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Piano Lesson: Teaching “GAME” by Kabalevsky, Op. 39 Children’s Pieces (Videos)

Vibrant musical miniatures are learning enticements for piano students.

In this spirit, Dimitry Kabalevsky, a Twentieth Century Russian composer, shines in his collection of Children’s Pieces (Op.39) that run the gamut of emotions, from sad expressions of human nature, “Waltz” (in d minor) to ebullient centerpieces, such as “Clowns,” and “Galop.” (spelled with one L)

“Game” aka “Playing” is one of the more lighthearted ones in Op. 39 It embodies the art of playing staccato in an economy of measures.(Kabalevsky, Director of his own music school in Russia, imbued technique and musicianship skills by vehicle of his own compositions)

In “Game,” crisp articulations should be “shaped” to avoid tedium and one dimensional vertical playing. (Exploring Harmonic Rhythm gives insights on phrasing and helps clarify points of tension and resolution) I have students play through chords on every scale degree of Bb Major to familiarize them with tonality.

Blocking out broken chord outlines is another good learning springboard. The player becomes aware of Dominant/tonic relationships. (Lean to taper effect) And a Vi chord realized horizontally suggests a twinge of emotion, because it’s unexpected.

I also recommend playing through the piece in LEGATO initially to clarify phrasing. (It’s otherwise easy for staccato notes to sound like rosy the riveter working on a B52 bomber)

In the video below, I discuss the analogy of story-telling since “Game” has a programmatic title. (i.e. the composer’s extra musical component is intrinsic to interpretation) To this end, the student is asked to build the melodic line to “climax,” and then gradually taper it. In addition, she interweaves the story structure of a BEGINNING, MIDDLE, and END.

My own recording of “GAME,” uploaded more than a year ago, was taken at brisk tempo, though I advised my student to observe a more conservative “Allegretto.”

Nonetheless, my quicker reading conforms with the composer’s annotation that he wanted his piece played in ONE.. (i.e. one impulse per measure) The type of staccato I enlisted, incidentally, was NOT the Vertical Woodpecker variety. It was more of a wrist-shaped, articulation that I believe best served the music.

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