Kirchner - Poco Allegro, op 71 no 26

Interpreting the Music

Teaching & Learning the Piece

Kirchner: Poco Allegro, op 71 no 26

• A minor
• Both hands get equal prominence
• Sensitive phrasing needed
• Some rubato
• Control of melodic line
• Calm repositioning needed
• Could suit older players

Kirchner’s collection of one hundred “Little Studies”, from which this comes, does not provide titles or annotations to show what each study is meant to develop. There are several interesting challenges in this one: both hands share the main theme, the weaker fingers of the RH are exercised and the player’s control of phrasing is also tested. This set of demands, packaged in a delightful miniature, makes it a satisfying piece to master both technically and musically.

The little diminuendo “hairpins” are a vital clue to interpretation, and should not be ignored. This dying away in each phrase gives the piece its character. In bars 5 and 6 the player is seemingly asked to do the impossible by making a crescendo on a single note. This simply shows the direction of the phrase and encourages extra arm weight on the next note. The only dynamic marking apart from crescendo and diminuendo is a repeated return to mf. Bars 9-11 should grow in volume and after a little tail-off in bar 12 the crescendo resumes, ending in a dramatic silence in bar 14. The final gesture tails off as if slipping quietly out of the room and gently closing the door.

As the dynamics already indicate, the end of the phrases should be quiet. It is too easy for the staccato notes in both hands to be played with a slight kick, especially where a leap follows. To prevent this, start to lift the hand before playing the staccato note, so removing the downward weight that causes a bump. It is also helpful to use a little flexibility in the timing, so that there is no sense of rushing to start the new phrase, even though it is only a semiquaver later.

Fingering is important, as ever. With all the repositioning in this piece, it is vital to know which finger will take the note you aim for. At the ends of bars 5 and 6 there is no alternative to the RH finger 3 because of the following chord. This repositioning should be practised as a movement with two elements: getting to the note plus opening the hand, ready for the chord as soon as it arrives.

Moving calmly about the keyboard will help to prevent trips and bumps. One of the most challenging sections in the piece, bars 12-14, can be conquered by working out what is going on analytically and practically:

• Bars 12-13 are in A minor, then the figure is copied in D minor
• RH plays sharpened 7th then scale up, both times
• LH plays only white notes.

Another place needing special attention is bar 4, where the G sharp at the end should not be overlooked. This is the first bar where the LH gets the melody, so a smooth transition should be practised.

There could be mis-counting in bar 15. This can be overcome by imagining the semiquaver figure simply continuing – the student or teacher could sing it – followed by joining in again.

With its repeated semiquaver movement there is a hazard that performance may sound monotonous or mechanical. However, the very detailed dynamics, phrasing and articulation markings, fully observed and played with a sense of flexibility, should help to ensure a well-shaped and musical result.

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