Gedicke - Miniature in D minor Op 8 No 2
Alexander Fyodorovich Gedike (1877-1957) was born into a family of musicians – his father taught at the Moscow Conservatory – and lived in Russia all his life. He was best known during his lifetime as a Bach player on the organ, although he also had a career as a concert pianist and professor of piano at the Moscow Conservatory. After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917 he remained in the Soviet Union where his conservative style of composing caused no conflict with the authorities. He was awarded several honours including the Stalin Prize.
An alternative German spelling of his name, Goedicke, may often be found, as it seems to have been commonly used in Eastern Europe where his work is more widely known.
The idea of a “miniature” is central to the Romantic movement, in which fragments, impressions and captured moments are taken as rich sources of musical inspiration. This lovely, lyrical piece – with its abstract title leaving everything to the imagination - is firmly in that genre despite having been written much later.
Pupil Match & Suitability
As a slow, expressive and lyrical piece this will suit a student who loves the poetic side of music. Imagination and feelings are paramount: shyness and formality will hinder effective performance.
However, this same student needs to be capable of great attention to detail in learning the notes, coordinating the hands and creating the phrasing.
A large hand is not needed, as there is no stretch beyond a seventh, but flexibility and strength (not for loudness but for warm tone) in all fingers is certainly required.
This is a technically and musically challenging piece which in skilled and sympathetic hands will leave a listener genuinely moved. An under-prepared, haphazard or wooden performance is to be avoided at all costs.
Style & Tempo
A lyrical piece in Romantic style, with the LH taking the limelight and much hand-crossing. The minor key and simple texture provide ample place for expressive playing. Warm tone, sensitive pedalling and rubato are essential.
Tempo is marked as Sostenuto, which is an invitation to tarry and savour each moment. In metronome terms (bearing in mind the likely use of rubato) this could range between 65 and 75 bpm for a crotchet. Any faster and the repeated quavers will begin to sound agitato. At slower speeds there is a risk of making the melodic line too drawn-out and losing the flow.
Phrasing & Articulation
Both phrasing and articulation are central to the musical effect. The LH carries the melody back and forth between upper and lower registers in 2-bar question-and-answer fashion.
Then from bar 9 a longer line develops to which a counter-melody is added, fragmenting at bar 13 and then rebuilding into the opening patterns to conclude.
Although the accompaniment is marked with the same articulation throughout, there is a subtle dynamic shaping through the bar and no hint of monotony.
Articulation of the melodies will be mostly legato, with tenuto weight added as marked.
The use of pedal will inevitably blur the RH quaver semi-staccato but the phrases will lose shape if the articulation is not carefully followed. Pedalling will round out the legato but should not be used as a substitute for it.
Tone & Texture
A clear example of a melody-plus-accompaniment texture throughout. The accompaniment is mostly a murmuring series of repeated quaver chords. It remains in a very limited range in the middle of the piano and is continuous apart from bars 14-15. The melodic lines woven above and below this accompaniment require a cantabile tone and careful phrasing.
There is a dramatic drop into a low bass register in the last two bars.
No dynamic markings are given beyond the opening p, which is followed by sparse crescendo and diminuendo marks. The implication is that the dynamic level remains low at all times. The dynamic high point of the piece is probably bars 12-13 where something approaching mf could be attained. This will seem louder in the generally quiet context.
This overall quietness should not be translated into flatness of tone. The Romantic style requires expressiveness, so each phrase will have its own dynamic rise and fall as part of its shape.
Hand crossing is a major feature. The music requires not only accuracy but tonal control with the hands crossed.
Between bars 9 and 13 there is an extra challenge of playing a counter-melody so the two hands must produce three layers of tone.
This should be tackled hands separately and only attempted hands together once the required control is secure in each hand. Even then, expect an apparent setback at first when putting hands together as the extra coordination will need to be established.
Bar 4 RH could use 4 on F if that is easier to control.
Bar 9 RH if legato is desired between the accented E and the D in bar 10, change the chord fingering to 3/5 no later than the middle of the bar, then play the E with 2.
Bar 11 RH the top C could be played with 4 for a better legato.
Bar 15 LH chords could be fingered 3/2/1 then 4/2/1 to ease the jump on to the next D.
The pedal is vital to the texture and will need to be changed smoothly in line with harmony changes. However, it should not be used as a general covering for haphazard articulation. Practise the RH accompaniment without pedal and make it as smooth as possible so that in a performance there is flexibility to use less pedal if necessary.
Where the staccato is marked in the LH of bars 20-21, lifting the pedal is an option to make an actual break in the line. However, this could sound mannered so keep an open mind (and ear) about the desired effect.
Una corda is not marked but could be used with care in places where that tone quality might be considered effective (perhaps in the LH echo in bars 7-8 or the reprise of the opening in bars 17-19). As its sound varies so much between pianos it would be wise to prepare the piece without UC and add it only if confident of the result.
If you have a target date for an important performance, start unusually early with learning the notes. This allows time for the technical challenges which will occupy the student beyond the normal issues of putting the hands together.
Once this has been mastered there are further layers of work to be done on refining the tone, balance, phrasing and pedalling. Finally, the musical meaning has to be explored and interpretation developed and tested in performance. The very best performances of this piece will have matured over time, perhaps set aside for a while and then re-awakened, so that no technical or musical uncertainties remain.
Some bars will take longer than others to master. The most difficult are probably 9 (last beat) 10, 12 and 13, for the pure difficulty of bringing out two melodic lines and an accompaniment using only two hands. This may well be the student's first encounter with such complexity of coordination and it can only be made secure by long patient practice.
Work on these bars very early in the note-learning stage.
Repeated RH quavers will require great control and (ultimately) the ability to adjust them during performance to sound right on an unfamiliar piano. It is well worth putting in a lot of practice to be assured of that control. Insist on a high level of listening attention and awareness of how each and every quaver chord is graded.
Some may have difficulty making the transition from careful detailed finger control to easy lyrical rubato. Students who have taken great care to assemble the notes with precision now need to relax and let the music flow. Playing the melodic lines on their own, singing along or imagining other instruments playing will help.
The repeated quavers will need to be played very sensitively to prevent their becoming insistent or obtrusive. On a resonant piano this could be made worse by pedalling. It is vital to listen and adjust the tone and dynamic of the RH.
The quiet overall dynamic may tempt some students into playing without depth to avoid accidental loudness. Explain how dynamics are all relative, and warmth of tone takes priority over keeping below a certain decibel level. On a piano with a very hard tone, it may even be necessary to use the una corda to soften the sound.
This is a piece which will get better and better with familiarity and repeated performance. Don't let the crucial performance be the first one given!
An excellent performance will be enchanting. The left hand will weave rich melodic lines through a supple and unobtrusive RH accompaniment. Rubato will be used to good effect without distortion. Tone and technical issues will be managed with complete ease and confidence. Expressive moments will clearly come from the heart and the listener will feel genuinely moved.
A good performance will show signs of real lyricism in the melody. The tone will be warm and phrasing well shaped. The accompaniment will be kept in the background but may possibly seem a little inflexible in the quaver movement. There may be a slight sense of inhibition in the expression, or alternatively it may be too “pulled about” and overstated. Pedalling will be well-judged and competent.
A sound performance will be taken at a suitable tempo and a correct balance between the hands will be mostly maintained. Pedalling will be generally applied, but could perhaps be slightly distracting, especially if blurring occurs. Cantabile tone and lyrical phrasing will be attempted but not always kept up consistently. An impression of anxiety or occasional slips will prevent the mood from being musically compelling.