Thiman - Flood Time
Eric Harding Thiman (1900-1975) was an English composer and organist, who wrote a great deal of choral and church music as well as educational pieces for piano. Musically he stood in line of descent from Stainer, Stanford and Parry, but with his sights firmly fixed on practicality and accessibility – composing a great deal for the amateur player and the less ambitious choir.
He was dean of the Music Faculty of the University of London for a time. In the 1960s he was an adjudicator at the Hong Kong Schools' Music Festival.
His set of six “Water Pieces” were published in 1932 while he was Professor of harmony at the Royal Academy of Music in London. The other five pieces are called “Little Brook”, “Lakeside”, “Dragonfly”, “Swan Song” and “Evening on the Water”.
Pupil Match & Suitability
This will suit a student with a strong sense of drama, who wants to project power from the keyboard and stir up the audience's response.
It could also be learned by a less outgoing student who admires this type of playing but has not yet really had a go.
By the time the piece is performed, a sound grasp of legato pedalling will be essential, together with confidence in moving around the keyboard, crossing hands and making quick repositions of chord shapes.
In addition, strength and willingness to play loudly will need to be tempered by a delicacy in making the RH accompaniments murmur when the LH melody is to the fore.
Style & Tempo
This piece is in a typically English style that draws upon German Romantic language, but with a distinctive English flavour that makes it lighter and more quirky.
“Flood-time” simply depicts a place, an event, a mood; it is of the moment, and reflection is for later. For now, this music shares an experience, not a discussion of its meaning.
In keeping with the swirling watery mood, some rubato may be used to shape the ends of phrases. However, it should not be over-used as this could interfere with the onward momentum of the music.
Phrasing & Articulation
Phrasing is irregular but natural, and is easily achieved simply by following the contours of the music.
As marked, it never really settles into a steady pattern, with four-bar phrases being subdivided into 3+1 or 2+2, and plenty of one-bar gestures. This is consistent with the effect of eddying currents.
Tone & Texture
The texture is immediately established by the broken chords of bar 1 and the dramatic block chords of bar 2.
The composer then starts to bring forward individual notes which later become a melodic line that can be followed through the rhapsodic, ringing chord accompaniment. This requires a careful selection of tones to give clarity to his intentions.
This piece is a marvellous study for the release of tension while playing strongly.
For a good warm forte the weight of the whole arm, and even the upper body, needs to be available. The student should develop an awareness of the feeling of freedom, and whilst practising should stop periodically to check that nothing is becoming locked.
Broken-chord fingerings will be much used.
Pedalling will enable non-legato fingering to be used where tone and emphasis are important – e.g. bar 11 where a LH 3 will support the arm weight.
Bars 5 and 6 show the last two beats played by the LH, but this requires a very swift move back down the piano. Since this will all be pedalled it may be easier to take the last note of the bar with the RH to allow more time to reposition the LH.
Take care to match the sound, so that the shape of the phrase is not lost.
Pedalling is required throughout and legato pedal changes are essential.
This means checking that the student has a good pedal technique and does not lift the heel, which in the excitement of this piece could easily degenerate into stamping on the pedal.
This piece can be used as a hands-on instruction manual for identifying chords and inversions, applying what the student may well be tackling in their theory work.
Where chords cannot easily be named, it can be explained that this is part of the style and colour of the music.
Try marking out a copy of the music with symbols to show where the RH takes over the same notes as the LH, and places where the same chord shape is repeated in a different octave.
A simple system such as circling the relevant groups or placing an = sign between them will suffice. This will aid memorisation, if that is the goal, but also help with fluent reading from the score.
Blurred pedalling needs to be carefully listened for and eradicated.
It can be a result of poor pedal technique such as lifting the heel or not allowing enough time for a clean and full change.
Explain and demonstrate how it is possible to lift the pedal as the new chord begins and replace it smoothly and without hurry while the first couple of notes are being played.
If coordination is a problem, slow down the entire sequence of actions so that the movements of the pedal are consciously integrated with the hands and the exact moment for each movement is known.
An excellent performance will leave the audience feeling refreshed and excited, almost as if they had really been out on the seashore with the composer. The performer will convey a sense of revelling in the music. The multiple layers of the music will be clearly heard, with the long over-arching lines audible across the chord changes. Flexibility, ease and power will be demonstrated. The dynamic contrasts will be bold, enhancing the dramatic mood.
A good performance will bring a sense of excitement and occasion to the music. The chords will be secure and flowing, and the melodic material audible and well shaped. Dynamics will be varied and there will be a good sense of phrasing. The full drama of the piece may be slightly inhibited but it will be a musical and committed performance.
A sound performance will make a sincere attempt to reproduce the dynamics and tone contrasts of the score. The flow of the chords will be reasonably secure. There will be plenty of appropriate pedal, and some sense of character. Tone may be harsh or not well controlled in places, and the balance between hands may not always succeed.