Handel - Allegro in G minor
Handel (1685 - 1759) is far more famous for a handful of works which include the Messiah and the Suites of music for the Royal Fireworks and the Water Music than his smaller scale, though equally beautiful, keyboard suites.
His set of eight keyboard suites appeared for the first time in 1720 shortly after he settled in London, although they were written during the decade before.
Handel was renowned as a keyboard virtuoso himself and his suites were very popular during his lifetime.
Pupil Match & Suitability
This piece will suit a student who enjoys the intellectual challenge of contrapuntal playing and who has developed the necessary independence of hands to be able to bring out the imitative textures.
Small hands will not be a problem as there are no big chord stretches and the few octave leaps can all be played detached.
The piece will sound at its best it the student can play at a quick pace, but could also work at a moderate tempo.
Style & Tempo
This Allegro is typical of the two part style of writing of the day, with imitation fairly obvious at the start of phrases.
Notice how the left hand has the part of what would have been the bass continuo. In other words its role is that of providing the harmonic outline upon which the RH takes on an embellished semiquaver flow.
Hear the strongly defined textures in this performance (D minor Suite) on the piano by Richter
Phrasing & Articulation
The articulation needs to take account of the underlying harmonic structure, at whatever tempo is adopted.
The phrasing should demonstrate an understanding for the length of line as indicated by the overall harmonic structure.
These factors will help the performance to have musical stature and a sense of poise.
Tone & Texture
The tone needs to be firm and fairly robust but never hard or accentuated.
The clarity of the two part texture should come across fairly readily, although attention to detail in the phrasing and articulation, as mentioned, will help to add subtlety.
Technical concerns here relate to the ability of the student to acquire independence of hands.
Much of this skill can be taught by the way in which teaching is broken down into smaller elements and the emphasis on correct practice techniques.
An even finger technique is an important pre-requisite.
The choice of fingering should not be based around the need for unbroken legato throughout, but should be considered according to what is most convenient and comfortable for evenness of tone.
There are three main points of ornamentation seen here:
(iii) spread chord
Pedalling is not necessary in this piece.
However its use on the final chord of each section adds a moment of warmth which is entirely acceptable.
This is not an awkward piece in any sense - technically, the notes lie comfortably under the fingers and the counterpoint is relatively easy to understand.
A useful starting point might be to guide the student in choice of fingering. This should be pencilled into the score, remembering to write in the same fingering where the same passage recurs later.
Practising Baroque pieces does not enthuse every student, so you will need to think carefully about the strategies you employ to ensure that the student does the right kind of work.
Fluency if likely to be a problem at times.
The reasons for lack of fluency may be:
1/ the piece is not memorised securely enough for the memory to keep pace with the tempo;
2/ unhelpful fingering may be a hindrance;
3/ there may be excess tension due to a faulty technique;
4/ performance anxiety may be a cause memory slips;
5/ practice may have focused on learning in sections for too long - performance practice is needed in the latter stages of preparing to perform.
Check out the reasons and advise accordingly.
An excellent performance will have rhythmic bounce and musical poise to it. The tone will be confident but sensitive too. The ornamentation will be eloquently integrated and there will be a convincing sense of structural musical shape.
A good performance will have rhythmic vitality. It may sound more solid than eloquent, but should nonetheless demonstrate musical shaping with some character to the articulation.
A sound performance will have good accuracy and fluent pacing at whatever chosen tempo works best. The phrasing may lack imagination and the overall effect could well be more shy. On the other hand, a determined student who has mastered the fingerwork but lacks musical insight may play a perfectly acceptable performance, but with little by way of musical colour and finesse.