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Patient voice-parceling in practicing Beethoven’s Adagio Cantabile (Sonata “Pathetique”)

Some piano students view playing a choir of voices with a rich bed of sustain pedal as an un-delayed gratification. It’s an icing on the cake indulgence that often eludes the main course of diligent, attentive, and analytical practicing.

A case in point is Beethoven’s hauntingly beautiful, Adagio movement of the “Pathetique” Sonata, Op. 13, with its layer of voices that begs for a satisfying exploration.

Beethoven Adagio Cantabile segment

From my perspective, the composer’s mosaic is best assimilated through a careful voice-parceling process that invites a sensitive awareness of harmonic rhythm and balance–first among treble, tenor and bass lines, but quickly blossoming into a 4-voice effusion. (Soprano, Alto, Tenor Bass). In a variation-like unfolding, Beethoven eventually adds a rhythmic variant with a triplet underpinning, while he fleshes out a melancholic melody that’s always draped in lush harmonies, moving as chains of broken chords within the texture. And as a core of underlying support, a soulful bass meanders with flowing, cello-like expression.


In the attached teaching video, I examine a recommended layered-learning approach to Beethoven’s middle movement by individualizing voices, then permuting them, so they’re understood in relation to each other before being integrated into a developed whole. In this step-wise journey to musical unity bundled in patience and slow tempo framing, a newfound ecstasy is experienced that’s tied to a deep well of understanding.

(Note: The contrasting, mood-shifting middle section in the parallel minor is not explored in this segment.)

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Exploring Mozart Sonata No. 5 in G, K. 283 (First movement, Allegro)

The learning exchange between student and teacher is heightened when a new piece is introduced. In the case of Mozart’s charming, early period Sonata no. 5 in G, it became a revisit for me that brought new revelations that I shared during the course of weekly lessons.


Mozart presents a challenge in capturing a singing tone that is emblematic of the opera. (From Wiki: “The work was written down during the visit Mozart paid to Munich for the production of his La finta giardiniera from late 1774 to the beginning of the following March.”)

At least when playing the opening allegro of K.283, even the Forte-pianos (f-ps), that might suggest more abrupt and decisive accents in Beethoven’s mid-period sonatas, are far more elegantly played in Mozart’s early sonata vocabulary so one should be able to sing them.

Bass notes in a parallel octave progression moving in an intensifying fashion seem to be yielding to those doubled in the treble, lest they sound too ponderous for the period. Therefore, one must respect a fine line of sensitivity in their execution.

Pianist, Murray Perahia speaks of the singing pulse in Mozart works, and I must agree. He states that a rubato lives within the composer’s music but not necessarily taken with such liberty as would apply to Chopin and the Romantics.

Finally, in my tutorial, I try to apply educated instincts and intuition to my exploration of the opening Allegro, K.283, with a focus on the singing tone, phrasing, harmonic rhythm and form.

The Exposition is naturally a springboard for my analysis of the whole movement that weaves in motivic and harmonic tie-ins.

Mozart Sonata K283 p. 1 Allegro 1

Mozart Sonata K283 p. 2 Allegro

Play Through:


From Wiki

“Piano Sonata No. 5 (Mozart)

“Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 5 in G major, K 283 (189h) (1774) is a piano sonata in three movements:


“This sonata is part of the earliest group of sonatas that Mozart published in the mid-1770s. The first movement is a sonata-allegro movement that is concise, with an economy of materials. The development section is a mere 18 measures long. The shorter length and moderate technical demands make it an ideal piece for early-advanced study and performance.

“A typical performance takes twelve to eighteen (Richter) minutes.”

Journal of a Piano Teacher from New York to California,

Lettin’ go to Presto without crashin’

First, here’s my good luck charm: a keyboard bracelet that a former adult student made for me. I have a pic when it looked spiffier but time has taken its toll.

keyboard bracelet

Perhaps wearing this wrist trinket helped me advance my Haydn Sonata finale to Presto without a crash and burn, but it’s more likely that my slow, baby-step practicing did the job.

Today, I spot practiced, to fine tune measures that had some finger traps in brisk pace. (Video 1)

In video 2, I played through part of the Development, where right and left hand divide a fast melody in rapid 16ths. This is a section I had parceled out in a previous blog posting, blocking first, then unraveling it slowly while shaping the line.

Haydn tricky passage finale

Haydn p. 2 tricky passage finale, presto

It appears that my fingering revisions worked in peak tempo which tells me the choices were right. (These decisions are often based upon what suits one’s hands in many cases, so don’t always trust the Editor)

Most of all, BREATHE though a Presto movement, and think SLOW while playing fast.

P.S. And how about taking this keyboard belt and bracelet into the SPEED ZONE the next time around!
keyboard belt

Foundational practicing techniques for Haydn Sonata No. 52, Finale: Presto

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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:


Part ONE: Beethoven Tempest Sonata in D minor

Part TWO Instruction

Part THREE Instruction

Part FOUR Instruction

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Piano Instruction: Part TWO, Beethoven’s “Tempest” Sonata, Op. 31, No. 2, Hand Cross-over, with tremolo in the middle voice

A tricky chromatic scale with a turn-around at its end ushers in a stormy, impassioned section with cross-over hands. Some players observe the notation to a tee, and avoid these hand-over-hand maneuvers, but I, like many other pianists do the re-arranging in the interests of smoothly trailing a melodic line that starts in the bass and shifts into the treble. (This involves Left Hand over Right, where for me, at least, it’s easier to keep a consistent tremolo in the middle voice PLAYED BY THE RIGHT HAND)

Sorry for the confusion in visualizing this. It’s best to watch the video that goes into detail and fleshes out the choreography.

Measures 19 to 41:


Part ONE Beethoven “Tempest” Sonata instruction: