Gliere - Prelude Op 43 No 1
Reinhold Gliere (1875 - 1956) was a Russian composer of German-Polish descent. He studied at the Moscow Conservatoire, later becoming professor of composition.
Two of his most famous pupils were Prokofiev and Khachaturian.
As well as composing piano music, Gliere wrote symphonies, ballet music a harp concerto and chamber music for smaller groups.
Listen here to a piece that shows Gliere's Russian cultural background - the Russian Sailor's Dance.
Please note that there is (intentionally) no video here.
Pupil Match & Suitability
This is a flowing piece that will appeal to many students although it will only sound at its best when performed with good technical control of evenness and tone.
A student who is comfortable with using rubato will enjoy shaping the phrases musically, but help with identifying the melodic lines and harmonic patterns will probably be needed at first.
Style & Tempo
The style is one of a flowing colour- wash of arpeggios over which a melodic line is traced. The melodic line is taken by the RH in the outer sections, with the LH taking overthe tune in the middle section.
Listen here to the second movement of Gliere's symphony, which is shows some similarity in mood to the Prelude and also demonstrates the way in which the melody lines should be strongly projected above the accompanying textures.
Phrasing & Articulation
The articulation needs to be completely legato, with the first bass note of each bar and the RH melody notes slightly over-held for emphasis.
It is important - and relatively easy - for the fingers to create the legato where possible, rather than relying on the pedal to do this. The longer RH melody notes need to be held for their full value.
Tone & Texture
Creating a beautiful, singing tone for the melody lines is essential here.
In some bars, such as 6, 8, 9 and 10, the melody notes are emphasised by longer note values.
Elsewhere there are hidden melodies to be found, such as in the descending scale pattern of the RH notes C, B, A natural in Bars 1 - 2. These should also be emphasised by a little extra weight and length
The main technical challenge here is to play the arpeggios with control and yet also with musical shape.
Tonal uniformity and rhythmic evenness are not sufficient to give a stylish performance, since this is an expressive piece that requires careful tonal gradation both within the bar and over the whole phrase.
Evenness of rhythm in a piece such as this is actually an illusion, since the use of rubato involves slightly shortening some notes, balanced by slightly lengthening others, as well as pushing the pace forward, then relaxing the movement to help to shape the phrases.
This may be demonstrated by using a metronome whilst listening to a recording. The performance will certainly not remain metronomically precise, nor should it do so.
Fingering is initially straightforward. At Bar 9 and 10, 21 and 22 it is necessary to change fingers from 5 to 4 on the long RH melody notes, in order to sustain them whilst playing the accompanying arpeggios.
The LH fingering of Bars 25 - 32 is very important, since it is only possible to play these bars legato with carefully considered fingering. Fortunately the fingering given in the ABRSM edition is perfectly sound and should be followed.
This piece must be played with sustaining pedal for a stylistically sound performance.
The composer has not given pedal indications but the editor supplies the useful suggestion of using legato pedal, changing the pedal on every minim beat.
It is particularly important to sustain the first of the six quavers since these notes are either important bass notes or melody notes.
This is music that requires confident fluency so the notes must not be insecure.
When we can play a piece fluently, we are not really reading the score note by note, but rather using it to cue our memory.
Therefore teach the piece by asking the student to play each minim unit as a chord instead of reading every note. This will mean that only two chords per bar have to be remembered, rather than twelve notes - membory and, hence, fluency will be enhanced.
A good practice strategy is to replicate the content of each lesson so the student might, for instance, begin by practising the RH of Bars 25 - 32, noticing the pattern of alternating notes a third apart, followed by a scale.
During the next part of the practice session, possibly after a short break (since we know that concentration is better after a break) the LH of this passage could be memorised.
Before memorisation can take place the student has to be able to recall the tune mentally. They should listen carefully as they play just the LH until they can sing it. Then a very small amount should be memorised at a time.
No guess work should be involved here. If the student cannot remember what comes next they should calmly wait until they recall it, or look back at the score. Repeated guessing causes insecurity since recall is not selective and all tries will be stored in the memory.
A common problem here is lack of confident pedal technique. Many students attempt to change the pedal very quickly, imagining that if they do this swiftly enough, they can defy the reality of the piano action and be able to depress the pedal at the same time as the next note.
This just results in a half-pedalled effect, in which some of the previous harmony is carried forward into the next chord.
The character of the outer sections of this piece, happily, is relatively forgiving in this respect - although this is no excuse for sloppy pedalling. The student's true colours will show in the middle section where pedalling, if used, needs to be much more precise.
The most important advice, often quoted is to 'pedal with your ears'. Good technique can only be usefully applied if the student listens to the effect they are producing.
An excellent performance will reflect the essentially tranquil character of the music, becoming more passionate in the louder section from Bar 17 to 22.
The poised tone will have the silvery quality of a flowing stream, with the melodic lines projected firmly yet beautifully.
There will be well judged rubato that both draws our attention to the most poignant notes and also reflects the phrasing, without being too obvious.
Pedalling will enhance the tone and smooth the legato.
A good performance will be secure in fluency, demonstrating appropriate detail and use of sustaining pedal. Phrasing will be shaped convincingly although the performance may lack intuitive, natural rubato. The melody will be projected, but perhaps without the beauty of tone to be found in an excellent performance.
A sound performance will be secure in notes and rhythms, with few slips and will demonstrate sufficient technical control to give reasonable rhythmic evenness. Sustaining pedal will be used, with varying degrees of success and there will be some dynamic variety.