Schubert - Two Waltzes (Nos. 3 & 4 Op 9 (D. 365)
The history of the waltz goes back to a "sliding or gliding" dance of the 16th Century.
The waltz was very fashionable in Vienna already in the 1780s, and it was something for which the ladies of Vienna were famed.
A much later, more grand version, but nonethless popular comes from Tchaikovsky's ballet, Nutcracker.
From this you will note the graceful movement and character within what is essentially a one-in-the-bar feel.
Pupil Match & Suitability
Seemingly a fairly simple piece, this has its challanges. It would be easy for a slightly anxious performance to go awry if there becomes any doubt about the jumps in hand positions, for example.
Good practice techniques should sort this out, however.
A sense of flexibility in the playing and the capacity to play with that essential waltz feel will make this piece so much more attractive to learn for both student and teacher.
Those with smaller hands should not find this unduly difficult since careful pedalling should help to cover any larger LH stretches.
This piece would suit a failry wide age range of pupils, including adults.
Style & Tempo
The principal element here is the waltz mood.
The harmonic language is simple and the wrtiting very straightforward.
Musical success comes from many different elements, but not least the ability to play with a sense of rubato whilst retaining a clear and confident overall pulse.
Check out the various example performances of waltzes.
Phrasing & Articulation
It is always difficult to separate out the various musical elements which contribute to a sensitive and successful performance.
There are many aspects which can go towards making a performance of these two pieces into a rather heavy handed and unattractive end result.
As far as phrasing and articulation are concerned, the emphasis must be upon lyricism and sensitivity.
Tone & Texture
The modern day piano, especially if it is one with a heavier action, can well make life tricky for the pianist who wishes to attain subtle tonal textures at speed.
There are a number of additional technical aspects which govern the quality of tone control, and these should be checked out in the technique section.
The musical aspect of technique is always as important as the technical aspects of getting the hands and fingers around the notes.
To achieve those more subtle musical results here it is very important to get the movement of hands and in particular the technique of jumping from one chord to another as slick as possible.
The LH holds the key to success here. Fluency first and foremost in LH technique is vital.
There is often little choice for variety in fingering.
However it is often the way in which the hands are used to reposition on certain chords which is responsible for the success of fingering and not the exact fingers themselves.
Be certain to consider carefully the points raised in the technique section.
If there were two evils from which to choose, then lack of pedal is likely to be better than over pedalling !
A performance without any pedal will sound a bit odd even though entirely possible.
However, overpedalling, by pedalling through each bar for its duration, as heard in the audio clip, is definitely unsubtle.
It is always a good strategy to aim to inspire your student right from the start.
Never begin by pointing out the difficulties !
Always aim for inspiration which comes from a keenness to start playing the piece itself and to be the one who will master it.
Think out the various strategies which can best help you to achieve this.
The same old things come up time and again: slow careful, methodical practice!
If our students are always finding this somewhat tedious (and let’s face it most do – including plenty of professional musicians, by the way!), then it is up to us to find encouraging ways to support them, and to be as imaginative as we can in our approach.
In performance good intentions can often go awry.
A shaky performance of this may well leave the performer missing essential LH notes in the leaps and playing with rather a thin tone, notes in chords possibly not going down together.
Ensure that plenty of work is done to maximize the strength of chord knowledge.
An excellent performance will have the charm which might be associated with a soiree of the well heeled classes, gathered together for a social evening in high society. The textures between hands will be carefully honed to give weight to the bass notes but gentleness to the innere part 2nd and 3rd beats. The phrasing will be elegant and there will be a delightful hint of rubato in the shaping of the line.
A good performance will have confidence and clarity in the chord playing along with a degree of subtlety in the texture and phrasing. Its musical graciousness may yet be a little naively grasped and the finer detail could probably be more polished in places. However, there will be a definite spirit of the waltz to the playing and the performance will be engaging.
A sound performance will be comfortably accurate within a fairly convincing tempo. Where this kind of performance may differ from the other two is that the level of control within the texture and the finer points of musical phrasing will probably be largely absent.