Mozart - Menuet in G K1e

Interpreting the Music

Teaching & Learning the Piece

Mozart: Minuet in G K1e Grade 1 Piano

Main features of this piece
• G major – some black notes
• Dance
• No chords
• Some large intervals – LH jumps octaves
• Triplet
• Ornament

The Minuet was an elegant dance, in moderate triple time, which was widely popular throughout Europe from around 1650 to 1800. In Mozart’s day it could be used for dancing or (as here) as an independent instrumental piece. This Minuet was probably written when Mozart was only about 5 years old. It was originally followed by a Trio (in a three-part texture) and the Minuet would then be repeated.

The Musical Form Even at early grades it is useful to introduce ideas about musical form and the process of composing. There is plenty to explore in this simple piece, especially for older students who will enjoy playing with understanding. Like most Minuets, it is in binary form (two sections) clearly defined by the double bar. The first six beats provide the main idea and a recognisable shape of notes and rhythm. Older students and those with an interest in music theory can explore the change of key to D in bar 7-8 and the return via A minor in bars 9-10.

Phrasing There are four phrases of four bars each, starting each time with a two-quaver upbeat. The dynamics follow the phrasing, rising and falling with a sense of reaching a peak in bars 14-15. The little crescendo in bar 1 need not be exaggerated; more important is to lean into the first beat of bar 2 with graceful arm weight in sympathy with the dance gestures. This continues throughout the piece to give it character. There is a charming sense of irregularity in the second phrase in both halves, when Mozart makes the total of 12 beats sound like 4 + 3 + 5 rather than 6 + 6. A performance that shows awareness of this will sound more lively and interesting.

The Character As a minuet is a dance, players need to be aware of the sense of movement and the visual element of seeing dancers gracefully circling and re-grouping. Demonstrations and film clips of minuets are readily available on YouTube.

Technical considerations Some students at this stage may not have discovered that sliding the hand forward puts black notes in reach of the thumb – you may need to explain this to prevent twisting of the wrist in bars 9 and 11.

Stretching and jumping For the player with small hands, there are some possible problems of stretching and jumping. For all students, the main technical difficulty is to cover accurately the big intervals, shown below, without sounding bumpy.

All students will need to practise the jump or stretch across the barline at the beginning and between bars 2-3. The second one is slightly larger and involves a black note, so they will both need accurate movement. Practising the hands separately will provide a chance to grow in confidence moving around the keyboard.

Rhythms are mostly simple, apart from the RH triplet bars 7 and 15. Many teachers like to use the rhythms of words, such as 'Raspberry' to help with accurate triplet playing. This may result in varying degrees of success because most words may be said in various rhythm patterns.

If teachers instead make up a song to the tune of a whole phrase, this is likely to stay in the student's memory with more reliable rhythmic precision. For example start at bar 12 beat 3 with, 'There's a big, friendly train, rushing down the track, taking me back to the sea-side'. Clap on the strong beats, underlined here, and tap on knees on beats 2 and 3. This little song sorts out not only the triplet but also the trill - simple! The important thing is to sing the song with your student lots of times before beginning playing the piece, then teach that phrase by rote imitation, then introduce the notation.

The ornaments at the end of the bar are optional and should be left out if they prevent the music flowing. However, they are very simple so it is worth taking this chance to provide a stress-free introduction to playing ornaments. First teach the phrase as above, then later explain the notation - trills are just some extra notes in the tune, which are played just like any other notes – with careful counting and fingering. For extra reinforcement, play a counting (in quavers) clapping and copying game; following this with slow copying at the piano, using just five notes.

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