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Piano Lesson in Progress: Slow tempo, J.S. Bach Prelude in C minor, BWV847, student, Claudia, age 11

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A piano student’s milestones and memories in photos and video

Today, September 5th, is Claudia’s 11th Birthday! She started lessons with me in 2006 when she had just turned 6 after coming to California from Hawaii. I remember her as a shy but wide-eyed child who had studied piano for a year or so.

Students who begin piano lessons at a tender age and stay the journey well into their teens, become part of a teacher’s family, blooming as musicians beside their passage through elementary, middle and high school. They will sometimes come back to visit years after they’ve finished college bringing the next generation of children to embark upon lessons. The cycle of life also plays out in the musical universe.


It’s now five birthdays later and Claudia has grown up before my very eyes, creating her own album of audible milestones from her first recital in my home at age 6, to numerous playing opportunities at MTAC Festivals and on the stage of Fresno Piano’s lovely concert hall.

On this special day honoring her eleventh year, I couldn’t help but mark the occasion by recapturing a few of Claudia’s musical rites of passage through photos and video. The first image on the left shows her at age 6 rehearsing a duet with me in preparation for her first recital here at my home studio. The picture to the right was taken following her second recital appearance when she was 7 years old and wearing a light blue top.

The picture below shows Claudia, age 6, dressed in purple velvet, playing my Steinway grand in her very first recital appearance.

Above: Claudia, age 9, rehearsed for a student musical gathering at the Fresno Piano Recital Hall.

Below, Claudia, 10, displayed her medallion awarded for a Superior rating received at last year’s MTAC’s “Celebration” Festival:

Age 10: At the last Baroque Festival held in February, 2011, Claudia played two Bach Inventions.

The first offering was J.S. Bach’s Invention No. 4 in D minor:

Age 11: Claudia participated in the MTAC Fall Festival at Valley Music Center where she played Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” and the Chopin Waltz no. 19 in A minor.

For the Baroque scheduled in February, 2012 at Fresno State University, she will perform J.S. Bach’s C minor Prelude and Fugue, BWV 847 from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I.

Here’s a preview:

Claudia has come a long way since her first recital when she played the James Hook “Minuet,” J. S. Bach’s “Bouree,” Noona’s “The Red Drum,” and an assortment of duets.

How time flies!


The Joy and Value of Teaching a Piano Student Over Years


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Playing through the entire Bach Fugue, BWV847 in C minor, fleshing out form as I go along (VIDEO)

The score is copied below the video:


Analysis of Fugue in C minor, BWV847: Subject, Counter-subject I and II, Exposition, Episodes (Development) Recap subject, etc.

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J.S. Bach Prelude in C minor, BWV 847 from the Well-Tempered Clavier (Two Videos)–exploring the Chordal outline/harmonic rhythm

In summary, there is so much harmonic rhythm to think about here that mapping the chordal outline helps keep the composition from degenerating into non-stop, punctuated 16ths, at least in the opening section marked Allegro Moderato. A compelling melody is woven through the harmonic fabric and must always be fleshed out.

The Adagio interlude is a major contrast with its improvised, ad libitum quality. The broken chords in this middle section are again contoured in such a way that the listener keys into the resolutions.

As the Prelude continues, the composer transitions to a Presto tempo with a rush to Climax. Following a cascade of rapid fire 16th notes the music meanders in improvised fashion before it moves toward the final cadence at a slower, though still brisk tempo. I don’t think the last two lines should be rushed. To the contrary, the music tapers and virtually disappears in marked contrast to the very defined FORTE opening. And the modulation to a C MAJOR chord in the final measure is the Picardy Third that Bach and other Baroque composers were known for. (Where the gates of heaven open after the sad minor is transformed to the celebratory parallel MAJOR)

(Harmonic Outline and Rhythm)

Played on the Haddorff piano: