Hindemith - Lied (Song) from Let's Build a Town
'Music is a meaning less noise unless it touches a receiving mind,' said Paul Hindemith, the composer of this piece.
For you to enjoy playing, teaching or learning this piece you really need to know something of its background.
Lied, meaning Song, comes from a children's operetta called 'Wir Bauen ein Stadt', meaning 'We're Building a Town' or 'Let's build a Town'. You can hear the actual song here.
The operetta was composed in 1930, towards the end of the short Weimar Socialist Republic era in which inflation rocketed and Germany was very unstable socially and politically. The theme of the operetta is one of co-operation to build a town where everyone will live happily together.
Pupil Match & Suitability
This is a piece that will appeal to all ages and there are no large stretches so it is suitable for children's small hands, there is lots of repetition making it easy to learn and the tune is all in the RH.
This is Sarah playing:
Style & Tempo
The style is almost that of a lighthearted march. It is easy to imagine lots of children walking along, cheerfully singing the song.
The character is that of a simple song, with accompaniment and the piece needs only subtle dynamic shading, but with a clear sense of phrase.
The pace is moderate with a metronome mark of crotchet = 69 - 80 suggested, although the upper end of this tempo range works best, if not even a little quicker.
Phrasing & Articulation
The melody is mainly just legato, with the only RH articulation marking in Bars 10 and 11 where slurs should be observed.
The LH is more specific in articulation. The timing of notes and the slurs should be quite strictly adhered to. Bars 1 - 4 look difficult but are actually easy! The notes all fall on main beats of the bar 1-2-3-4, just being shortened on beats 2 and 4, making it simpler to find the next chord.
The whole hand needs to move to the side with a gentle swinging action rather than straining to keep it over all the notes at once.
The minims in LH Bars 7 - 11 must be sustained fully since these emulate the instrumental accompaniment to the song.
Tone & Texture
The melody in the RH goes with the words the children sing in the song therefore the RH needs to be prominent in tone.
The only ambiguous phrase is at Bars 5 - 6 where it might be unclear where the melody lies. However if we listen again to the song we can hear that the tune transfers briefly from RH to LH at Bar 6, returning to the RH as the scale ascends from the LH middle C up via D and E to return to the RH at Beat 3.
Dynamic markings are given by the editor and work very well to give colour and interest, particularly the crescendo through Bars 7 - 11.
This piece is quite easy technically as long as it is well known in notes and rhythms. The main challenge is probably the held LH dotted crotchets in the opening bars but these will begin to flow once the LH finds a sense of rhythmic movement.
The key to managing the LH is more in understanding it and making it absolutely secure in accuracy than in the actual finger movements.
A projected RH tone is needed too and this needs to be achieved by letting the weight of the arms relax into the keys, rather than bouncing the hand to make a louder sound.
The correct movement is simple, like walking the hand along the keys. Fingers should not rest on the keys and need to be lifted, but ought to be held a little off the keys so that the action seems more like side to side rocking than pushing.
The edition used here is the Trinity Guildhall Grade 2 Pieces and Exercises Book 2009 - 2011. Fingering is clearly marked where needed. Important fingering choices are -
Bar 5: LH finger 4 on the B, Beat 4
Bar 14: RH finger 4 on the C, Beat 1.
The fingering shown for the LH opening bars is very good as it guides the hand in correct technique as long as the rests are observed.
Pedalling is not needed here.
When teaching a piece always look for what is easy. Although the LH looks rhythmically difficult is is not! The rhythms is just simple 1-2-3-4, fitting the words: Building Building Building Building.
The other easy aspect of the piece is its repetitive nature. It is encouraging for the student to know that once they have learned to play the LH beginning they have actually learned six bars' worth, which is nearly half the piece!
Similarly the RH at Bars 7 - 11 repeats itself with just small modification in Bars 10 and 11. Look for and explain the sequential movement of the LH in that section.
The clear structure of the piece makes it easy to focus on one section at a time in practice sessions. The part that will need most practice is Bars 5 - 6 where there is movement in each hand, although this is, of course, just scales.
Separate hands practice of each section is needed, followed by very slow hands together practice. It is more rewarding to learn a little at a time complete than to learn all the RH, then all the LH before hands together work starts.
You could follow this practice pattern:
Bars 1 - 4
Bars 5 -6
Bars 7 - 11
Bars 12 - 16
Extra practice Bars 5 - 6 and 15 - 16.
Bars 5 - 6 will certainly need extra work, both in terms of learning accuracy and also in achieving a feel for the melody line passing from one hand to the other.
The chords at the end must be secured - many examination candidates may come to grief right at the end of the piece because they are unsure of the chords.
An excellent performance of this piece will be fluent and neatly managed in tonal balance and rhythmic control. There will be a cheerful feel for the character, with some dynamic grading to show the phrasing. The pace will be moderate, giving an unhurried yet rhythmical sense of movement.
A good performance will be secure in notes and rhythms, with some sense of phrase evident even though the hands may not yet be sufficiently balanced to give a clear feel for melody and accompaniment.
A sound performance will show a quite reliable grasp of notes with quick recovery from any small slips giving overall continuity. The pace might be rather cautious and long LH notes may not be held for the full value but the RH rhythms will be accurate.