Wesley S - Vivace, op 5 no 1

Interpreting the Music

Teaching & Learning the Piece

S. Wesley: Vivace, op 5 no 1

• A major
• Lively 6/8
• Many broken chord shapes
• Some wide leaps in RH
• Difficult stretches for small hands
• LH holds 5th finger down across several bars
• Grace note ornament

An attractive movement in A major, rather dance-like in character. Although not impossible for small hands, it does require a good deal of stretching and even medium-sized hands may need to adopt fingerings that reduce tension. Fortunately the style and articulation lend themselves to jumping and repositioning.

Because of the regular four-bar phrase structure there is a danger of sounding “foursquare”. Variety can be provided in dynamics and articulation. For example, the echo effect given by the editorial dynamics in bars 21-22 helps break up the phrase length, with a nice sense of excitement (not an increase in the tempo!) just before the end.

From the very first bar there are technical issues to be overcome in both hands. The LH 5th finger must hold its note through to bar 3, and this is a musical feature that is repeated twice more. Students may need to be reminded to do this when first learning the notes. The RH meanwhile has to play grace notes at the beginning of the bars. Slow practice will ensure coordination here.
Bars 10-11 contain RH octave jumps: there is a risk of awkwardness or tension with the elbow crossing in front of the body, so it is important that the player feels free to lean aside and to relax the wrist, not trying to hold the octave stretch.

Instead, to promote accuracy, make an exercise of playing a slurred broken octave scale, finding the top note of the octave afresh, with the hand returning to a relaxed shape each time the thumb moves. The thumb leads the way. For very small hands which cannot manage an octave legato, the articulation can be changed to detach the lower crotchets, but keep the top quaver very light.

Editorial articulation is suggested, with plenty of staccato and slurring to separate the beats. This is in keeping with the style and tempo. However, this carries a risk that the performance will sound “choppy” or mannered. An acceptable alternative, giving a smoother effect without sacrificing the sprightly mood, would be to slur whole bars. Rests are very important to give air-space.

The LH upper notes in bars 1-2 (and analogous bars) are much easier to play if the thumb is allowed to jump around. Using fingering 1, 1, 2 for the LH upper notes in Bars 1 and 5 will both suit small hands and also provide suitable articulation, without any need to make a special effort at coordination.

There is no alternative to placing finger 5 on a black note in many places (e.g. bar 1, 5 10-11). Ensure the hand does not twist out of line to do so, but moves forward on the keys. Remember to let go the A in bar 8 earlier than before, otherwise it will unhelpfully overlap the E sharp.

The editorial dynamics provide a useful starting point but there will need to be more rise and fall to shape phrases and add interest. In performance this will be rather like a jig (Gigue/ Giga) with its swinging two-in-a-bar feel. The main thing will be to convey a sense of enjoyment, as this is carefree music.

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