Hong Kong Festival 2017 - Grade 7 pieces
Sonata in G Hob XVI/39 1st mv - Haydn
1/ A bright, lively character is needed, suggested tempo around crotchet = 72 - 88, depending on the student's particular strengths and weaknesses as regards technical control and ability to phrase and articulate musically. A fast tempo will only be effective if it is well controlled and settled, with the ornamentation incorporated neatly.
2/ It is essential to play the dotted rhythms precisely and also to keep a firm sense of pulse when the semiquavers are grouped into six, starting at b36.
3/ Articulation should be buoyant in the opening sections but the minor key section beginning at the upbeat to b17 needs a more legato touch with a change to a more gentle mood. Pedalling needs to be minimal, but touches of pedal will enhance the tone and flow of the arpeggios at b45 and similar.
4/ The piece is Classical therefore needs dance-like elegance of phrasing and clear textures, taking care to observe the rests precisely.
5/ The melody lines are mainly in the RH but there are LH phrases that need bringing out, such as in b12 where there is imitation between LH and RH, at b38 and again at b45, where the LH has melodic fragments with subsequent dialogue between hands.
6/ There are opportunities for lovely shaping of phrases, especially in the more turbulent sections where the LH has chords, beginning at the upbeat to b53 and continuing until the pause at b75, which needs to be rather dramatic in effect before we go back to the opening mood and material based on the early sections.
7/ The ff starting at b95 gives a positive final section and you can pull the tempo back a little just ahead of the pause, before ending the piece brightly and cheerfully.
Sonata in G - Haydn played by Roland Batik
Puck - Grieg
1/ This piece must be performed at a quick tempo to give a feel for both the two in-a-bar and to characterise the mischievous mood. Using a relaxed, rotary movement will help with keeping control of the quavers in b3 and similar.
2/ Technically, it is not nearly as difficult as it looks because there are many repeated patterns, all of which fall naturally under the fingers. Fingering as indicated in the score is always satisfactory, with the option, however, that the LH, rather than the RH could play the first Bb quaver in b19.
3/ The main difficulty is negotiating the key signature - it's easier to remember what is NOT a flat rather than what is! Extra care will be needed in learning the correct chords in the middle section but the patterns are logical enough and, often, it is only the melody note that changes with the underneath chord remaining the same.
4/ The characterisation relies heavily on keeping crisp staccato articulation where indicated in the score - this must not be allowed to become semi-legato at speed.
5/ The wide range of dynamics should be fully realised and contrasted, whilst always keeping the lighthearted mood.
6/ Pedalling will be needed only in little dabs where the articulation is legato and should be used where suggested near the end of the first and final sections.
7/ The rests must be precise and, on no account, rushed at b17, at b76 and in the phrase that links the middle section to the final section, bb57 - 61.
Puck - Grieg played by Mikhail Pletnev
Golliwog's Cake walk - Debussy
1/ Who better to listen to than the composer, playing his own piece? This recording is a piano roll, which was a relatively early method of recording sound, beginning around 1883, using a continuous roll of paper with holes punched in it that represented the notes. The roll moves over a reading system called a tracker bar that produces the notes at the right time when a perforation crosses the bar.
2/ The cakewalk was a kind of high-stepping dance that was popular at the end of the 19th century, developed from an American black slave plantation contest in graceful walking that had a cake as a prize (and in which the slaves were actually mocking their 'masters').
3/ The chords from b6 to b9 may be played keeping the LH in position over the Eb and Bb and taking the rest of the notes with the RH. This will give a reassuringly safe beginning to the piece. As a general point, the RH may be found more interesting to the learner than the LH, but security with the LH leaps in the outer sections is absolutely vital to the fluency of the performance so these should be practised until they feel easy and can be judged with poise.
4/ Debussy gives very precise performance directions and these should be followed carefully as they help the performer to capture the mood and style of the music, in particular the accents and the crescendo to sff at the end of b12 (and similar).
5/ The first section needs to be jaunty and cheeky in character, with a wide range of well controlled dynamics and careful balancing of textures. Take special care in bars such as b26, in which the hands cross over, to bring out the upper RH note tune. Keep the rests precise in bb42-45.
6/ The middle section provides a contrast in mood and is to be played a little slower - it's a bit 'tongue-in-cheek' in its expressiveness, described by Debussy at one point as to be played avec une grande emotion. Take particular care with note accuracy in the grace notes. The RH second chord in b48 may be played by sliding the thumb from the Ab to the A.
7/ Keep the timing and tempo precise towards the end of the piece - don't rush the rests and there's no need to slow down in the final bars. The key to playing Debussy is to do as he tells you in the score, and do it with panache and bravura!