Stanford - Lullaby

Interpreting the Music

Teaching & Learning the Piece

Stanford: Lullaby

• G major
• Some chromatic movement in LH
• Slow 6/8 legato style
• Quiet and sensitive
• Few leaps, no bigger than a 7th
• LH needs control of legato chords

Any piece with the title “Lullaby”, “Cradle song” or “Berceuse” will appeal to people who like the idea of rocking a baby to sleep. The music is deceptively simple and delicate, but must still be given the thorough practice and musical variety it deserves. To ensure a sympathetic performance, however, the music should not be learned via a “note bashing” approach – put in all the dynamics from the outset.

Fingering choices are very limited and the printed fingerings given are useful. Remind your student to hold on to the dotted minims in the RH in bars 1-2.

Quiet music does not have to be colourless. For a warm tone without loudness, it can help simply to get the right picture in the imagination. In this case the music is evoking the cosy, reassuring heaviness of sleepy relaxation. The person rocking the baby will be using a soothing voice and making smooth, gentle movements. The need to avoid bumps that could wake the baby would justify use of the una corda pedal especially where the dynamic marking is at its loudest (mf).

Although very gentle, the performance must not be monotonous. Encourage your student to feel the rocking, even to sing the melody whilst swaying to the music. There is a natural rise and fall to each phrase which tails away at phrase ends.
The slowness of the tempo may cause a tendency to play as if in 3/8 - ensure the student understands the need to give it a feel of 2 in a bar.

The LH ties in bar 17 are editorial and therefore optional. The music does sound smoother using these ties but the main need is to ensure that the chromatic movement in the other part sounds legato. This is easier to achieve whilst holding down the tied notes, so on balance it is probably better to adopt the editor’s suggestions.

The pause marked at the end is very important, as the effect is of tiptoeing away from the sleeping baby. An examiner would be disappointed to hear an enchanting performance abruptly cut off at the last bar, especially if the hands are quickly dropped or the head turned away from the piano before the last note has had its full value. Take the opportunity to discuss with your student the stagecraft of piano playing and demonstrate the powerful effect of remaining motionless beyond the end of the last bar. They will quickly grasp the difference if shown how a poorly-delivered last note can spoil the whole mood!

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