Anon - Allegro in F: Nannerl Notenbuch
The collection of music known as the Nannerl Notebook was compiled by Leopold Mozart, for his daughter Maria Anna (Nannerl), the older sister of Wolfgang Amadeus. For a while her musical talent was regarded as equal to Wolfgang's and they gave concerts together as children.
Leopold first assembled the Nannerl Notebook in 1759 when she was eight years old. It was added to over the years, including some of her brother's earliest compositions.
Most of the anonymous pieces in the collection , like this Allegro, were probably composed by Leopold, who was a professional violinist and composer in the service of the prince-archbishop of Salzburg.
Pupil Match & Suitability
A useful teaching piece in preparation for the style of sonatinas and early classical sonatas. It will be most effectively played by students with clear articulation and a well-developed left hand technique. There is a need for steadiness in playing continuous semiquavers, and a sense of how to phrase music which does not have an obvious melody.
Small hands should have little difficulty, as no interval greater than a seventh is used.
Style & Tempo
The tempo marking of allegro need not mean a fast crotchet beat – it indicates a cheerful and lively mood.
The chosen tempo therefore should be manageable for the student and could range from around crotchet = 72 (the tempo of the performance given here) right up to 100 for a very brilliant effect.
The crucial factor in choosing the tempo must be the student's ability to remain cheerful whilst playing! Anxiety over the notes will rob the performance of its character.
Little Justin here is obviously loving playing the piece rather quicker - and managing very well!
Phrasing & Articulation
There is a variety in phrase lengths which harks back to the meandering, seamless Baroque style. After a firmly stated two-bar opening, the expected two-bar answer is carried through into four bars of developing material.
After the double bar, the opening is played “upside down”, with the semiquavers in the LH, and then more new ideas are introduced for a bar and a half before more familiar ground is regained.
This unpredictable style gives the music an exciting edge which the student can pick up and enjoy in performance – just when a phrase seems about to end there is a new twist and the music sets off in another direction.
Tone & Texture
The texture of this music, together with the underlying implied chords, is what gives it its structure and character. As there is no singable “theme” (but see Teaching Strategies for more on this) it is vital to think about how to weave the texture and shape the tone.
With almost continuous semiquavers from start to finish it could easily become a rattling mechanical effort instead of the supple and witty display intended.
If this piece were called “Study” rather than “Allegro” nobody would be surprised! It is full of finger movement challenges: arpeggios (bar 1), broken runs of thirds (bar 2), rotary movements (bar 4), scales (bar 2), broken chords (bar 5) and swapping material between the hands (bar 7). Any and all of these challenges can be taken separately and used as mini-exercises to refine your student's technique.
Much of the music falls naturally into patterns under the hand, with small shifts in position to the next pattern. Sureness of touch is crucial so fingerings should be well known and consistent. Changes of position are the danger points for unevenness so anything awkward will need extra slow practice.
If there is weakness in the fifth finger, the last two beats of bar 5 (RH) and similarly bar 15, could use a 4 instead. However, by this grade it is advisable to be working towards equal facility in all fingers, so the early stages of learning this piece could be used to help with technical development by treating it as a study.
In bar 9-10 RH smaller hands may find it best to use 5-1 1-5 5-1 etc on all the sixths and sevenths, whether on black or white notes.
There is one rather unusual ornament which occurs in bars 7 and 8. It looks like a turn written out in small notes. Before your student tries to play a quick turn on first reading, demonstrate its realisation in semiquavers, matching the left hand notes, without any sense of hurry.
This type of notation was sometimes used in Classical times to emphasis the composer's intention of using a melodic line with a “correct” (non-dissonant) note for the accompanying harmony. The dissonances are easy to hear – and may even make the student think they are playing wrong notes at first – when the ornament is played out.
There is no need to use pedal.
Teaching this piece falls naturally into two main stages: first gaining mastery of the notes, and then exploring the meaning and shape of the music. At an early stage, take your student on a guided tour of the structure, harmony and main melodic elements (patterns and motifs), so that they see beyond the blackness of the notation. Introducing the piece, you may reassure them that there is a great deal of predictable and repeated patterning and they need not view it as a daunting row of endless semiquavers.
The first bar is made of no more than a broken chord and a “twiddle” (second beat) – the second bar is also a pair of well known patterns – so for students who are learning scales and arpeggios in new keys it could be well worth asking them to transpose the first two bars into new keys. They can also try playing them in the left hand.
Try to find the pattern rather than focusing on the semiquavers as individual one-by-one notes. Invent different ways to play the pattern: all the notes at once, in pairs, and so on. See how long each pattern lasts before it is changed – this also feeds into the harmonic rhythm (rate of change of implied chords) and gives shape and variety to the flow.
If notes get uneven, playing each one twice can help, especially if the unevenness is part of a habit of playing on “autopilot”. Control is so important in this music and it can be tested by playing at a speed which is either a little too fast or a little too slow for performance. If the speed cannot be changed at will (use a metronome to keep this objective) the notes are not fully under the player's control – with clear consequences under pressure of performance!
Once the notes have been mastered there may still be a risk of a lifeless performance. Supple shaping and dynamic gradation need to be built in, preferably from the note learning stage, but they may become neglected. A demonstration of a “robotic semiquavers” version may help to show your student what they should avoid.
Thinking of the sound of another instrument often helps – discuss how a violinist might press the bow down on the strings in different ways when playing legato, or perhaps use spiccato bowing in bar 4 and similar. A flute player may well need to take breaths – where could those be?
An excellent performance will take the listener on an enjoyable tour of harmonies and textures with wit and sparkle. Phrases will be well shaped, articulation and dynamics suitably varied and there will be a lively technical assurance to the whole performance.
A good performance will demonstrate secure fingering and control of the semiquavers throughout. Phrases will be understood and dynamics rendered with a sense of style and period. The performance will show a grasp of the underlying harmony and form.
A sound performance will not necessarily play all the notes without stumbles, but any setbacks will be overcome and there will be a sense of musical shape, style and enjoyment. Another type of sound performance may be technically secure and possibly even note perfect but lacking in musical interest.