piano, piano blog, piano instruction

Burgmuller’s Arabesque and Inquietude are teaching treasures

I’m always gratified to have a repository of progressive pieces that roll out smoothly from scale and arpeggio study to a universe of colorful, musical expression. Burgmuller’s Op. 100 is such a learner rich album of 25 short works with infused choreographies that advance a musical/technical synthesis.

“Arabesque,” the second offering, is permeated by ascending five-finger/sixteenth note progressions that can sound robotic if not contoured by forward supple wrist rolls combined with gradated arm weight transfers. Such maneuvers avoid a flat dynamic in a crescendo of pentachords, after first requiring a three-note stepwise dip back.

Dynamics become varied as treble line syncopations create a cajoling interval of eighth notes with punctuations that markedly depart from the opening sequence of smooth, but intensified ascending sixteenths. At this juncture, control of the rhythmic transition with a change in articulation is front and center.

The B or mid-section of the piece appears as an inverted counterpoint, though in fact, the upper voice has its own new melodic line in dotted quarter to eighth sequences.

The bass, however, is more familiar to the learner, as it retrieves the motif of opening measures in rollouts of step-wise 16th notes. This time a diminuendo is indicated through the ascending groups, requiring a gradated lightening of arm weight transfer.

What follows is a bridge or interlude that begins with parallel sixths between the hands, nicely meandering back to the opening ‘A’ section but with a subsequent interval of syncopated eighths.

These are coda-like in quality leading to a more intensified and resounding conclusion of sixteenth note spills that permeate the work. (A predictable FALL of the A minor pentachord, resolutely ends the tableau with a sudden change of direction as compared to the opener.)

First and second endings at both halves of the piece afford an opportunity to stay in control as note values have abrupt shifts, changes in articulation and dynamics.

All in all, this piece is a potpourri of technical/musical ingredients that feed and develop musicianship.


“Inquietude,” No. 18, is a treasure trove of three-note groupings in sixteenths, that when practiced slowly, flesh out redundant forward wrist rolls. These motions, more visible in back tempo, becoming sized down or compressed in rapid speed.

The important ingredient of relentless sixteenth clusters that creates the “agitation” are gasping eighth note rests between them (though filled in by accented bass chords.) Nonetheless, a consistently supple wrist with bigger energies flowing down relaxed arms is paramount to executing evenly spaced notes, moderated by a steady stream of those punctuated bass triads on the first and second beats of 2/4 framed measures.

Gradations of dynamics will be expedited with shifting arm weight transfers in an overall key transit from E minor to B minor to G Major and back to E minor. To say this piece requires CONTROL of rhythm and phrasing is an understatement because of its rapid sequence rollout.

A metronome marking of Quarter=138 may be attainable for some students, but a less restrictive tempo, keeping the character of relentless unease, is a realistic goal.

(A fire and ice analogy applies–staying calm in the face of fast note torrents.)

From the start, a layered learning approach is the best route to an advancing tempo as is demonstrated in the attached tutorial.

Finally, one must underscore the dimension of harmonic rhythm in shaping and resolving bass chords as they feed into redundant sixteenth note groupings above them.

3 thoughts on “Burgmuller’s Arabesque and Inquietude are teaching treasures”

  1. Love your teaching videos, Shirley! This year I am going to make it my goal to watch one every day. You are a wealth of knowledge in technique and artistry. Thank you for sharing your expertise!


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