Rybicki - Na Todce

Interpreting the Music

Teaching & Learning the Piece

Rybicki: Na Tódce

• C major, some black notes
• RH melody, LH accompaniment
• Variety of broken chords
• Barcarolle style
• Some stretches, up to a 7th
• 1 LH 2-note chord

The title of this piece – “In a boat” – gives us the setting, and the tempo marking – Lento – gives us the peaceful mood which the player needs to share. Less, obviously, the time signature of 3/8 indicates a sense of one-in-a-bar rather than three; a significant choice by the composer who, at this speed, could easily have written it in 3/ 4.

The music should therefore have a sense of flowing freely from one bar to the next.
This will suit a player with an agile LH, patience to play in a sustained gentle style and a sense of how a melody and accompaniment can sound. Ideally they should be ready to learn about chord changes and able to understand how these LH chords relate to the broken chords they will be learning for the exam.

There will need to be plenty of work on the LH to make it very secure, so that musical attention can be paid to the RH melody. The best performances will display a lyrical and well-shaped RH melody with the LH supporting sensitively.

It may seem early to be attending to balance between the hands at grade 1, but there is a growing expectation of this as the grades advance so at the very least the student should be aware of the ideal sound.

The LH is in the treble clef throughout, which some students may find confusing at first. A few note names written in at key points may help.

As they learn the LH chord patterns, those with large enough hands can try them out as block chords – all three notes of the bar played at the same time. This also helps to get away from any sense of the LH simply playing a row of 45 quavers. As the chord patterns move out of 5-finger position, point out the big distance the thumb can stretch out. Encourage the student to plan the next move and notice which fingers stay in place for the new chord.

To prevent twisting of the wrist show the student how to walk the hand up the keys so that the thumb can easily reach black notes.

The RH does not move nearly as much, and fingering will depend on your preference either for maintaining 5-finger positions or giving similar shapes similar fingerings. If the latter, it makes sense to put a 3 on the first RH note of bars 5 and 6.

There is potential for loss of fluency at almost every bar line if the LH and RH are not practised together for coordination. This is time-consuming but very worthwhile: when putting the hands together, play two bars through as slowly as necessary for accurate notes and pulse.

When this feels comfortable and can be played a little faster, go back to a slow speed, start with the second bar and add on the next. This gives a practice plan of bars 1+2, 2+3, 3+4 and so on. Write in finger numbers for the first notes of each bar to save time and ensure the correct start to each bar.

Phrasing, articulation and dynamics are clearly marked. Although there is a phrase mark over each pair of bars the actual musical phrases are 4 bars long. The RH staccato at the end of bars 2, 6, 10 and 14 is a very light lift-off, without any push or kick. A gentle use of arm weight at the start of each pair of bars will help the “rocking boat” feel.

The rallentando at the end is important - help your student imagine the boat slowing up gently alongside the river bank or landing stage.

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