Grieg - Alvedans
Interpreting the Music
Teaching & Learning the Piece
• E minor
• Very quick 3 /4, more like 1 in a bar
• Playful dance, very light overall
• Atmosphere of “fairyland” (enchantment, spookiness, mischief)
• Big dynamic range, strong contrasts
• Staccato against legato between hands
• Much repetition of musical material
• Very little pedalling
• No problems for small hands
This quick, light, magical piece is a good choice for students who prefer to express restlessness rather than tranquillity in their best playing! Technically it requires accuracy, wide dynamic range, speed and confidence. The LH moves mostly in crotchet chords and the RH must make its quavers sound effortless. Neat and nimble fingerwork is crucial to a successful performance.
Helpfully, the piece is not as long as it appears on the page. Of the total of 72 bars, 42 are repeats of previous material. Bars 1-8 are repeated in bars 9-16, 31-38, 53-64. Bars 17-30 reappear as bars 39-52. So it is worth laying down good foundations in learning the notes.
Fingering must be well learned and consistent. Uncertainty and hesitation over fingering will trip the player in performance. Bars 3-4 are a little awkward and need to be drilled in slow practice to make the notes flow smoothly. At bar 9 as the music repeats bar 1, it would be best to start again with bar 1 fingering rather than what lies under the hand.
There is a series of big leaps into the bass clef and back again, with strong dynamic contrasts, at 17-30. Point out to your student that the notes are the same although differently notated in bars 19-29 and 23-24.
For any student who has not by now fully mastered playing legato in one hand and staccato in the other, this may be a major challenge of the piece. The most reliable way to achieve this is to practise very slowly and deliberately, checking at each lift of the LH that the RH note is still held down. The player should feel the continuing pressure in the RH fingertips and compare this with the sense of space between the LH keystrokes. They should also listen for the RH sound continuing.
Dynamics are essential to the atmosphere of the piece: the wild and sudden variations help to give it a capricious air with a slightly dangerous edge. Using colour on the page may help, prompting the student to play loudly when they see red, and pianissimo at blue, for example. Using the una corda pedal at every pp marking may also help.
Sudden changes in this piece are combined with changes of register. The hazard in bar 16-17 is that in preparing to play loudly the student will lose accuracy in the leap. Landing on the notes from high above should only be done by those who are completely sure they will not miss! Jumping back to pp in bar 18 will be less tricky provided the student feels the surface of the RH notes and consciously takes any surplus energy out of the arm and fingers before pressing down the keys.
A new issue arises in bars 65-67: evenness, where the RH must lightly pick up its quavers halfway through the beat without bumping, and also avoid kicking on the staccato. Students who are not studying theory to grade 5 level may not previously have met the double sharp sign (bar 67).
Very little sustain pedal is marked, and there is no reason to add it anywhere else. In bar 29-30 and similar, as it is pianissimo extra care is needed to prevent a crescendo effect from repeating the chords. If anything, make a slight diminuendo.
Place the ornaments in the last two bars before the beat so that the staccato chords are together in both hands. Lift the pedal at the same time as the last chord!