Beethoven - Minuet in G No 2 of WoO 10
The minuet first appeared as a court dance around 1660 in France. By the time Beethoven was composing, the minuet was the only surviving dance from the Baroque era to retain its popularity. As a standard form it was regularly included in all types of multi-movement instrumental music: symphonies, sonatas and chamber music.
Its steps would have been familiar to audiences of his day. Notice the dotted rhythms here, similar to those found in Beethoven's Minuet.
It was partly due to Beethoven's influence that the minuet fell out of favour as a symphony, quartet or sonata movement – he regularly replaced it with a “Scherzo”, following an example set by Haydn.
Pupil Match & Suitability
The student who performs this successfully will have a strong technique – the thirds and 6ths in the first part need good control and this is something that can only be achieved over time. It is possible to give this piece as a development exercise to a student whose technique is not equal to the task but in that case it should be introduced alongside or after more focused exercises such as those in Tankard's “Foundations of Pianoforte Technique”.
Students with small hands may find some of the stretches awkward when trying to achieve a legato (e.g. Bars 12-16). However, this can be overcome by judicious fingering and adopting a less legato style!
Once the technical problems have been conquered, the best performance will be given by a student with a sense of gracefulness in their playing and an empathy with the 18th-century Classical style.
Style & Tempo
A Minuet is danced in a dignified and unhurried way (see video clip under 'Background').
This piece was originally scored for orchestra, a version now lost, and is a straightforward Minuet and Trio with no apparent subtext or abstract connotations.
Phrasing & Articulation
The main minuet music is arranged straightforwardly in 4-bar phrases, with an anacrusis each time.
In the Trio section the phrases are still essentially 4 bars long but can be mentally broken down into shorter sub-phrases for the purposes of shaping (see Teaching Strategies).
Tone & Texture
Through most of the piece, RH is the main carrier of the melody and LH provides the accompaniment. The writing makes it easy to balance the hands, since the RH with its thicker texture and/or faster moving notes will naturally keep the listener's attention. The LH line will stay in the background unless the player actually tries to emphasise it.
The main danger is that the effort of keeping the RH in time will make the tone sound laboured. (See 'Troubleshooting')
The sf markings in Bars 14 and 15 are not sharply accented but more of an extra lean into the notes to give the music a different impetus.
Double thirds and sixths are a feature of the RH in the first 16 bars. The LH plays octave arpeggio and scale notes in bars 13-15. Elsewhere, the LH provides a 'walking' style of bass which should receive its share of technical attention so that it gives adequate support to the RH.
The twisting and turning of the RH in the Trio may need care in learning the notes (consistent fingering is vital) and then in playing without unwanted accents.
Obtaining a comfortable legato in the RH double thirds will require carefully considered fingering.
In Bar 1 there are three possibilities: probably the least popular will be 5/3 4/2. Most students will choose between 5/1 4/2 (three times) and 5/1 3/2 4/1 3/2 (4/1/ 3/2).
There is no need to pedal this music at all. At the very most it could be used in a couple of places such as Bars 13-16 to help join the octave jumps, but it would have to be done skilfully to avoid blurring.
This is not likely to be the first minuet the student has played, but they may not previously have encountered a 'Trio' section.
You can explore this in the Classical orchestral repertoire so that the student gets an idea of how the Trio section would provide a contrast with different scoring and thematic material.
RH thirds and sixths will need lots of slow practice and careful listening so that they stay together and in correct rhythm. Try playing each pair of notes twice (instead of once as notated) to strengthen the fingers and provide steadiness in transferring to the next pair.
The LH jumps around quite a lot. Avoid wavering in mid air – make a single direct move and work to improve your accuracy.
Practise moving between the correct notes without playing them. This creates a good habit of being there early and having time to check the note is right before playing it. Playing jumps with eyes closed can be useful, but only once there has already been success in judging the distance whilst looking!
There is always a danger of unevenness in the thirds, if the student has not invested enough time in slow practice. Encourage them to regard slow practice as a permanent maintenance task. The fingering of RH E/C with 5/4 in Bar 11 – necessary for legato – could be prone to raggedness and should be given extra attention, as the 4th finger will inevitably arrive at its place before the 5th. In the end there may have to be a decision to sacrifice the legato and use a stronger fingering.
Listen critically for signs of the tone becoming laboured in the RH. Keep the thirds as light and effortless as possible, perhaps by imagining two violinists playing one line each.
The big jump in Bar 29 will seem less of a hurdle if treated as part of a change from one chord shape to another.
Beethoven - Minuet in G Grade 4 Level -
A complete performance of Beethoven's Minuet.
An excellent performance will have a real sense of atmosphere, evoking the well-mannered enjoyment of participants in an 18th century dance. The well-known form with its conventions and contrasts will be relished and understood. Technical security will enable just the right tempo to be chosen and maintained. Dynamics will enhance the variety of the performance. Phrasing will be elegant and unfussy.
A good performance will have been well prepared technically to enable the performance to flow with the gracefulness of the dance. Dynamics and phrasing will be nicely judged. Any slight technical insecurities will be well covered by a general confidence and enjoyment of the music. The overall effect will be of competence rather than inspiration.
A sound performance may be testing the limits of the performer's technique in places and this may cause signs of strain. The tempo could be on the ponderous side to enable the thirds and sixths to be played in correct rhythm. However, it will be a fair rendition of the music, with phrasing and dynamics in place and some sense of the character of the minuet.