Steibelt - Adagio
Daniel Steibelt, a contemporary of Beethoven, was born in Germany in 1764 or 1765 (the exact date being uncertain), and died in 1823, having lived and worked in both Paris and in England. Steibelt was popular as a pianist because he showed an understanding of the instrument’s capabilities, even though his work was less profound than that of Beethoven.
This Adagio is a popular piece for inexperienced pianists, sweet and gentle in style with rather wistful melodic lines.
Pupil Match & Suitability
The music lies comfortably under the hands, with no wide stretches, nor any unduly challenging technical difficulties. It is approachable in terms of interpretation; the phrasing requirements are clear and the melody is mainly in the RH, but with one phrase in which the LH plays the tune.
The minor key melody with a pretty, major key middle section will appeal to a sensitive student of any age.
Style & Tempo
This adagio is graceful and elegant in style, with a wistful, cantabile melody that requires a beautiful, singing tone.
The structure is simple, yet effective; the A minor opening section ends with an imperfect cadence and is then repeated, finishing on the key chord.
The next section features a particularly sweet LH melody in E major that is then echoed in the RH. The ending is simply a repeat of Bars 9 – 16.
Phrasing & Articulation
The phrasing structure takes the form of a four-bar question, followed by a four-bar answer.
This happens twice in the first half of the piece and the symmetrical structure should be reflected in phrasing shape that defines it. This is usually achieved by making a slight crescendo in the first part of each phrase, followed by a diminuendo.
Since the piece is expressive in character, a little rubato may be used, meaning that the pace is pushed forward with the crescendo, and is then relaxed with the diminuendo.
Tone & Texture
The dynamic is quiet, generally, but an expansive crescendo in the second phrase will sound effective as long as the tone never becomes harsh.
The loudest complete section of the piece is the E major section from Bars 18 – 24. After a return to the original key and melody, the piece ends very quietly.
The most significant point of technique here is tone control.
It is necessary to bring out the melody and keep the accompanying notes quieter, whilst shaping the phrasing musically.
Fingering is straightforward and editorial suggestions are helpful.
Pedalling is not normally expected at this level of playing and very young students may not yet be able to reach the pedals.
An exceptional, or older student may like to add discreet pedalling, but keep this simple, easy and consistent by limiting use to mere touches of pedal on the minims at the start of each two-bar unit in Bars such as 1 and 3.
It is probably best not to use any pedal in bars such as 16-17 and 18 - 21 where clarity and precision are needed.
No pedal is better than too much pedal for Grade 2 students.
A good approach to beginning a new piece is to ask the student to look for what is easy about it. You might guide the student to notice how the first four bars are repeated in an identical way in three of the four main sections.
The student should replicate what you covered in the lesson at every practice session.
Make a short list of the practice priorities for your student to take home, including fingering and articulation.
Students sometimes omit expressive detail in performance; probably the unusual, additional stress of playing in a competition or examination causes them to forget everything but getting the notes and rhythms right. Whereas basic memorisation might be secure, these students have not internalised the performance indications written on the score.
To avoid this situation, the teaching process should involve the student in deciding where – and, most importantly, why – dynamics might be varied.
Play the piece and ask the student to listen and tell you where to contrast and grade the dynamics. You will almost certainly be pleasantly surprised to find that their directions concur with the score.
An excellent performance will communicate empathy with the dolce character, in a gentle yet varied tone, in expressive phrasing and sensitive use of rubato. Fluency and accuracy will be assured, with poised control of balance between the hands.
A good performance will show some sense of the character, with reliable continuity and accuracy at a suitable pace. Some of the expressive detail will be given although the performance may not yet be completely confident in technical control.
A sound performance will show reasonable accuracy and continuity at a suitable, sustained tempo. A little expressive detail may be given but there might be a lack of subtlety and even technical control may not yet be possible.