Attwood - Allegro

Interpreting the Music

Teaching & Learning the Piece

Attwood: Allegro

• C major – no black notes
• RH tune, LH accompanies
• LH pays Alberti-style broken chords
• Extensive use of RH scales in middle section
• RH in 5-finger position for most of the piece
• Few leaps, up to an octave, never with both hands at once
• Bars 17-24 copy bars 1-8
• Grace note ornament

This is a piece from the Classical rather than the Baroque period, which tests finger agility and coordination in a different way from the preceding A list pieces. It is highly suitable for players who have previously used American beginner methods based around chord patterns – the Alberti-style LH uses notes they will be very accustomed to playing. The first movement of a sonatina is meant to be a miniature version of a full-size sonata and this example is very compact. By staying in the same key it avoids the drama of modulation and instead relies on the showiness of the scale passages in the middle for its variety.

The LH will need to be understood as chords rather than strings of separate notes. Show the student how the first three notes of each bar equate to the chord for the whole bar (except in bars 7 and 23 where the LH moves to a new bass note, and bar 15 where there are 2 chords). It is worth practising these as block chords to become familiar with the new shape for each bar, and master any leaps. A second stage is then to explore the Alberti pattern itself, with the top note repeated and the other two notes alternating. Finally the LH should be played as written taking great care to keep the thumb light.

When putting hands together, it may be helpful to go back to playing block chords in the LH at first, to coordinate the repositioning under the RH. Before playing all the notes hands together, try playing with one hand on the keyboard and the other on a nearby surface, so the finger movements are being made but you can check for mistakes caused by coordination or fingering errors. The LH challenge is to transfer the chord shapes around in the correct Alberti pattern and for the RH to keep all the fingers going.

The middle section RH is all scales! These scale passages provide a great teaching opportunity to show how scales are music and must played with an expressive shape. A likely trip point will be the change of direction in bar 11-12. Fortunately the LH is staying in roughly the same place, unlike its wider range of movements in the first section. Similarly bar 15 -16 breaks the scale pattern. Writing in the 3 over the RH A in bar 15 will help remind the player not to play B, and plenty of slow practice will be needed as this bar has a chord change in the LH followed by a jump down to a C chord in bar 16.

Once the basic shapes and fingerings have been explored, a musical aspect to include early on will be that the three crotchets must not all be played the same. They need a little diminuendo so that the elegant phrasing can be heard. At bar 16 the RH crotchets that round off the preceding section also need to be played with care – it would be disappointing to hear them plodding through unthinkingly.

Although the LH provides a very consistent accompaniment pattern this must not translate into expressionless “rattling along”. Phrasing and variety are needed and will support the melody beautifully if done well. The second half of the bar generally requires a lighter touch. To demonstrate good and bad sounds, try playing a duet with your student, taking the LH part and playing too loudly, or mechanically, or with too much thumb, and then play with suppleness and sensitivity to show the sound to aim for.

When thinking about dynamics and expression, remember that this was written specifically for the piano (in contrast with the other two in list A). Attwood entitled his “Easy progressive lessons” as being for the “Piano Forte or Harpsichord” but this was standard practice of the day to maximise sales – the piano was relatively new instrument and many households still had their old harpsichord. It is right to use plenty of dynamic variety and different weights of touch to keep the performance stylish and characterful.

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