Arne - Allegro: Sonata No 3 in G
Arne's Allegro from Sonata No 3 in G was set for the ABRSM Grade 7 piano examination, 2011 - 2012.
This is a wonderfully attractive and uplifting piece to play. It is the second movement of one of eight sonatas that Arne published for keyboard in 1756.
Here is the first section of the movement, just to tempt you to try it!
Pupil Match & Suitability
This piece would suit a nimble-fingered student who is able to keep fluent continuity over a lively, fairly lengthy movement.
It is not easy, but it is very rewarding to play once securely known - it is one of those pieces that just flows under the fingers and seems to suggest its own interpretation in terms of dynamic grading and textural definition.
Style & Tempo
A suitable pace for this movement is between around 92 - 100 crotchet beats per minute. The pace of this extract is 92 bpm, which should, realistically, be within the capabilities of a fairly advanced student with a reasonably secure technique.
Just a shade quicker, at 96 or 100 can give an extra lift to the performance, but only if the fluency and control can be maintained.
Phrasing & Articulation
The phrasing falls into two-bar units at the start of the first section, but thereafter it is probably more helpful to think of the lines as one long, on-going phrase, apart from the obvious echo effect in Bars 5 and 6.
The second section, of which Bars 15 - 26 are heard here, begins in a similar way, with the opening motif now in the key of D major. The phrases undulate through the keys, using some lovely sequential patterns, to modulate eventually back to G major for the restatement of the original theme, now an octave lower than before.
There are plenty of opportunities to trace the harmonic structure and melodic ideas using graded and contrasted dynamics. Further detail on how to achieve this is given in the Tone and Texture section.
Tone & Texture
The structure of the music can be shown effectively using dynamic variety.
There might be:
1) contrast between louder and quieter;
2) grading of dynamics that reflects the build-up and release of tension in the chord sequences and melodic lines;
3) a difference in relative emphasis between the RH and LH parts.
The first section demonstrates all of these effects. Notice the following:
1) dynamic contrast in the echo effect between Bars 5 and 6;
2) crescendos and diminuendos between Bars 7 and 11, showing the changing harmonies, the modulation and the sequential structure of the melody;
3) the RH part has prominence for much of the section, but this is relieved by the LH taking over towards the end of the section.
The main challenge of this piece is to play with speed and even fluency. It may be a good time to review the student's hand and arm position to check that the 'arm follows the hand'.
In other words, the wrist should not bend to bring the hand into a 45 degree angle with the forearm, which is what many students do when they have to play ascending arpeggio patterns. It is better to let the lower notes go and move the complete forearm and hand, in as natural a hand shape as possible, up the keys.
Despite this pianist's modest comments on her own performance, she does keep quite a natural hand position when playing, which is why she is able to play the piece up to a lively pace.
Well chosen fingering is, without doubt, an important factor as regards whether or not the piece can be played fluently.
The fingering in the ABRSM edition is extremely well thought out and will suit virtually any size and shape of hand.
A place to be particularly careful is use of 1 at Bar 12, RH last semiquaver, note G and subsequently in Bar 13 where the same figure happens twice more.
Also use of fingers 3-5-3 is very helpful in the ornamentation at Bars 24 and 25.
Ornamentation is a matter of choice in Baroque style music. Traditionally, the repeat of a section was often a more highly decorated version, as heard here in a performance on harpsichord by Ewald Demeyere.
It is not compulsory to use ornamentation, although if well controlled and neatly incorporated into the line, it can enhance the performance.
The quick pace that suits this movement may mean that the student has difficulty incorporating ornamentation, in which case it may be advisable to leave it out rather than to disturb the pulse. If the ornamentation is included, using fingering 3-5-3 at Bars 24 - 25 will enable the greatest fluency. The ornaments need to sound like triplets, as shown in Bar 14.
There is no hard and fast rule about pedalling this style of music, as long as the textures remain clear and articulation is not made legato. The piece could be played with no pedal at all or with a few well chosen, subtle touches.
Dabs of direct pedal might be useful in enhancing the tone in the opening motif as long as the quavers have detached clarity.
The pedal could also give an attractive, more sustained feel, as well as a subtle change in tone colour at points such as Bars 35 - 36, as long as it is used sensitively as heard here.
It is not always practical for a busy teacher to learn all the high grade pieces they teach to performance standard - there are too few hours in the day!
This is why it is important to access good quality, exemplar recordings, to give the student a goal to which they can aspire. Listening with a student is invaluable, since you are able, together, to identify aspects of the interpretation that you particularly admire. This enables the student to make informed choices about interpretation.
Early in the teaching and learning process, it is advisable to work on the sort of articulation that is going to be most effective in this piece. See the technique section for details.
It is to be hoped that students are becoming more adept at learning new pieces at this stage, without the teacher spending lesson time supervising the learning of notes and rhythms, but it may be a good ideas to keep a close check on fingering being used.
A reminder of a few basic practice principles will also be in order: 'slowly; separately; sectionally; structurally' is a good maxim.
Studying the piece away from the piano before beginning practice will enable the student to gain a grasp of the structure, style and character of the music.
Ideally this will take place whilst listening to the music, so that key changes and chord progressions are identified by the ear as well as just in a theoretical sense.
When first beginning to learn this piece it is absolutely essential that mistakes are minimised and that fingering is observed meticulously, since first attempts have a habit of re-emerging into the playing at inconvenient times. You may think you have corrected poor fingering but if you have practised unhelpful fingering more than good fingering then this will tend to resurface and ruin the fluency, particularly under pressure.
Just as much time needs to be devoted to learning the latter part of the piece so time needs to be managed efficiently, with goals set (and adhered to). Practising performing should be factored into the learning schedule.
The main trouble areas for this style of music are invariable the related issues of fluency and accuracy. Time spent memorising the LH will pay dividends, since it is often the LH part that is insecure. This insecurity often results in not only the LH having errors, but also in RH stumbles when the attention is focused on finding LH notes.
Problems tend to emerge during the latter part of Baroque pieces, which are sometimes much less secure than the beginning and the pace may not easily be maintained. Students often imagine that they have a technical problem with a piece, when the difficulty arises because of unreliable memorisation - even when the score is used we must have memorised to a large degree to be able to achieve fluency.
Separate hands practice at first and also again, periodically, will keep a sharp focus on accuracy of each part.
Other areas that can be problematic are lack of attention to tone and balance. It is not obvious to all students that listening to one's own playing can help to shape a convincing performance. A surprising number of students ignore hesitations and fluctuations in tempo in their own playing even though they would notice them in a performance they were hearing as an audience.
Here is a lively, stylish performance of Arne's Allegro: second movement from Sonata No 3 in G.
An excellent performance of this piece will show a keen sense of line and of textural balance, with musically graded dynamics that shape the phrasing. The articulation will be neat and clean, with a quick enough pace to give a bright, lively sense of character. Fluency will be assured, with excellent control of tone and rhythmic evenness.
A good performance will be lively in pace and fairly confident in presentation, with some feel for the bright character and for the textures. Technical control may not be as assured here in terms of tonal and rhythmic evenness, but overall the performance will show a developing sense of style.
A sound performance will demonstrate secure knowledge of notes and rhythms and any small slips will not disturb the overall continuity. There may be a lack of detail in this performance, or little textural awareness but the tone will be appropriately projected, neither too forceful nor too insubstantial. The pace might be less lively although it will not be so slow as to prevent some sense of phrase and structure.