Bennett - Diversions No. 4
Sir Richard Rodney Bennett is one of those highly talented and versatile musicians who has leant his hand to so many different musical projects and styles, from film music to that of a brilliant solo jazz cabaret artist.
Having studied with Boulez in the 1950s, he later abandoned the advanced style of serialism and became more immersed in jazz influenced idioms.
Pupil Match & Suitability
For the child with very small hands there may be difficulties stretching some of the RH chords. However, these can mostly be rearranged for the LH to share.
A sensitive approach is called for and a feeling for the wistfulness of the mood.
It is a good piece for the discerning adult.
Style & Tempo
To describe a piece as 'modern' or 20th Century means very little, given the preponderance of different 20th Century styles.
It is very much in the English tradition, in that it is wistful and lyrical with some lovely unexpected harmonies and a modal feel, along with a hint of romanticism.
This short extract from Delius's Rhapsody No 1 gives a taste for the English romantic style, prevalent in the first half of the 20th Century.
Phrasing & Articulation
The marking here is 'legato', and this sums up the mood well.
The length of phrases is partly determined by the commas. There is an ebb and flow to the line which needs a sensitive treatment. Inspiration for this should come from work done on tone and texture , and from listening to the complete performance.
Tone & Texture
Give plenty of thought to creating the right kind of colours and bringing out the tunes from the harmonic background.
Look at the technique section which gives helpful hints on how to go about achieving this.
A performance which does not distinguish between harmony and melodic line will be a very uninteresting one.
Compare the two versions here.
The technical aspects which need care here relate to notes always sounding together in chord playing.
Thirds especially can often become untidy in their coordination.
Pick this up if it is a problem and demonstrate both the tidy and untidy way of playing to your student and get them to work on this.
The problem occurs usually when players push from the key surface (as first illustrated here) rather than raising fingers (second) and playing with a cleaner finger action, as illustrated here.
The fingering, as marked in Universal's edition is very reliable.
Notice, from the video, how in bars 11 and 14, you will need to let go of certain notes in order to manage a fluent legato touch.
Sometimes, as in bars 23 - 24, a perfect legato is not necessary. In fact for many smaller hands this proves difficult. Simply let go of the thumb (top F sharp) later in the bar - the pedal will cover this.
Study the video here which relies mainly upon a legato pedal - often in minims, sometimes in crotchets.
This works fine, especially for a student who may not be that comfortable with using the pedal.
If you wish to achieve a more refined effect, check out the next tab and video.
Many students may struggle to quickly understand the mood and wistful character here. So, be sure to spend sufficient time demonstrating the musical qualities and playing passages to your student for them to emulate.
Think about the best ways to introduce and explain the character. It may be by painting pictures in their mind's eye about something pastoral, or imagining the tunes played on other instruments - the richness of a cello, for example, where the LH has the tune.
Where the playing is more complex - bars 9 - 11 for example - practise playing it very solidly at a slow tempo, ensuring that fingers do play with hands absolutely together.
Where there may be any stretching problems for small hands this can be alleviated by often rearranging the parts to play some of the RH notes in the LH. Failing that, do not be afraid to spread a chord where necessary.
Achieving the right kind of wistful, expressive mood is likely to be one of the main musical concerns.
Listen to related musical material, such as the Delius Dance Rhapsody excerpt in the Style section, even if rather darker than that of Richard Rodney Bennett's writing here.
An excellent performance will have plenty of pianistic colour and subtlety to it. Balance of tone will be sensitively judged and it will not sound dull, nor unhurried.
A good performance will have a level of rubato and flexibility to it if perhaps not with quite the same degree of subtlety in tone and pedalling. The dynamic range will be well observed.
A sound performance will have confidence to it, although as yet the player may not have the command of tonal control to convey the lines with all the colour and evenness of sound needed.