Keeping up with a fast turnover of repertoire and reclaiming an old piece from the Classical era (Videos)

I always make it a point to advise students of all levels, to stay with a piece long enough to feel at one with it–to experience a fluidity of motion that comes from baby-step, layered learning.

Despite my admonitions, some pupils choose to remain in the fast lane, whizzing through one selection after another without a second thought.

Last night, I looked back on a Clementi Sonatina that I had a faint recollection of lightly “reading” in my formative years of study, though to reclaim it on a deeper level was a must if I planned to teach it.

As it happened, an adult student wanted to learn the opening Presto, which sent me scampering back to the score at an indelicate hour to carve out a layered-learning sequence in SLOW TEMPO that I could reasonably pass down to the pupil at his lesson.

Such a self-teaching opportunity, was just what I needed to advance my own understanding of Sonatina, Op. 36 No. 5.

(If a teacher can put herself in the shoes of a pupil, like a fledgling on a maiden musical journey, then both grow in creative directions)

As a start knowing the form and structure of a Classical era sonatina would frame the learning process. (Exposition: first and second themes, Development and Recapitulation)

And of course, FINGERING a piece from the outset was a high priority pursuit–making sure decisions made would artfully realize the composer’s phrasing and articulation.

My Discoveries:

1)The first movement was permeated with undulating groups of triplets, which suggested a “chordal” approach in practicing them. The way the piece flowed as a sequence of blocked chords, would amplify the melodic contour. Dominant chords to their tonic resolutions suggested a lean to relax sequence. Unexpected harmonic shifts needed to be “felt” and communicated.

2) The keys through which the composition passed had to be noted, especially in the Development section where modulations were the composer’s principle device.

3) Looking for counter-melodies, as they might appear in the bass, would direct the player to these lines that might be obscured in the fabric of redundant sets of triplets.

4) Voices needed to be balanced, with an ear toward fleshing out the melody, counter-melody, against the rolling triplet sequence. Dynamics and their contrasts were pivotal to phrase-shaping. Knowing where the climax appeared would give the Presto movement direction.

5) Playing the melody alone, even as it passed for some measures to the bass, was another baby step– feeling the underpinning of harmony to guide it. (BEHIND TEMPO)

6) Blocking chords derived from triplets, played along with the melody was another intermediary learning layer. (Once again, in slow tempo)

As to metrical framing, the movement was in alla breve, cut time, so ultimately, in tempo it would be experienced as two impulses per measure though divided by underlying triplets. (In the practicing phase, one might stretch to 4, but it might be better to sense a SLOW division of two beats per measure, to capture the flow and nuance the composer intended)

In the final analysis, the instruction was best communicated as I revisited the Presto movement last night on video, with my play-through following:

About arioso7: Shirley Kirsten

International piano teacher by Skype, recording artist, composer, piano finder, freelance writer, film maker, story teller: Grad of the NYC HS of Performing Arts, Oberlin Conservatory, NYU (Master of Arts) Studies with Lillian Freundlich and Ena Bronstein; Master classes with Murray Perahia and Oxana Yablonskaya. Studios in BERKELEY and EL CERRITO, California; Member, Music Teachers Assoc. of California, MTAC; Distance learning and Skyped instruction with supplementary videos: SKYPE ID, shirleypiano1 Contact me at: shirley_kirsten@yahoo.com OR http://www.youtube.com/arioso7 or at FACEBOOK: Shirley Smith Kirsten, http://facebook.com /shirley.kirsten TWITTER: http://twitter.com/arioso7 Private fund-raising for non-profits as pianist--Public Speaking re: piano teaching and creative approaches
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