Mozart piano sonata, Mozart Sonata in F Major K. 332, music study and ripening, musical phrasing, musical phrasing and breathing, pianist

Playing Mozart: Phrasing and Nuance

Expressing Mozart’s piano music beautifully is a composite of many ingredients that include vocal modeling; an understanding of form/structure and harmonic elements; sound imaging, and in the cosmos of the imagination, exploring how to produce what we want to hear. In our ongoing phase of “experimentation,” we delve through a terrain of unclarity, seeking ways to phrase expressively with shape and contour, accepting the premise that decisions we make are subject to change as our immersion deepens.

In a spirit of being receptive to a filter of new “ideas”, I revisited Mozart’s Sonata in F, K. 332, (Exposition) recreating the steps I took in sculpting phrases.

Along the path of my renewed journey, I discovered the following “POINTS of Interest” about the Exposition that provided a necessary framing of my re-learning process. I borrow a few, in part, from Dr. Clark Ross: http://www.clarkross.ca/143_Mozart_k332_I_Exp.pdf

“There are several thematic ideas, if the transition is included. Each of the thematic ideas has a musical character that is distinct from the others.” (My comment, I found many more thematic strands in this Exposition than in most of the Mozart Sonatas I’ve studied, and each needs a unique realization through a synthesis of the musical and physical aspects of playing.)

“Principal Theme 2, (PT2) and Second Theme 3 (ST3) have similar textures (homo-rhythmic, homophonic) but their character is different. PT2 is playful, dance-like, while ST3 is more solemn and chorale-like.

“The direct modulation to d minor at the beginning of the transition (in a markedly contrasting section) is striking. It’s part of the abrupt dramatic change to the “Sturm und Drang” character. “Storm and Stress.” (from Wikipedia: Sturm und Drang is literally “turbulence and urgency.”)

(Paraphrase)…. This transition is uniquely syncopated and intense, emphasized by frequent Sforzando markings–(I note a poignant sequential modulation from D minor to C minor, via diminished chord entrances) SEQUENCES, like these, are formidable in Mozart’s music and provoke emotional/aesthetic responses.

Dr. Ross effectively reinforces structural and harmonic considerations in the Exposition that are important underpinnings of analyses, but these will not amply address the aesthetics of creating well-shaped phrases with a Mozartean singing-tone character.

In my tutorial, I absorbed a harmonic and structural dimension that ultimately complemented and expanded a hands-on, “experimental” journey through the Exposition. It included “emotional” responses to harmonic shifts and sequences that permeate the composer’s music, while it infused the learning process with a pronounced feature of attentive listening. (i.e Listening to the decay from a previous note or sonority into the next, especially in crossover measures) Riveted attention to dissolving tones, prevents unwanted accents in measures where students misguidedly believe that the first beat of 3/4, in this instance, comes with an unchallenged pronounced emphasis. If executed in this way, a phrase can be upended by interruptions in the smooth flow of a musical line. Similarly, crescendo’s made prematurely and peaking on a downbeat, because of metrical misconception, must be re-aligned otherwise to enhance expressive playing.

Where Mozart has a plethora of juxtaposed repeated notes in his contrasting themes, I demonstrate ways of shaping these, so they’re not robotically rendered.

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Using piano repertoire as a springboard for a theory lesson: Major, minor and Diminished Chords (Videos)

One of my adult students is working on the gorgeous J.C. Bach Prelude in A minor which has a second page full of “Major,” “Minor” and “Diminished” chords. The sonorities progress in sequences, but they also have a secondary dominant relationship to resolving chords. The “harmonic rhythm” moves quickly.

While this particular pupil may not be ready to understand “functional” harmony or the “modulation” dimension of the broken chords as they occur in the B section, she could learn how to form “Major,” “minor” and “diminished” chords, and then appreciate their differences through ear-training exposure.

In this video, sent between lessons, I reviewed Major, minor and Diminished chords and their derivation from five-finger positions which she has been studying in the Major and Parallel minor. The fact that the chords (broken) moved in a sequence, or a pattern also helped her navigate this section.

The Secondary Dominant aspect had been briefly noted, but will be more deeply explored as the student’s scale work around the Circle of Fifths gives an opportunity to build chords on every degree of the scale, noting harmonic relationships, cadences, and modulations.

Teaching Video:

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 revisit with part of the opening A section.

Sustaining a melodic line through recurring broken pattern chords is paramount to playing the Prelude poetically and musically. Varying dynamics and tapering phrases are woven into the artistic process.

