adult piano lessons, adult piano students, piano teaching, piano teaching repertoire, Romantic era piano repertoire, Romantic era repertoire, Romantic music, Schumann, setting a good piano fingering

A deep immersion in Schumann’s Wiegenliedchen, Cradle Song No. 6, Op. 124

Who would have thought that a Romantic era character piece of short length could have so much to savor on multi-tiered levels? Relentless triplets with double stemmed quarters, seemed at first glance to direct the player toward a horizontal rendering of a conspicuous melodic thread that’s reinforced by the highest notes in the Right Hand. It’s clearly a vocal line that requires a singing tone wedded to a seamless legato.

But the more one delves into the score, an awareness of note groupings, within phrases, requires the player to breathe as a vocalist would, with an attendant understanding of how fingering, harmonic analysis, rotational motions, and exploration of the bass line all factor into a deeper rendering of the composition.

While the piece only landed in Berkeley just two short days ago, having been emailed in attachment form from a Scottish Isle, it was “cradled” with great care upon its arrival in the Berkeley flats–having passed through an embryonic stage of discovery to a more heightened level of understanding.

Since a tutorial is like a diary of epiphanies, the one I’ve included below, is a springboard to further learning discoveries that grow from repeated exposures and more intense scrutiny of what the composer, Robert Schumann, intended.

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Revisiting an old piano piece learned years earlier

I find my current musical journey down memory lane to be joyful and challenging–especially as I cut and paste the Mozart Rondo: Allegro, K. 311 pages to fit comfortably on the piano rack. (Deja Vu, Haydn C Major Hoboken XVI35–Haydn pinned and unpinned)

I wrote to a musician friend during the height of my frustration. “This undertaking is far more complex than the former because my Mozart Sonata Urtext edition, Breitkopf and Hartel, has enormously big pages. Therefore, I must figure out a way, to fraction them, ply them, add parts of measures on my printer/copier, then attach, and re-attach.”

My shabby efforts produced the following:

Mozart Rondo K. 311 2

As comic relief I summarized the process:

“This is the most flagrant cut and paste job to date—the Urtext oversize led to one hour of fidgeting, fumbling, frantic fastening, failing, flailing, faltering, framing—piecing, plying, pairing, pressing, taping, tying and crying. What a waste of time!

“Now I have to memorize the first 2 pages–because even with the taping, tying, plying and sighing, there’s just no room to read across.”

Despite this tangential escapade, I’m drawn back down to earth, believing, if you lay a solid foundation in your earliest learning effort, then a revisit will tap into familiar landmarks, making your review more smooth sailing than you might expect.

Case in point.. Mozart K. 311, the very first sonata my teacher, Lillian Freundlich gave me to study–and one I’d waxed poetic about in my “Sentimental Journey” posting.

What I had learned about learning in my first sonata encounter, aided my re-connection.

1) Phrasing–first movement–Allegro con moto
Freundlich parceled out one or two measures–drawing 16ths back to quarters.. deep in the keys approach
Then moved to 8ths in doublets or pairs, finally extending out to 16ths..it was rhythmic groupings in synch a singing tone moved the piece into an artistic rendering, rather than a typewritten framing.

Incidentally, the singing tone, not surface, key skimming was my teacher’s conception of the Mozartean voice.

AND SLOW MOTION PRACTICE was at the core of developing and shaping all passage work.

2) FINGERING–good decisions were made way back–NO guessing in the dark, or dice throws– No fly by night accidents of fate..
The fingering was set down, like good housekeeping– A table prepared to specification.

3) Harmonic Analysis–The KEY signature was well imprinted. Flow of harmony, the same..
How did certain chords or modulations affect interpretation? (Part of phrasing/harmonic rhythm exploration)

4)Form and Structure–First Theme, second theme, Development, Recapitulation
What key for second theme?.. What happened in the Development section–what keys explored, (modulations), rhythmic devices?

Sequences? Melodic symmetries and asymmetries. We circled what remained the same, and what changed.

All of the above fast forwarded on a consciously unconscious level into the present easily tapped out of a sub layer of knowing.

Last week I’d recorded K. 311, Allegro con brio– And after a few days of revisiting, I had mildly adjusted fingerings to conform with the brisk tempo.

Then moving on to movement 2, I remembered the importance of Mozart’s vocal line, the need for a lush, deep in the keys singing tone so well imbued by Lillian Freundlich. (NO to a frilly, top-layered, superficial approach)

Awareness of harmonic flow/rhythm, marked out in my score from years before, helped me retrieve the long lost movement and bring it back to life in short order.


The Journey continues

Rondo: Allegro, K. 311

Currently, I’m face-to-face with this rapid movement which seems easier to navigate the second time around, but for what I consider a particularly tricky section:

A set of trills in the Left Hand set against a rapid flow of 16ths begs for a crossed hands adjustment but it’s just not feasible.

Mozart rondo k 311

Seymour Bernstein, pianist, teacher and composer, points out that pianists have been known to heist sections of music.. reconfiguring passages, that cannot be easily executed as written.

Emanuel Ax, concert pianist, fleshes out this very issue in a Beethoven documentary. He demonstrates how the composer made it nearly impossible to play a section of his second sonata, first movement, with the right hand only fingering indicated in the score.

Ax posited that perhaps Beethoven considered his personal fingering to be a “cosmic joke” contrived “to annoy everybody!”

Nonetheless Ax, demonstrated how most pianists will divide the passage between hands.

Did I veer off topic?

Not exactly as this side excursion related to my tackling difficult passages with an innovative approach, if applicable.

In the Rondo section attached, the trill in the left hand will be a potential finger-jammer, so post video, I made the choice to play GAGF#, followed by F#GF#E, EF#ED etc.

(In the instruction below I navigate the section through a set of steps and practicing routines:)

Decisions like these made in the course of primary learning experiences, tend to surface again in composition revisits. They certainly further musical development.

Finally, the old, reliable, baby-step, ground up work, done during an original exposure to a composition, is the best gift a student can bestow upon himself as he reconnects with a former love.

LINK


https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/01/08/piano-technique-and-repertoire-does-making-fingeringhand-adjustments-constitute-a-swindle/

The Value of Practicing behind tempo, in slow motion
https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/12/26/piano-learning-and-technique-the-value-of-practicing-in-slow-motion-or-behind-tempo/

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Rina, 5, performs at our Spring Recital (after 8 months of piano lessons) Video

Rina is moving right along. She can spin a legato phrase with finesse after having practiced her detached-note playing for months. Now she’s working on using featherlight thumbs to craft smoother lines.

Notice her supple wrist approach to the piano:

***

Here’s a sample of Rina’s offerings at the May 5th evening recital held at Valley Music Center in Fresno.

More playing:

LOOKING BACK ON EARLY LESSONS WITH RINA

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/22/looking-back-to-early-piano-lessons-with-rina-5-with-a-solid-musical-foundation-to-build-on-and-now-the-present-videos/

Teaching piano to young children

Tales of a Musical Journey by Irina Gorin



Class starting on May 19th

http://www.powhow.com/classes/shirley-kirsten

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Piano Instruction: “Ballade” by Burgmuller– phrase contouring and curves of energy (Videos)

Burgmuller’s Ballade from his Opus 100 Progressive Piano Pieces is often coined “spooks” because of its Halloween-like opener. Composed in 3/8 time, it moves along in ONE, though the performer should not over-emphasize the first beat in each measure.

The way the composer slurs and phrases notes suggests another approach.

Thinking LONGER lines and phrases gives this piece the Romantic era polish it deserves. (A descending, Forte C minor arpeggio, for example, can use this overall curve down without redundant rhythmic accents or punctuations in every measure)

In the video below, I demonstrate the CURVES of melody as they appear in the Left Hand with light chords in the Right, and how the contrasting middle section is a fluid, lyrical line with subdued after beats. (Play like a vocalist)

To render this piece with finesse involves using a supple wrist. On big, resounding chords, approaching these from below with the flexible wrist avoids a pencil point impact.

In the Codetta (starting measure 88) with its stream of rapid 16ths from forte to piano, the dipping wrist on every C after 6 notes, keeps the passage bristling with a looping energy, that allows a controlled, dynamic tapering.

A lesson-in-progress with Albertina, 13 who will play this piece on our Spring Recital.

Play Through:

LINKS:

http://www.powhow.com/classes/shirley-kirsten

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/piano-technique-avoiding-pencil-point-playing/

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Quality spot-practicing by an adult student: Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” (Video)

Marie, a motivated adult student, revisited piano studies after a decades-long hiatus. When she resumed lessons about 6 years ago, she made “Fur Elise” her goal-setting piece.

Following long-term scale and arpeggio exposure accompanied by a detailed focus on minuets, short character works, sonatinas and the Chopin Waltz in A minor No. 19, Op. Posthumous, Marie made a smooth transition to learning one of the most popular pieces in the piano literature.

Here’s a snatch of her spot-practicing tricky measures 68-69 in the “stormy” C section of the composition.

Quality time spent isolating voices in slow tempo, listening attentively, and sculpting phrases with relaxed arms and a supple wrist advances fluidity and a beautiful singing tone.

Spot-practicing measures that need extra work and refinement, gets to the heart of learning, moving a student into a new universe of enjoyment.

LINK:

“Fur Elise” at POWHOW: LIVE webcam piano classes

http://www.powhow.com/classes/shirley-kirsten

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Part Six Piano Instruction, Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata No. 17, Op. 31 No. 2 and all FIVE teaching segments preceding

In order from Part One to Six:

I.

II.

III.

IV.

V.

VI.

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/

Part FIVE Instruction

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2012/04/05/piano-instruction-part-five-beethovens-tempest-sonata-op-31-no-2-measures-93-to-158-development-recitative-submerged-pedal/

PART SIX, referenced in You Tube format

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwQzBpWJWqs

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Practicing tips for Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, Op. 31 No. 2, Part ONE: (Video)

Because I found myself rambling on and on about the first page, I decided to compartmentalize the instruction to make it easier to absorb.

And since I played the “Tempest” years ago, the surest route to my restoring the piece to a respectable performance level, was to practice it from the ground up in slow tempo.

As I re-approached this Sonata, I relied heavily on CLUMPING or CLUSTERING groups of notes.

The opening two measures that resonate with a peaceful broken chord in the Dominant, are followed by a rapid stream of melodic seconds in a tempestuous descent. (The duality of the motif is clear)

In the video, I demonstrate a wrist forward motion as I clump the seconds which embody non-harmonic upper neighbor tones that are passing dissonances.

Clumping these 2nds (appoggiaturas) and throwing the wrist forward for each group of two allows a bigger and more effective energy to mobilize the passage.

It also helps with developing a “feel” for the composer’s keyboard landscape before advancing tempo.

The Video Instruction further amplifies: Part 1

LINK

PART TWO, Instruction, Beethoven “Tempest” Sonata

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

Another Beethoven Sonata landscape:

https://arioso7.wordpress.com/2011/10/12/practicing-a-difficult-section-in-beethovens-sonata-pathetique-op-13-movement-1-video/