Schubert - German Dance, D 972 no 3

Interpreting the Music

Schubert composed over four hundred German Dances. These little pieces were to be played for his friends to dance to. The D 790 dances are particularly lovely and the one heard here is number 7 in A flat, played by Mitsuko Uchida on the Philips label.

Teaching & Learning the Piece

Schubert: German Dance, D 972 no 3

• A major
• Ancestor of the waltz
• Cheerful, quick tempo
• LH chords accompany RH tune
• Careful shaping needed
• Suitable for small hands

The 19th century saw the start of the waltz craze which swept across Europe and inspired some of the most popular music ever written. Its immediate predecessor was the German Dance, and this second example in the Grade 3 list shows how it had already become quite close to a waltz in texture and character, compared with Haydn’s one of 25 years earlier.

The video shows a couple dancing a 19th century waltz in costume:

With the characteristic waltz-like accompaniment (bass note followed by repeated chords) there is always a danger of the LH sounding unmusical. This can happen in several ways:
• All beats sounding the same
• Beats 2 and 3 being too short or too heavy
• “Kicking” beat 3
• LH dominating the melody
Schubert makes a feature of repeated notes (bars 2, 4, 6, 9-10, 13-14). Special care is needed in lightening and phrasing them off.

Articulation is not marked in, but it would be usual to play the LH as if marked with a slur and staccato. Similarly in the RH the last note of a slur would be a light staccato.

Choice of fingering will depend on the preferred way of grouping hand shapes. Bar 5 LH, for example, could be fingered as following from bar 4 rather than pairing with bar 6. There is no avoiding the need to put the thumb on G sharp in the second half of the piece. Remind your student to move their hand forward so that the thumb easily covers the black note without twisting.

The very simple harmonies used in this piece give an opportunity to show chords I, ii and V/ V7 in action. Knowing these basic chords helps with broader musical understanding as well as potentially helping memorisation. Encourage your student to play a block chord using the LH notes, and name it.

There is a potentially tricky moment in bars 12-13, where both hands have to reposition at the same time. There is also a line break, which some students find disrupts their flow so memorisation of at least bar 13 would be a good idea.

Dynamics are only indicated in outline. More will be needed to bring out the light and shade in the dance. Try experimenting with different schemes, such as echo effects or graduated dynamics. In performance, the aim will be to get the listener wanting to dance! A really good grasp of all the notes, or if not, a very confident ability to keep going, will support a happy and light-hearted performance.

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