James Berry Piano Literature Graduate Assignment: Chopin 1. I have chosen the easier pieces of each set of piano works for my prospective student who would like to learn Chopin. Here is a listing of each piece, and then a description of the ‘preview’ elements for each work: a. Preludes Prelude Op. 28, No. 4 (e minor) – Of course balance is very important in this piece, but the element that I would feature to the student would be to carefully notice in the left hand, the notes that are changing in each chord. This provides for a good understanding of inner voice movement and can create a good contrast with the right hand melody. Prelude Op. 28, No. 15 (Db major – Raindrop) – This very famous piece has a lot of elements that could be previewed to a student, but I would spend the first lesson of course describing what the raindrop refers to in this piece. I would encourage the student to keep the raindrop steady through out the piece, while the harmonic foundation continues to change around the anchor of the raindrop. I would also have them understand the difference in weight from the delicate Db major portion to the C# minor heavy, restless feeling. Prelude Op. 28, No. 7 (A major) – This quite easy prelude is a great one to teach a student the important inflections of ¾ time. I would encourage them to feel a downup-up conducting pattern as they play this piece. Playing all 3 beats evenly will lead to a boring sound, and I would encourage them to keep beats 2 and 3 light. Prelude Op. 28, No. 6 (b minor) – This piece relies heavily on the left hand bringing out the melody and I would preview this important element to my student. I would also make sure that it has an ‘instrumental’ character to it. I would encourage them to play the left hand as though it were a cello with proper thoughts as to rubato and articulation. b. Mazurka Mazurka Op. 67, No. 3 (C Major) – There are two elements that I notice with this piece that could be a challenge for a student who has not studied it extensively. The first is the fact that there are several trills thrown in while the right hand is playing two notes at once. Up to speed, one may interpret these trills as simply turns, but this technique needs to be decided with the student ahead of time. The second element I noticed was the succession of parallel sixths. These can be a group of tricky techniques for any student. c. Waltz Waltz Op. 69, No. 2 (b minor) – One really neat preview element that can be demonstrated for the student in this piece is the rhythmic contrast between hands. The right hand melody often emphasizes the third beat while the left hand accompaniment pattern emphasizes beat one. This rhythmic interlocking can propel the phrase forward and create a wonderful sense of anticipation with the right hand.
d. Polonaise Polonaise Op. 71, No. 3 (f minor) – This piece is certainly not an easy one, but it is difficult to find an easy polonaise. I think the preview element to show a student in this piece, is the fact that although the beginning sounds more like a ballade than a polonaise, it needs to still carry the rhythms of a polonaise through out. Later on in this piece, the music dances in a march-like fashion, but even under the minor melodies the dotted eighth, sixteenth rhythms needs to be emphasized. e. Nocturne Nocturne Op. 9, No. 2 (Eb major) – This very famous and somewhat early advanced level nocturne has so many elements to it that could be previewed to a student. I would try and explain the overall idea of the piece as a theme with improvisatory variations that need to be freely flowing and not metrically exact. This piece has to carry the overall sense of phrasing through out despite the very florid passages. 2. I have chosen six Chopin etudes, which cover a variety of technical challenges. The exercises are attached on the last page and labeled for the appropriate etude. a. Op. 10, No. 1 (C major) – The technical challenge for this piece is continuous arpeggios. b. Op. 10, No. 5 (Gb major) – The technical challenge for this piece is playing the black keys at a rapid tempo in the right hand. c. Op. 10, No. 12 (c minor) – The technical challenge in this piece is a rapid and difficult group of sixteenth notes in the left hand. d. Op. 25, No. 2 (f minor) – The technical challenge for this piece is the eighth note triplets in the right hand played over top of the quarter note triplets in the left hand. e. Op. 25, No. 6 (G# minor) – The technical challenge for this piece is a group of successive thirds in the right hand. f. Op. 25, No. 10 (b minor) – The technical challenge for the piece is the successive groups of octave triplets in both hands at a rapid speed. 3. The scherzo that I have selected is the Op. 31, No. 2 piece in Bb minor. The overall form of the piece is put simply in ABA form with a coda at the end. You could analyze this piece further, but simply, it is in ABA form. There are so many technical challenges in this piece but one suggested part to practice would be the running passage in E major where the right hand is very florid and the left hand has a wonderful descending countermelody. I would make sure that the student practice this section slowly and play the keys very lightly while using the wrist to assist with the motion. The technique is similar to working on arpeggios. Once the student feels comfortable and light on their fingers, than they should be able to work it up to speed. 4a. The ballade I am creating a story to is the third ballade, Op. 47 in Ab major: It began as a bright and sunny day and Fred the flying squirrel was looking forward to finding his favorite things, tasty acorns. He glided between trees searching for that perfect acorn. Around him, leaves and birds twisted by and through the sunlight the large grandpa bear was
preparing his bed for the winter. All of a sudden, the air was quiet and Fred stopped to see a few small flakes dancing around him. Fred loved winter, but this made him sad as he missed his mother who he hadn’t seen since last winter. The flakes grew larger and came down with more intensity. This made the branches slippery for Fred to gather his acorns. He thought ‘Oh well, I might as well make the best of it and make it a game’. Fred flew between trees, sliding along the branches grabbing acorns smoothly dancing from tree to tree. He had five, ten, fifty, seventythree acorns in his collection now. He looked up at the sky as the snow slowly fell again and thought of the long winter he would have to wait through until next year. If only summer would last forever, Fred thought. The leaves began falling more quickly as the wind became ferocious and nearly blew Fred out of the tree and grabbed from branch, holding on for dear life. The wind blew his acorns out of his little gathering area and they hit the grandpa bear, who wasn’t too pleased. Other trees blew with leaves and snow came down with a ferocious speed. At last, Fred had an idea – he would let the wind and snow carry him to a new place. He opened his arms and glided far across the world landing happily in Bermuda. 4b. The phrase that I am exemplifying as rubato begins with an octave C following the opening statement. I would carefully let this octave C (the snowflakes in my story) lead the phrase. It is important to make a rubato a controlled slowing down of the beats. So the way to teach this slower phrase is to say 1-and-2-and-3-and-4-and – slowing down as evenly as possible. To slow down too abruptly creates a stuttered feeling and a smooth rubato is the goal. With this particular phrase you kind of let the listener anticipate the first beat without giving it away too soon.