Hofmann - Zur Laute (To the lute)
Heinrich Hofmann (1842 - 1902), German composer and pianist, is relatively little known today, despite his fame as an orchestral composer in the 1870s and 1880s.
We was a pupil of Kullak.
Pupil Match & Suitability
The need to be able to learn fairly quickly is important here.
For most young pianists, this style of piano writing - with its constant semiquaver accompaniment spread between the hands - is not an easy one to get to grips with.
The challenge is to be able to get the notes under the fingers quickly so that concentration and focus can be given to the development of musical qualities.
Good use of the wrist and forearm flexibility should help younger pupils to more easily get small hands around some of the larger stretches.
Style & Tempo
The melting, tender romantic style is very evident here. It is very simply a brief tune over a rippling accompaniment.
However the structure is well balanced and the more turbulent middle section helps to give a satisfying structure to the composition.
Phrasing & Articulation
There are two 8 bar phrases in between which there is a 10 bar phrase. At the beginning there is a brief quasi free introduction and at the end a contemplative short coda.
The fact that semiquavers are in abundance should not divert the musical attention away from the tune at the trop of the RH line. Always consider these longer note values and let them reach out and forwards into the middle of the phrase and onwards to the end without allowing it to sag midway.
Compare these two versions where the first simply does not have the required momentum, and where the second has greater flexibility and musical poetry to it.
Tone & Texture
Clearly this demands a cantabile touch on the top line.
Of itself this should not prove difficult. However the RH also has to fill in with semiquavers in places and therefore has a dual role.
Practise the top line cantabile alone first, as shown here.
Cantabile, as a technique, has been mentioned in the section on tone.
Otherwise, it is important to apply a flexible LH wrist and forearm in order to best negotiate the various LH arpeggio patterns which do cover a fairly wide range of the keyboard.
Notice, in this example, how supple the hand is and how it prepares for the next chord in plenty of time. Nothing is snatched, hurried or awkward.
Always strive to make your playing feel comfortable.
Follow the obvious split between hands, as far as the semiquaver accompaniment is concerned.
The printed fingering for the LH usually works well.
Note that wrist flexibility is essential to provide the necessary ease for this to work (as illustrated).
A good legato pedalling is needed throughout. Mainly this is applied in dotted crotchets to fit with the harmonic changes.
Mostly this is straightforward and should consist of lifting the pedal after the beat whilst ensuring that the LH holds the bass note until the pedal captures it.
Notice how the pedal comes right up and clears the previous sound completely, but without making a bumpy noise.
It is important to get your students to learn the notes quickly so that they can then concentrate upon the musical qualities.
The music is built up from arpeggio patterns, so analyze the chords with your students and get them to learn where their LH needs to go from memory.
By this stage the student should be capable of monitoring their own practice and taking responsibility for their own learning to a greater degree.
Encourage them to plan out their own practice and to achieve what they set out to achieve each week, rather than perhaps aiming to achieve but not getting there.
Insist on confident note playing as soon as possible. Work hard on learning the notes with vigour until these are easily known.
If you find that your student is struggling with this piece, it may well be that it is beyond them at this stage. Better to choose something new at an early stage than to labour on when the prospects of achieving anything better is only a distant one.
If note reading is not quick then memorizing - so long as this is relatively quicker - could be a valuable option.
An excellent performance has tenderness and suppleness about it. The rippling semiquavers are fed by the momentum of the musical line and the harmonic impetus, helping to support the melodic flow with ease and eloquence.
A good performance sits comfortably with performer and audience alike. It has expressive nuances and some subtlety about it even if there are areas which are more refined than others, or that at times passion wins out to refinement.
A sound performance will have a feeling for the style and mood. There may well be a rather more deliberate sense of top line projection than subtlety of tone, and aspects of balance may well still require working on. However it will have a comfortable tempo to it and have good accuracy and fluency despite, perhaps, some musical shortcomings.