Playing through entire prelude, first in chords, then as written in broken chord sequence.

RELATED:

Music Theory doesn’t have to be drudgery

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/03/26/music-theory-and-piano-study-video-it-doesnt-have-to-be-drudgery/

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Piano Instruction: Part FIVE, Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, Op. 31 no. 2 Measures 93 to 158 (Development, Recitative, submerged pedal)

This is a hauntingly beautiful section of the first movement.

After the composer has devoted so many preceding measures to the key of A minor, he decides to travel at quick intervals through a series of different keys. Such fast-paced modulations occur primarily with the return of the crossed-hands portion of the piece, beginning in F# minor at double forte level. (FF) (measure 99)

But before we get to this intensified point, Beethoven re-introduces a Largo, following the SECOND ENDING, which draws on the opening broken chord ROLL. The harmonies through which he passes are quite mystical. (especially when a D Major rolled-out chord is followed by a diminished one starting on B#) The third and final rolled chord in F# evokes the gates of heaven opening. At this point, the player must experience a divine revelation so he can communicate it convincingly to the listener.

The same mysticism blankets a Recitative, measures 144-148; and 155-158 with a submerged sustain pedal which is in itself, an innovative harmonic event in a Classical period sonata.

In fact, the “Tempest” is a ground-breaking composition just because the composer explores new tonal and harmonic regions while expanding beyond conservative form boundaries.

My video instruction elaborates upon this commentary:

LINKS:

Part ONE: Beethoven Tempest Sonata in D minor

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/practicing-tips-for-beethovens-tempest-sonata-op-31-no-2-part-one-video/

Part TWO Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/01/piano-instuction-part-two-beethovens-tempest-sonata-hand-cross-over-with-tremolo-in-the-middle-voice/

Part THREE Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/03/piano-instruction-part-three-beethoven-tempest-sonata-in-d-minor-op-31-no-2/

Part FOUR Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/04/piano-instruction-part-four-beethovens-tempest-sonata-in-d-minor-op-31-no-2-measures-55-93/

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Irina Morozova’s inspiring words flow through a lesson with an adult student (Beethoven’s Fur Elise-in-progress) Video

“From watching great pianists it is obvious that they incorporate quite different movements to achieve the same goals, because people do not play piano with fingers but rather with the mind and the ear. Again, it is the clear image of what kind of sound one wants to achieve, combined with the knowledge of how to get it….”

To frame a lesson with these ideas, helps to infuse it with the spiritual, analytical, and nonverbal elements of exchange.

Within this paradigm, one of my adult students continued her study of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise.” (C section, treble chord voicing with bass tremolo)

LINK:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/03/17/pianist-irina-morozova-blends-a-satisfying-career-of-teaching-and-performing-videos/

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Piano Lesson: The challenge of playing a slow movement

I chose Muzio Clementi’s popular Sonatina in C, Op. 36, No. 1 to flesh out the contrasting middle movement designated ANDANTE by the composer. It’s definitely a challenge to play just 6 lines of music with beauty and finesse.

As a start, the player is exposed to realizing rolling triplet 8th-notes in the left hand against a flowing treble melodic line with interspersed trills. These “decorations” or embellishments move rapidly through principal notes lending a shimmer to them. One can choose less repercussions (in 16ths) for the trill or try the alternate group of more notes in 32nds. (Indicated in the score)

I personally believe that more repercussions give the movement a gem-like character in the Classical style. Mozart’s music, for example, sparkles with trills. Why not give Clement the same deference.

The video below offers a step-wise approach to learning the Andante movement. As expected, the rolling forward motion of the wrist helps to phrase the bass and treble. In addition, striking a nice balance between voices is a significant dimension of a satisfying performance.

This movement may have a tendency to drag, but in truth, Andante, if taken literally, comes from the Italian ANDARE, “to walk.” Andante being the gerund, WALKING does not mean lumbering along.

The triplets should therefore, pleasingly move with grace giving support to a fluidly played melody. And between the hand-crossovers of triplets, the ongoing legato must be preserved.

Where parallel 6ths are introduced, one should think of a single melodic tone through each group of three, best illustrated in the instructional footage.

Molto Cantabile (cultivation of the singing tone) is one’s best frame in playing this movement with beauty and refinement.

