn in a melody can invite a change in nuance and color.

All part of the learning process…

As I’ve said before video supplements in a two-way exchange are valuable adjuncts to web cam transmitted lessons. They allow both teacher and student necessary breathing room to absorb the score, and then evolve with varying thoughts about it.

For sure, there are no absolutes in music-making, just ideas that acquire support in harmonic threads, and melodic twists and turns.

By this time in our musical growth process, we shared opinions about Kissin, Lisista, and Rubinstein’s interpretations of the B minor Waltz. I discovered my affinity with Rubinstein and Kissin’s readings which both reflect the somberness of the b minor key without getting too morose.

In any case, the video I offer, explores harmonic changes and emotion, along with unexpected shifts in melodic contour.

I have to agree with Leonard B. Meyer, musicologist, that what’s unexpected triggers an emotional response, though there’s a great deal more to say about the nature of the unexpected event.

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