Dyson - Melody
George Dyson (1883 – 1964) was an English composer, born in Yorkshire. This piece is from a collection of Twelve Easy Pieces for piano, although Dyson is probably best known for his choral music for Christian church services.
Here is one of Dyson's best known choral works, the Magnificat in D:
Pupil Match & Suitability
This is a piece that requires a sense of the singing melodic lines and also the ability to bring out the tune in either hand.
Control of legato articulation is needed too.
It is suitable for children and adults in appeal and lies well under the finger of small hands since the largest chord is only the interval of a sixth.
Charlotte plays here at the age of 4 years.
Style & Tempo
The most obvious observation is that this is indeed a melody, with accompaniment. It is essential, then, that a cantabile style of playing should be adopted, in as far as the Grade 2 student is capable.
As well as 'cantabile' meaning that the melody is clearly projected over the accompaniment, this term suggests that the tone should be beautiful, in the style of lovely singing, and legato must be even and smooth.
If we were to think of an Italian term to describe the music, 'dolce' would probably be the most apt one, since the music is sweet and gentle throughout.
The character needs a simple yet expressive approach, using a natural sounding sense of phrase. A little ritardando would sound effective in Bar 12.
Phrasing & Articulation
The overall structure is best though of as four-bar phrases that are comprised of two, one-bar units followed by an answering two-bar unit.
This musical thinking will give a much more satisfactory flow than thinking in terms of a one-bar phrase, then another and then a two-bar phrase since that would chop the musical line up.
For a convincing sense of phrase, the markings could be interpreted as indications of tonal nuance, for example the last RH note of Bar 1 needs to be a little quieter than the one before it.
The final three bars are a little codetta that gives a satisfactory ending to the piece.
Tone & Texture
The texture is always melody and accompaniment. Because the accompaniment is a single line it should not be too difficult to keep it quieter than the tune, which will sing out quite easily in the RH.
Bars 9 - 12 however have the melody in the LH and here it will be more challenging to play the LH a little louder whilst keeping a quieter RH.
Dynamics are fairly quiet throughout, with the loudest section only mf.
The main technical requirements are to play with smoothly controlled legato and to bring out the melody lines beautifully.
Keeping a little space between the fingers and the keys, instead of resting all the fingers on the keys, will help control of tonal evenness and legato articulation.
The hand needs to be flexible and to rock slightly from side to side so that the fingers do not have to work so hard. Good technique looks and feels easy!
The fingering suggested in the ABRSM edition is sound. Notice the way in which the LH adopts standard C major fingering for the downward scale in Bars 11-12.
Consistent fingering gives more secure memorisation of notes and allows greater fluency.
Pedalling is not expected at Grade 2 but a touch of pedal will enhance the tone of the final bars. The pedal could be put down just after the first beat of Bar 18 and released at the end of the minim.
Pedal again just after the second minim and again just after the final chord is sounded. This will give a gentler connection between the notes of the two final bars.
If the piece is to be performed fro memory this should colour the teaching strategy right from the start.
Memorisation is much easier when the structure of a piece is understood so repeated patterns and changes of key should be flagged up. Knowing why the B is natural in the bars from 5 - 8, giving first an A minor feel before the modulation to C major, is something that can be explained in simple terms.
Similarly the LH is easier to remember if we see that Bar 9 is almost repeated in Bar 10 - there are simply a few notes to connect the LH D with the Bb. This is followed by a C major scale, with an extra G on the second beat of Bar 11.
Practice should be with a view to memorising the music accurately. There is no virtue in trying to play from memory by guessing - the score must be followed until it is securely internalised.
Listening to the piece many times before beginning to learn it is very helpful as the student will then know how it should sound, as well as how the character might be expressed.
Slow practice with either hand is needed, taking a small section at a time. Short sections may then be practised much more slowly with hands together.
Sllow just as long for the learning of every phrase. Do not neglect the latter part of the piece in favour of just playing the better-known beginning!
The worst thing a student could do with this piece is to play it in a march-like way without a feel for the lovely melody.
Every stage of learning should be undertaken with musical intention, bearing in mind that character is created here principally by the elements of tone, texture, articulation and dynamics.
Phrasing that is rigid with no flexibility will prevent an expressive singing style too, so use of the metronome needs to be strictly limited so as not to spoil the natural sense of rubato needed here.
An excellent performance will show the gentle character of the piece in tone, yet there will be some contrast too. Phrasing will be well shaped, with a natural sense of rubato that comes from a feel for the singing style. Fluency will be assured at an appropriate pace and the textures will be defined effectively, with smooth legato lines achieved.
A good performance will be secure in continuity and accuracy and some sense of character will be evident but without, perhaps, the subtle nuance of tonal gradation heard in an excellent interpretation. There will be appropriately subtle dynamic contrast although the hands may need more careful balance and legato articulation will be used.
A sound performance will have overall security and any small slips will not affect the continuity. The pace may be a little cautious and there might not be much dynamic variety - or dynamics may be overstated. Articulation will be mainly legato, with maybe a few breaks in smoothness in inappropriate places.