Hall - Military Minuet: based on Haydn
Pauline Hall has arranged and adapted the Minuet movement from a symphony by Joseph Haydn. The title refers to the symphony – Haydn's 100th – which is known as the “Military” Symphony.
It is one of a series of twelve (nos 93-104) which Haydn wrote between 1791 and 1795 for two visits to London. The “Military” name was given to the symphony later because of the orchestration of the second movement, which reflects a contemporary fashion for “Turkish” sounds: in this case the triangle, cymbals and bass drum.
The movement also contains a dramatic bugle call and solo timpani roll – a startling innovation which Haydn followed up in his Symphony 103 – adding to the martial atmosphere.
Listen to the symphony movement here:
Pupil Match & Suitability
This piece will suit a student who enjoys playing chords and is good at playing strictly in time. The “Military” mood will appeal to a wide range of students but is less well suited to the quiet, reflective player.
Those who have trouble with internalising the beat and managing subdivisions may be challenged by the four semiquavers-two crotchets rhythm.
Style & Tempo
As this piece was directly inspired by a Classical orchestral piece, this is the stylistic reference point. It can generally be treated as a normal 1790s-style minuet. However, rather than a fortepiano the modern grand piano is intended as the instrument, with an awareness of the orchestral sound of the original movement.
The tempo should be around 120 bpm for a crotchet, in keeping with both the technical difficulties and the minuet dance. A tempo below 115 will risk sounding ponderous.
Phrasing & Articulation
Phrases are regular and symmetrically organised, as expected within the conventions of this music. The first two bars are a question and answer which could be given a slight sense of echo. Bars 9-12 are more unified as a four-bar phrase.
Articulation is an interesting blend of staccato and legato, especially in the middle section (Bars 9-13). A crisp and carefully graded staccato is the sound to aim for, and a clear legato for the Alberti bass quavers. There is more room for manoeuvre in Bars 3,7 and 15 where the crotchets against the RH staccato can be lightly detached if preferred.
The crotchet rests in bars 4 and 8 are important moments of complete silence in a busy piece and should not be overlooked.
Tone & Texture
As an arrangement of an orchestral piece this lends itself to exploring different sounds away from the piano, listening to and identifying the instruments of the Classical orchestra used in this movement.
The sound of a full orchestra contrasting with selected sections will help the student to make choices about the tone they use at the piano.
This piece calls for a nice mix of techniques. The LH gets to play chord patterns in both solid chord and Alberti bass forms; the RH has semiquavers which introduce the classical “turn” in an unthreatening way; some notes require slurred touch. There is also a need for the LH 5th finger to play on a black note (bar 11), which some students may find odd until they become comfortable with moving the whole hand forward into the keys.
Combining staccato and legato is not always easy (see “Troubleshooting”). Staccato chords may need attention to prevent their becoming ragged. Maintaining good accurate chord shapes in bars 1-2 and 4-6 without becoming tense will be a matter for practice, relaxing the hand back on to the keys between chords whilst keeping the fingers on their respective keys.
Although it would lie under the hand better, it is not advisable to start on finger 5 in the RH as the semiquavers will sound better played by stronger fingers. Finger 4 and a slight stretch to the thumb on the crotchet is better.
Bar 3 RH is a snippet of a chromatic scale, so it may be less confusing for some students to use a 3 on the F sharp rather than 2. This keeps it fully consistent with the scale fingering they will have learned.
No pedal is needed.
Listening to a recording of the original symphony movement will help to establish the sound world. The highly conventional form and harmonies of the piece make it ideal as a source of examples of types of cadence, foursquare question-and-answer phrasing, modulation and form.
Although such concepts may be considered advanced for students at this level, a foundation can be laid using simpler language (“Does it sound as though it has finished?” at the imperfect cadence, for example; or “Why is there a C sharp in these bars? What would happen if we played C natural instead?”)
Rhythm is vital in this piece so use a metronome to keep the beats in place, especially where crotchet rests are used.
To prevent hurry or anxiety over the semiquavers, try playing them each twice, and also play the whole group of four twice before moving to the crotchet.
If the Alberti bass in the middle section is causing hesitation, play all the notes of each bar at the same time (i.e. as a block chord) and practise the shift of fingering needed to get to the next bar's chord. Note which fingers move and which stay in place.
Beware of the frequent tendency of the thumb to dominate Alberti bass patterns. If this starts to happen, practise playing the LH Bars 9-13 as if the quaver on each beat were marked with an accent. This will make the dynamic level too loud but the balance correct, so then the overall loudness can be reduced retaining the same balance.
An excellent performance will have both the fun of a dance and the precision of a military drill! There will be evidence of the student having absorbed the sounds of the symphonic original and using these to colour their piano playing. Technical issues will be fully overcome. Boldness and elegance will work together to good effect.
A good performance will show no difficulties with the rhythms or chord shapes and the articulation will be clear. There will be a sense of control and musical shaping to the phrases. Dynamics will be varied appropriately. It will be a stylish performance.
A sound performance may fall short of handling all the rhythmic and textural variety of the piece. Nevertheless there will be good recovery from any slips and a sense of careful preparation. Balance may be lacking in the Alberti bass playing. The tempo may be on the cautious side to ensure fluency in the semiquavers, lending the piece a slight heaviness.