Playing through in tempo:

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Scarlatti Toccata in D minor with rapid fire repeated notes: Melodic contouring, dusting the keys, and slow motion replay (VIDEOS)

Here’s my anti-anxiety solution to playing those demanding, rapid-fire repeated notes in Scarlatti’s D minor Toccata.

First, being a technology nerd, I never dreamed I could master a slow motion replay on iMac’s iMovie, but through trial and error, I managed a half-speed rendering of the opener. Naturally, I deleted my sadly depressing droning voice that would have curbed the enthusiasm of players geared up for the Scarlatti challenge.

Essentially, I framed the bullet-fire repeated notes in real time, then slowed them up on the re-take. (A golden teaching moment, perhaps?)

Regardless, if you have to face the music, deal with it like I did, one clip at a time. (Just a reminder to use fingers 3,2,1, 3,2,1 for the repeaters)

Major Bullet Points:

1) Think MELODY through the dizzying repeated notes. There’s no time to count how many you miss. (You’re only human, so cut yourself some slack)

2) Let your arms completely relax– poof, they’re on puppet strings, or maybe if you’re the domestic type, let them hang over a clothesline, pleasantly suspended.

3) In the same spirit, make believe you’re doing some house cleaning and dust the keys, shaking loose your wrists.

Now take good mental notes and store them in your MUSCLE memory box as paradoxical as this may sound.

A snatch of Scarlatti with slow-motion replay.

P.S. YOUR PIANO NEEDS ADEQUATE REPETITION RESPONSE TO PLAY THESE RAPID NOTES

Don’t expect a beat up old clunker with squeaks, squawks, and stiff, sticking keys to do the job!

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Teaching Gillock’s delightfully appealing, Later Elementary Level music: “The Glass Slipper” (Video)

I have no reservation about the immense teaching value of William Gillock’s music from elementary through advanced levels. And while the titles in the first few volumes appeal to children, the pieces can be universally enjoyed by piano students of all ages.

In this spirit, I picked out “The Glass Slipper” from Accents on Gillock, Volume 2, Late Elementary, and savored its beauty as I fleshed out the learning challenges and how to meet them.

In the video instruction, I pointed to the melodically woven, slurred bass notes in groups of two and how to enlist a dipped wrist to wrist forward motion to realize their musical contour. Above these figures, in the treble, the students separately practices spongy wrist after-beat harmonic thirds.

The realization of an echo in measures 4 to 8, requires a lighter application of arm weight filtered through relaxed wrists into the fingers.

Balancing the voices between the hands, and following the crest of crescendo and its opposite, diminuendo becomes a continuous challenge in the outflow of gorgeously nuanced music.

As the student is bathed in beauty from start to finish, he’s more willing to meet the technical demands of this piece.

A middle section, provides a stark contrast to the page one offering, and takes off in an upward scale-wise direction. This is a whimsical portion of the interlude that strikingly sets it apart from what preceded.

The crescendo rolled from left into right hand peaks with an accented half-note that has a bass staccato played harmonic 2nd in between, gives the music a pleasing lift. A sequence of this scale figure up a step, intensifies it, before there’s a graceful transition back to the beginning theme.

The most wondrous cap to this composition is a longer scale-wise ascent to the final sustained tonic note, (with a touch of chromatics–half steps) A rolling motion underlies these passages.

A final soothing chord emanating from the melodic C wisps away, leaving behind a satisfying feeling of resolution. The sustain pedal enriches the closing cadence with warmth.

What an amazing piece of music to explore with a student on so many levels.

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Another Gillock sampler, but for Intermediate students:

“Flamenco”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9hbFhesmbo4

LINKS:

Blog: The Formative years of Piano Study and the basic building-blocks of learning

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/31/the-formative-years-of-piano-study-and-the-basic-building-blocks-of-learning-videos/

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WILLIAM GILLOCK http://www.halleonard.com/biographyDisplay.do?id=240&subsiteid=1

“William Gillock (1917-1993), noted music educator and composer of piano music, was born in LaRussell, Missouri, where he learned to play the piano at an early age. After graduating from Central Methodist College, his musical career led him to long tenures in New Orleans, Louisiana and Dallas, Texas, where he was always in great demand as a teacher, clinician, and composer. Called the “Schubert of children’s composers” in tribute to his extraordinary melodic gift, Gillock composed numerous solos and ensembles for students of all levels. He was honored on multiple occasions by the National Federation of Music Clubs (NFMC) with the Award of Merit for Service to American Music, and his music continues to be remarkably popular throughout the United States and throughout the world.”