Hong Kong Festival 2017 - Grade 8 Pieces

Grade 8

Sonata in E Op14 No 1 3rd mv - Beethoven

1/ A good choice for a student who is good at scales and arpeggios and can play at an lively tempo with precise accuracy. Smallish hands will not find this piece a problem as long as an octave can be reached comfortably.

2/ The main difficulty comes close to the end, starting at b108 where the two-against-three rhythms are tricky. It sounds awkward at a slow tempo but will sound much better once the piece is up to speed. It may be worth exploring this section early in the learning process of this piece.

3/ Technical points - be sure that the octaves are played with a strong finger 5, which needs to be firmly placed near to the black keys while the thumb rests on the edge of the key.

4/ Dynamics need both contrast and grading to show the phrase structure; held notes, rests and articulation markings should be precisely observed. 

5/ The tempo marking, allegro commodo means a comfortably lively speed but this does need to be fast enough to give the musical impetus needed for this passionate piece. 

6/ The balance between hands is something that needs very careful consideration as there is a good deal of interplay between hands, with the LH often very important, for instance in the section beginning at b47 where the LH should make a firm statement, with the RH bringing out the more important melody notes. The performance here by the great exponent of Beethoven, Daniel Barenboim is an example worthy of being emulated 

The third movement begins at around 4:20.

Intermezzo  - Schumann

1/ This is a piece that has a daunting look on the page but it is so worthwhile learning for its brooding energy and lyricism. 

2/ The technical difficulty, which is one of bringing out and shaping the melody whilst controlling the accompanying semiquavers at speed, runs throughout the piece as a whole.

3/ The melody is not obvious until the tempo is sufficiently fast to make sense of it so it is important for a student to hear this piece before learning it. The melancholy drama of the music is expressed here by Tatiana Nikolayeva.

4/ A further difficulty is the division of the notes between hands. The next video shows Murray Perahia  (at 14:10) and this is particularly interesting as it demonstrates how calmly he moves the LH between the bass notes and the higher notes, a skill that is essential for a convincing performance. The rich tone and beautifully shaped length of melodic line that he creates are something to be admired and emulated. 


Valse - Bartok

1/ This could be a great choice for a confident student who enjoys the somewhat quirky humour of this piece. 

2/ The piece could be thought of as almost a caricature of a waltz, in that it is obviously too quick to be danced to yet it has those Strauss-like moments when the tempo slows teasingly, before off it goes again!

3/ Some of the LH notes could easily be taken by the RH where there are chords underneath a held RH note for example starting at b18 and at several points later in the piece.

4/ It may be advisable to begin the poco accel section on page 43 earlier rather than later in the learning schedule, since this is going to present a challenge technically, although the repetition, at least, helps with learning the notes.

5/ The arpeggio figures are not so challenging technically and may be achieved at speed by rolling the hand rather than just by working the fingers.

6/ This is a piece that must have plenty of detail for a successful performance, in the articulation, the accents and wide-ranging dynamics and, in particular, the pace changes. It really does need a presto tempo for full effect in performance.

The performer here is Robert Hagopian.

The slower tempo and more muted use of detail in this archive performance by George Hadjinikos (start at 7:05) do not bring the humour of the piece to life quite so convincingly.

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