Especially in Romantic Style, Bk. 2 "Impromptu in G minor"
As many of you might know, I am a “dyed in the wool, hopeless Romantic” and have always loved the music of Chopin, Brahms, Rachmaninoff and all of those wonderful composers from the Romantic era. As a teacher, I’m also particularly aware of just how difficult and challenging it can be to get students to understand the many facets of performing romantic style compositions. They need to understand the delicate balance of rubato and strict time; the challenge of voicing; the colors created by a combination of touches and good pedaling. The list goes on, but these are a few of the most important considerations. I’m delighted to share with you some “teaching tips” from one of my personal favorite collections, “Especially in Romantic Style”, Bk. 2. (insert cover) The piece is entitled “Impromptu in G minor”, and is a colorful, expressive piece that will help students at this intermediate level become more aware of these essential qualities that allow for a beautiful and artistic performance.
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One of the first things I do when teaching a new piece is to go through the score with the student and determine the location of the “heart” of each phrase----i.e., the focal point, or most important note within the phrase. For many students, putting a few words underneath the melody line can help to achieve the correct shaping of the phrase. (see ms. 1-8) I also like to pencil in a little “heart”
directly above the note that serves as the focal point of the phrase. Then, when the student goes home to practice, he/she will be more apt to shape the phrase correctly!
Notice that I have indicated “Dolce e con anima” in the beginning of this piece. It’s tender, and sweet---but also has many opportunities to “push forward and then relax” throughout, which helps to give it that impromptu, or spontaneous character. Of course, what we’re really talking about is subtle rubato----while I have indicated a tempo of 58-63 for the half note, this piece would sound deadly if played with the metronome throughout. There are ample opportunities throughout this piece to reinforce a floating, rising wrist at the ends of phrases
In ms. 16, have students slightly exaggerate the “and” of beat 2, which helps to create the musical “placement” of that downbeat in the following measure. Be sure to work on voicing out the tops of RH chords in ms. 17-20.
Going into ms. 22, take a little time between the E-natural and the A to help make this sound more tender and expressive.
In ms. 29, linger slightly on those descending 8th notes to create a “warmer” color and mood. Relax and breathe before the return to “a tempo” in ms. 33.
In ms. 41, listen carefully to the balance of LH melody with RH accompaniment---work to voice out the tops of the LH chords in ms. 41-44. Again, I’ve made this a little easier for the student by using strong fingers on the top of each chord.
Use full arm weight behind the fingers in ms. 45 to get a nice, rich tone in this RH melodic line, pushing the tempo ahead slightly into ms. 51. Going into ms. 53, do a graceful arc in the RH over that big leap into the 3rds of that downbeat. This also helps to “place” the downbeat rhythmically. The ending of this piece will feel very solid in the hand if your student “blocks out” the groups of notes as indicated in red. Don’t forget to have them practice blocking this backwards as well----starting at the top and going “downhill”. This is harder, which in the end makes going up feel so very easy and secure. Then, take time at the end, and don’t be in any hurry to release that final chord-----an elegant, beautiful rising wrist will help give this ending just the right character and convincing choreography. It’s always important to give a memorable “last impression”!
Working on pieces like this will do wonders for helping students to understand the complexities of Romantic style performing practices. When they get to that first Chopin waltz or mazurka, they’ll have the necessary tools to make those great pieces come alive with color, choreography, and style!
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