Piano Technique: Executing Tremolos as occur in Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathetique”

I’ve picked up various ideas about practicing tremolos from the piano forums as applies to the Alla Breve section of the “Pathetique” Sonata No. 8 (movement 1) and extracted a valuable tutorial from a colleague who posted it to you tube.

Beethoven tremolos

At first I concurred with pianist/teacher Benjamin Steinhardt that rolling the C broken octave (or tremolo) forward, for example, might best benefit the execution of it in fast motion. But I came to the conclusion that it’s not mandatory in any sense to ride up the key. (on the C broken octaves)

In fact, there are no hard and fast rules about playing tremolos since physiology of the hand, and octave span of individual players are varied.

Here’s what I found most relevant to playing the alla breve section of Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathetique” with its redundant bass tremolos.

First I played solid octaves, and thought in TWO while simultaneously playing the melody. (Musically, I thought of 2 beats per measure not 4 as comported with the composer’s metrical indication)

Naturally, I aimed to shape the bass octaves and treble line in a musical and dynamic way.

This preliminary better clarified how my hands would work TOGETHER when I unraveled the bass octaves.

In this regard I recommend separately playing the octaves while SINGING the melody above.

OR one can play the melody separately while singing the bass line.

This is a more parceled approach to the whole tremolo permeated section which should help advance the learning process by increments.

By far what’s most important is arm and wrist relaxation, and making sure the thumbs don’t tighten but drift naturally with the hand. Little dips of energy to sustain the tremolo over many measures are also helpful.

Here are thoughtful suggestions uploaded by colleague, Benjamin Steinhardt:

And a supplement contributed by Jackie Sharp


My Additional Beethoven “Pathetique” extract:

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
This entry was posted in Benjamin Steinhardt, youtube.com and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Piano Technique: Executing Tremolos as occur in Beethoven’s Sonata “Pathetique”

  1. Name says:

    (Musically, I thought of 2 beats per measure not 4 as comported with the composer’s metrical indication)

    But.. Cut time is 2 beats..


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s