Bennett - Diversions No. 5
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.
Here he is playing his own piece Wednesday, from A Week of Birthdays.
Pupil Match & Suitability
This is quite a challenging piece since it requires a lot of detail and control and is over almost as soon as it has begun.
Do not give this piece to a student who easily gets nervous when performing, and, for the same reason, it is probably best avoided by adults.
In the hands of a confident student, it can sound very slick.
There are no problems with large chord stretches.
Style & Tempo
The style might best be described as 'modern,' even if such a term is very vague.
Whilst it has an overall tonality centered around A, it is not A minor since it uses a mixture of the flattened 5th alongside the true 5th.
Its harmonic style is fairly chromatic. The Eb often sends the music off in the direction of flat keys, yet gives it a quirky feel.
Phrasing & Articulation
There is a wealth of detail here.
Only very careful slow practice and detailed working when putting hands together will help to achieve the desired effect.
Watch out, particularly, for the moments where RH note should be held whilst LH has a staccato: bars 3, 7, 9, 13 & 19 all on the 2nd beats.
Tone & Texture
The mood is bright and brusque.
It is the variety and speed with which the dynamics change that help to create this effect.
Make certain that the dynamic range from forte in bar 7, to piano in bar 9 is effectively achieved with a carefully judged gradation.
Exaggerate the hairpin crescendo and diminuendo in bars 1 & 2 and later in bars 17 & 18 to really achieve the effect within such a short space of time.
Controlling the fingers with nimbleness and consistency of touch is the main consideration.
More control from the key surface will help to keep the flow of notes tidily articulated.
Too boisterous a finger action will make for a heavier and uncharacteristic quality.
Notice in the reflection here how the in the first versions of each passage the fingers remain closely in contact with the key surface and the action is controlled and neat. In the second versions the finger action is too energetic to retain control, especially at quicker and quieter levels.
Use the printed fingering, but pay careful attention to some suggestions under the following tabs.
Pedalling is not needed.
Detailed work is needed from the very beginning.
Work only slowly but without missing anything.
When putting together, be certain to do this in bits, taking care to ensure sufficient work is done on the joins.
As ever, slow practice is the key to success.
If you can demonstrate to your student that by doing this carefully they will achieve the right result then they are more likely to be persuaded.
Don't ever simply tell them to practise without being very prescriptive about how.
Perhaps the hardest aspect of playing this piece is in performance itself.
It goes by very quickly and if your student gets nervous it could end up being a mess.
Practise the actual performance in plenty of time before the concert, exam or competition.
The end result will reflect the quality of preparation, so pay very careful and detailed attention to this.
An excellent performance will be a confident, nimble and colourful one with excellent attention to all the detail of articulation.
A good performance will have plenty of energy to it but may lack some of the detail and tautness of coordination which an excellent performance possesses.
A sound performance may be a little under tempo, but should still have a sense of shape and overall momentum to it. It should sound solid, even if it lacks real character.