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A favorite Piano Prelude to play and teach

Randall and Nancy Faber came through with flying colors by including J.C. Bach’s Prelude in A minor in their Developing Artist Series Album, Early Intermediate Level. It’s definitely a winner with ear-catching appeal!

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In a heart-melting opener to a more cognitive analysis of the composition, I play a series of sonorities that provide a lovely framing of “broken” chord sequences that characterize the Prelude’s melodic thread enriched by lush harmonies and modulations.

This particular composition, sounding Baroque but written in the Classical era, gives a student the opportunity to shape a musical line through a series of broken chords. As a preliminary, the player can block the sonorities to follow its harmonic scheme and rhythm. The Harmonic minor, for example, shimmers in the opening measures with a progression from E to F to G# to A. (the fifth degree of this scale meanders through to the tonic)

Beyond an analytic understanding of chord progressions, necessary phrase-shaping requires attentive listening, a supple wrist, relaxed arms, and consciousness about harmonic rhythm and resolutions.

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In part B, the music blossoms into a series of secondary Dominants against sobbing, sighing pairs of descending seconds, before it returns to a familiar partial revisit of the opening A section. (Modulations are a more complex dimension of this piece that can be woven into a study of chords, progressions, and in this instance, Dominant/Tonic relationships.)

Sustaining a melodic line through recurring broken pattern chords is paramount to playing the Prelude poetically and musically. Varying dynamics and tapering phrases are an important interpretive dimension.

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One of my adult students who’s preparing to learn J.C. Bach’s hauntingly beautiful Prelude is studying the A Harmonic Scale and building chords on each degree. In an early tutorial I explored this underlying “chordal” dimension.”

To Back up—

In a Piano Lesson by Skype, I introduced the rudiments of A minor (Harmonic), building chords on each scale degree. In this early baby step approach, the student has also been assigned A minor chord INVERSIONS, which will be extended to inversions of the Sub-dominant (D minor) and Dominant (E Major). She was also made aware of the VII chord (diminished) and its unique tonal character.

Inversions of chords are part and parcel of the first section (A) of J.C. Bach’s Prelude–they afford smooth voice leading, while in part B, the broken chord thread contains leaps that would be best understood in the context of MODULATIONS and their meaning.

An A minor arpeggio playing was added to the prep mix, so the student would understand how a chord could unravel into a “broken chord” sequence though J.C. Bach’s composition does not require thumb under fingers shifts in its progressions.

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