“Winter Rhapsody”, a late intermediate piano solo, was commissioned by the Washington State University (Pullman) piano pedagogy lab school in 2008. It is a dramatic “showpiece” for this level and a solo that is most gratifying to learn and perform. It is full of patterns that lie well in the hand and sounds harder than it actually is, which always serves as a great motivator for students at this level.
The opening measures, marked maestoso, set up a dramatic and suspenseful mood. The left hand needs to provide full, rich sounds ---- keep those wrists nice and relaxed here to help create a beautiful, deep tone. Opening gestures need to be both slow and dramatic! Have your student practice that LH alone, with nice big arcs when moving from register to register. Be sure to observe the rit. in ms. 4 along with the crescendo into the allegro molto section. I would suggest anticipating the LH rolled chord, and play the top note (e) of this chord with the RH “c” on beat one.
This next section is such fun to practice and play! Ask your student to block out all the triplets in the RH----you’ll notice that they are all 2nd inversion triads on white keys, so this will lie beautifully in the hand. Practice the blocks with the rising LH scale HT, and this will feel easy at a fast tempo when played as written. Pace this long crescendo carefully so that the climax is reached at ms. 9. Bring out the LH melody line over the triplet patterns and then play hands equally in the descending cascade of sound in mss. 11-12. These bars should also be blocked out in the RH so the student realizes that it’s nothing but E-minor triads in all inversions. This pattern is then repeated, but the 2nd time the RH descending triads are in Eb- minor.
I actually feel that mss. 28-31 are some of the trickiest measures in this piece, as the texture is thin and the coordination can be tricky at a fast tempo. The LH needs to feel loose and free----practice with a nice rotation in the wrist, and “pulse” this pattern to beat 2 of every measure.
Again, practice in short spurts, adding one short group at a time. In mss. 32-35, work to voice out the tops of these RH chords so that the melody line is very singing and shaped at the same time. Ms. 36 takes us right back to the opening “allegro molto” which has already been learned. Take a little time to “breathe” at the end of ms. 39, and then “place” that LH top note of the rolled chord to give this a tempo section a good, secure foundation.
The recapitulation is exactly like the opening, but make sure your student is very aware of the change in ms. 48. Get this measure solidly into your head, and compare it to ms. 17 so that no mishaps occur in actual performance. In ms. 52, give all of the LH eighth notes a nice “ping” from the whole arm. These bars need to sound as powerful as possible, so create a big dramatic sound from the whole arm. This last page can be most effective when dynamics are exaggerated-------be sure to come down to “mp” suddenly in ms. 56 and then build the sound into the dramatic “maestoso” in ms. 60. Again, big arcs in the LH with a molto crescendo in those last two bars. Release the pedal right with the hands on the last chord, with a dramatic release in both hands!
A complete performance of this piece can be found in my “compositions link” in the late-intermediate level solo sheets section. I wish you and your students much success and enjoyment as you study and perform this piece. Dennis Alexander