piano, Romantic era

Two Romantic era piano lessons are wedded beautifully together

Why not pair Mendelssohn and Chopin in a harmonious duo.

Two piano lessons transmitted over the Internet were framed by the same period expression: mellifluous melodic threads against relentless rocking motions in the bass. A Boat song and Nocturne respectively swayed in TWO, requiring an examination of recurring bass line arpeggios that frequently spanned beyond the octave. These enlisted a ROTATIONAL approach for a smooth, seamless rendering while preliminary BLOCKING techniques acquired a sense of distance and transit.

Rotations, in particular, discouraged twisting associated with thumb shifts. And traveling through various harmonies in arpeggiated form, developed a pupil’s awareness of bigger GROUPINGS of notes as they moved through a horizontal landscape. Finally, infusions of dips and swells through various DESTINATIONS nourished well-shaped lines along with an awareness of harmonic rhythm and cadential sequences.

It was uncanny, though quite predictable that both lessons, one to London, the other to Australia, would form a happy alliance providing a dual opportunity for two students to grow their artistry by watching the other practice in similar framing modalities with a resonating SINGING Tone. (Don’t forget supple wrists and relaxed arms)

Here’s how each lesson unfolded:

To Sydney, Australia

Mendelssohn Venetian Boat Song in F-sharp minor, Op. 30, No. 6

You Tube Video Description
Published on Jan 18, 2017

“We worked on phrasing in slow practice tempo; smooth transit of broken chords in Bass (using rotation)- Feeling a sense of TWO beats per measure. (Duple Compound meter) Shaping and SINGING lines; understanding HARMONIC relationships that influence phrasing; voicing and balance; relaxed, measured trill practice.”

Chopin Nocturne in E minor, Op. 72, No. 1

To London, England

Video Description:

“Romantic era phrasing; Think in TWO impulses per measure; Use Rotations for relentless Left Hand broken chords; Enlist blocking techniques in this regard; Play with a SINGING tone legato; Be aware of harmonic rhythm or harmonic progressions/cadences as they influence phrasing. Work on shaping lines and balancing voices. Observe dynamics and use various weight transfers to realize them.”

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Schumann’s ‘Rocking Horse’ comes with a spring forward wrist

Rocking Horse

Schumann’s Kinderszenen album, (Scenes of Childhood) includes a child-inspired Rocking Horse piece that enlists spring forward wrist motions to help frame its character. If the pianist tightens up and tries to realize third beat accents with a tight jolt of a stiff hand, then it’s all over for the player who will tire quickly while undoing the rocking nature of the music.

So what better opportunity exists for a piano teacher than to AWAKEN a student to a redundant motion that enlivens a composition and keeps it percolating with well-delivered energies.

But the mentor should also enlighten the pupil about the multi-dimensional nature of the Rocking Horse that’s not necessarily pumping back and forth in needless repetition. There’s syncopated rhythm; melody and counter-melody, as well as perfect fifths that are inverted to perfect fourths that carry a snatch of the opening thread. It’s the probing musician, therefore, who will discover that the wrist spring forward motions are part of a larger exploration, not merely a demonstration of moto perpetuo.

Instruction

Play Through

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Tempo Rubato and Chopin Waltz in A minor No. 19, Op. Posthumous

Tempo Rubato as defined in Wikipedia:

“Tempo rubato (free in the presentation, Italian for: stolen time) is a musical term referring to expressive and rhythmic freedom by a slight speeding up and then slowing down of the tempo of a piece at the discretion of the soloist or the conductor.”

I think of it in ebb and flow terms with phrases breathed in and out of cadences in a musically extemporaneous way but not overly exaggerated. From my perspective, tempo rubato should be tastefully applied in the Romantic genre. (Though freely rendered phrases can characterize music from other historical eras as well.)

As it played out, one of my adult students, who had conscientiously layered her learning process over months, was now ready to polish and nuance the Waltz in tempo rubato framing.

Our mutual explorations were recorded: