Podgornov - Bear Dance

Interpreting the Music

Teaching & Learning the Piece

Podgornov: Bear Dance

• F major
• LH has the melody
• RH plays only 2 chords for most of the piece
• Some octave leaps in LH
• Both hands play in bass clef throughout
• No need for delicacy but phrasing and dynamics essential

Full of character and humour, this will appeal to an imaginative student who prefers interpretation to be quite straightforward. More sensitive people with a nuanced performing style may prefer one of the other B list pieces. As tamed dancing bears have been banned in many countries for decades now on animal welfare grounds, it is probably best to encourage the student to imagine people imitating bears (in a pantomime or comedy show) or perhaps a cartoon or teddy bear dancing. Footage of bears in the wild (such as the link below) could also be used to show the way they move.

The LH plays the tune throughout, and this needs to be strong and well projected. Once the LH tune is known and the RH chords (there are only three, and mostly two are used) have been found, there is little point in practising hands separately.

The first challenge of hands together is the placing of the RH chord within the dotted quaver and semiquaver. Tapping the two rhythms with a hand on each knee may help, followed by slow work on fitting the notes together.
A likely source of early misreadings occurs at the places where the chords change. This can be eased by making a photocopy (purely as a study aid) and using highlighter, stickers or your favoured method of marking, to show where the chords change.

The first two bars are an introduction and the tune proper starts at the upbeat to bar 3. The last four bars balance this with a coda made of closing chords, with no melodic line. These chords should simply be played as written, with no need to worry too much about balance.
The LH 4 on A in bar 7 is important for the next bar so ensure your student does not follow the previous pattern.

Dynamics are only marked at the beginning as forte but a good performance will need more variety to give it shape. One possibility would be to drop to mp at bar 11, start a crescendo at bar 15 to f at bar 18 and continue with a final crescendo in the last 2 bars. Phrasing will also have to be observed, with the dotted quavers treated as the high point of the phrase and a slight tailing-off at the end.

There are also tenuto and accent markings to be included. You may need to explain the difference to your student: the horizontal line of a tenuto mark means “make this note heavier” and the arrow shape of the accent means the composer wants the note to be louder. In bar 2 they are both used together for a dramatic pre-launch chord at the end of the introduction. Despite the temptation to give it a good bash, this note will sound better if it has no hard edge of attack. (Imagining the bear – large, furry and a bit clumsy – should help).

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