Galuppi - Adagio: 1st mv Sonata in D Op. 1, No. 4
Galuppi's Adagio, the first movement from Sonata in D Op 1 No 4 is set for the ABRSM Grade 6 piano exam 2011-2012.
The style of this piece is that of a predominant, top-line melody that is almost vocal in character, accompanied by two other parts that could be thought of as string instruments, viola and cello.
A good idea of appropriate style may be gained from listening to this recording of Bach's famous Air, which is also vocal in style, played by a string trio.
Pupil Match & Suitability
This piece would suit the Grade 6 candidate who enjoys the Baroque style but prefers a slower paced movement to an allegro.
The challenges of this piece are those of achieving a well defined melodic line and balancing the textures sensitively, keeping a clear sense of pulse throughout the ornamentation, which needs to be both neat and confident.
Style & Tempo
The tempo marking of crotchet = 100 is ideal since this piece requires a stately pace that allows the beauty of the melody to be appreciated.
The pace should be slow enough to give elegance but not so slow that the sense of musical line is lost.
Listen to Napoli's nicely judged pace here.
Phrasing & Articulation
Articulation will mostly be smooth in the melody lines, although it can sound stylish to lightly detach notes such as the upbeat quavers in Bars 1, 3 and 4 (and similar contexts).
The bass clef lines need to reflect the general character of the music. The quavers should be played almost in the style of a string instrument, playing either separate bows, or playing two notes in one bow-stroke.
It is impossible, in any case, to play the repeated chords legato but the notes do need to be sustained for almost their full value and not played crisply.
Playing staccato would destroy the musical character, although it does sound good to lightly detach the dotted quaver and the demisemiquaver notes in the upper LH part.
Tone & Texture
Dynamic variety will most effectively take the form of tonal gradation, although some contrast is possible too, for example in the sequential echo of Bar 4 at Bar 5.
Some performers, such as Napoli, heard here, choose a slightly louder dynamic for the second section, as heard here, but this is a matter of personal choice.
The main issues are those of balancing the texture successfully and of achieving a stylistically sound performance, including realisation of the ornamentation.
There are few purely technical challenges here, other than that of playing the ornamentation with a relaxed hand. If the student has previously played a Baroque piece at Grade 5 they may well have encountered ornamentation of this type.
Many students attempt to play ornamentation with the hand in a fixed position, rigidly using just the fingers instead of taking advantage of the hand's amazing flexibility and of the forearm's capacity to rotate.
The hand should be free to rock a little from side to side when finger 1 - 3 are used - imagine using a screwdriver to tighten a screw quickly, but with a more subtle movement.
When fingers 3 - 5 are used, the movement is even less noticeable but it is still a slight rotary action of the outer part of the hand. Watch Martha Argarich's phenomenal technique here for an awesome demonstration of how to keep a natural, relaxed posture when playing ornamentation.
Fingering should be either adhered to as found in the edition used, or if an alternative is preferred this should be pencilled in so that consistent fingering is used in practice.
For small hands, an alternative to Bar 6 (and similarly Bar 12) is that the RH could play the D# demisemiquaver of the bass clef, upper part, dotted rhythm while the LH holds onto the bottom E. Since these dotted rhythms sound good when lightly detached, legato is not an issue.
The ornamentation suggestions in the ABRSM Selected Exam Pieces are very helpful. They need not be strictly adhered to but they do represent stylistically sound choices.
You may listen to each of the trills here, played at a slow enough pace to be clear to follow:
Use of the sustaining pedal is not necessary here. It is not 'forbidden' to use subtle touches of pedal to enhance the tone in Baroque style music. However, it would be advisable for a Grade 6 student pianist to exercise caution because over-pedalling would most unwelcome.
For a student who is confident in use of subtle pedalling, the most effective places to use it would be the beginnings of bars such as Bar 2, where a long note starts, but the the LH dotted rhythms must not be pedalled otherwise this will begin to sound unstylistic.
The repeated LH chords can also be enhanced and made more gentle in articulation by touches of pedal, again ensuring that the clarity of the RH melody is unaffected.
You could begin teaching this piece by listening together with the student to a recording and then discussing a clear strategy for learning it successfully.
At this level of study, starting with one lesson working away from the piano to analyse score can be helpful in avoiding misread rhythms and in understanding the style of the music. Focus on melodic motifs (the main tunes), rhythm patterns, phrasing, keys and modulations.
Subsequently the following points are ones that could be covered in successive lessons:
Pencil in any additional fingering that could be helpful to the student, such as that suggested in the Fingering Section.
Guide the students through the phrasing.
Do plenty of work on securing ornamentation, including work with separate hands and hands together. Simplify any ornamentation if necessary, since fluency is of primary importance.
Demonstrate, discuss and agree on any pedalling to be used.
Focus on dynamics and relative emphasis of textures.
Focus on quality of tone.
Exploring the textures by asking the student to play the three lines separately and then in combination two at a time eg both bass lines, then the bass line and the treble line and so on.
Early in the teaching process focus on the ornamentation since this is integral to the music and needs to sound like part of the melody line rather than an added-on feature.
Practice tips for students, with advice for a practice schedule:
Be certain of rhythms, if necessary listening to a recording before each practice session.
Divide the piece into phrases then work on each phrase at a time, being sure to allow enough time to spend on the second section.
Play the basic melodic line with no ornamentation, concentrating on a singing tone and legato articulation
Always keep to the agreed fingering.
Be certain of ornamentation - never guess and be sure that the timing remains stable throughout, unaffected by the ornaments.
Learn the bass clef lines separately, starting with the lower part, then the higher part, then playing them together.
Combine all three parts.
Be sure to hold the long notes in the bass part in Bars 1 - 2, 6 - 8 and 12 - 14.
Practise with any pedalling you intend to use, focusing too on tonal balance between the parts and shaping of phrases.
Practise playing the whole piece through when you are confident enough that you will not make mistakes.
The main source of difficulty in this piece is very likely to be that of making the ornamentation sound effortless. Ornamentation that is not completely secure can disturb the flow of the music, as will be noticed here.
An excellent performance will give the listener a sense of the tranquil mood and a feeling that the performer is in complete control, with an authoritative technique enabling technical fluency and flawless tone control. The textures will be clear, with a singing RH melody supported by a string-like bass part that is unobtrusive. Phrasing will be well defined and dynamics will be graded, with, perhaps, subtle pedalling that enhances the tone without compromising an assured sense of style.
A good performance will show awareness of appropriate style and character in choice of pace, dynamics and phrasing awareness. Fluency will be reliable, with convincing choice of ornamentation, even if the result is a little uneven rhythmically. There will be an emphasis on the prominence of the melodic line but the tone might not always be evenly controlled and there may be less of a sense of performance.
A sound performance will show sufficient accuracy for continuity to be achieved despite any small stumbles. The ornamentation will be included but may not be convincing in style. and there might be little textural awareness. Attention to phrasing and use of dynamics may be minimal, but there will be some awareness of the character in terms of a suitable pace.