Alcock - Almand
John Alcock was an English composer and organist (1715 - 1806) and was a pupil of the composer and organist, John Stanley, who himself held a post at St Paul's Cathedral.
Whilst Alcock's life spanned the Baroque and Classical periods, this dance movement from a set of Suites (for Harpsichord or Spinet) dates from 1741, and the style is very much that of a Baroque keyboard piece.
Here is a chance to hear a spinet from Alcock's era. This is a restored Keene and Brackley spinet and the piece is an Almand by Handel.
Pupil Match & Suitability
An excellent piece for students to become conversant with a lively contrapuntal Baroque style of playing.
Good for finger dexterity, rhythmic control and co-ordination between hands.
Style & Tempo
A two-part contrapuntal style.
The Allemande began its life in the 16th century as a German dance in two time. This Anglicized version (spelled Almand) bears the original two in a bar time signature.
However the dance changed over time and became one in 4/4 under French influence during the 17th century and by the 18th century the dance form had become freer in its form with tempi ranging from largo to presto.
The dance was often one of serious character.
Phrasing & Articulation
Play the semiquavers lightly - that is not with a gluey legato touch (as in the first example here) but with a light almost detached quality (as in the second example here).
This articulation style helps the line to dance and to have a characteristic feel to it.
Tone & Texture
The tone should be clear and not thick with lots of legato. Check out technique to see how the difference between a good clear tone can be made and how it differs, musically, from an over-reliance on legato.
The difference in articulation between the two hands should suffice to demonstrate the simple two part texture.
Good fingerwork is at the heart of clear, rhythmic playing in this style.
Several phrases are each played twice in this video. Notice the difference between (first) a clear finger articulation and (next) an over-legato touch.
The changes in sound may be subtle but they can mean the difference between a stylish performance and an unremarkable one.
Follow the suggested fingering in the ABRSM edition. It is good and works well.
Check out specific fingering when adding ornamentation in the ornamentation section.
It is a good idea to add some ornamentation.
The use of a lower mordent rather than a full turn makes absolute sense (e.g. bar 3 etc).
Follow the 4 note trills starting on the upper note, as indicated in the ABRSM edition.
Teach the easy before the difficult to give the student a positive sense of achievement and enthusiasm for the music.
Get to know the score - both what it feels like to play and what it sounds like as it is phrased.
Insist on consistent, good fingering right from the start.
Never simply teach notes - always teach musical shapes and patterns, encouraging the student to identify the sequential patterns within the music.
Agree on articulation detail early in the learning process - do not expect the student to add this later.
Help the student with understanding the modulation through different keys and to express this in their performance via subtle use of dynamics.
Help the student to understand not only the phrasing, but also the structure of the music overall and to show awareness of cadence points in their performance. See more detail in the Phrasing and Articulation section.
Identify the different patterns within the piece so that it is easier to get to know, quickly, what each passages does, where the similarities lie and where the differences are.
A sketchy knowledge will obviously not yield good results when it comes to performance, but it is frustrating when a student puts in lots of work only to become nervous and for things to go wrong in performance. Two things to do:
1/ Ensure only the best and most thorough practice
2/ Ensure there are plenty of performance opportunities prior to an important performance event.
Alcock - Almand (Grade 6 piano)
An excellent performance of this piece will have consistent tonal and rhythmic clarity with a clear sense of phrasing and feel for the harmonic structure. Ornamentation will be poised and add elegance to the playing.
A good performance will have clarity about it, even if it might not always enjoy the same level of detail and musical structure. The tempo and tone will be confident and consistent.
A sound performance will be accurate and rhythmic, but may lack the compelling musical insight which comes with more performing and listening experience. There may be little light and shade, but the tempo should be appropriate and well maintained.