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Practicing a Mozart Andante movement, using a “singing pulse”

Murray Perahia clarified the “singing pulse” when he discussed a form of rubato, or flexible time that he believed could apply to Classical era repertoire. In an interview conducted by Sir Dennis Forman in the 1980s, the pianist, known as a formidable musical poet of his generation, discussed the Mozart Concerto No. 21 in C, interspersing playing samples. Some he imparted at the Bosendorfer, while others were streamed in from Perahia’s rehearsal with a European chamber orchestra.

(Unfortunately this treasured exchange has been taken out of circulation)


Perahia’s artistry has been a pervasive influence on me. In the realm of phrasing, his vocal model playing is my learning springboard through layered stages and I carry it over into my teaching. In particular, I had applied his mantra to the middle movement of Mozart Sonata K. 281, to gain insights about phrase shaping and contouring. Even by counting in ONE beat per measure (with a 3/8 time signature) I still managed to make space for responses to harmonic shifts, modulations, deceptive cadences and metrical variations involving triplet figures and two against three.

The videos below demonstrate the aforementioned singing pulse approach to practicing and what can be gained from it.

Add Murray Perahia playing Mozart’s Sonata in A minor, K. 310, Andante for a glimpse of his artistry. (This Sonata movement is more complex than the Andante Amoroso, and has its own distinctly impassioned character)

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Piano Instruction, Mozart Sonata in Bb, K. 281 (first movement)

I explore the Exposition, movement 1, Allegro, and ways to practice within a slow tempo frame:

Play Through:

Mozart k.281 Allegro p. 1

Mozart K. 281 p.2

LINK: The Most Reviled Scale

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Piano Practicing: Breathing into phrases and blocking out passages (Mozart Sonata, example)

I’ve picked the first two pages of Mozart’s Sonata in Bb Major, K. 281, last movement, Rondeau, Allegro to explore breathing and blocking techniques in the learning process. (These principles can be applied to practicing music from a variety of eras)

Starting a composition is often taken for granted. Sometimes students will land on a first note, for example, with the force a belly plop into a pool. Others will forget there are opening notes, (as the 4-16ths upbeat of Mozart Sonata K. 333 in Bb) They’ll breathe a sigh of relief, once they’ve managed to elude them, moving with alacrity to longer, spaced-out notes.)

Yet, this very “sigh of relief,” can be utilized as a relaxed stream of expressed air to usher in a pleasing opening note or notes.

Naturally, breathing into phrases with ease should be ongoing as a composition flows, so biofeedback becomes a vital practicing ingredient. (I recommend that students keep a journal of awakenings)


Blocking out passages to obtain fluidity is a simultaneous part of the learning spectrum. Thinking in “groups” of notes, especially with fast passages, encourages “fast melody,” instead of chaotic crowds of notes without shape, meaning or contour. Knowing the geography of notes, therefore, is an organizer that helps smooth out phrases (Relaxed arms and supple wrists accompany)

The first video below spotlights the aforementioned practicing areas, adding an awareness of dynamic contrasts/ weight transfer, and the use of solfeggiated syllables (do, re, mi, etc) to follow and absorb voices. (Separate hand practice and voice parceling within a slow, behind tempo frame are recommended)

Play through
(still behind tempo)

Mozart k281 rondeau p 1

Mozart k 281 rondeau p 2


Chopin, Warm-ups and the Art of Breathing