Delibes (arr Scott) - Mazurka from Coppelia
The mazurka is a Polish folk dance in three time and this famous tune is from the ballet by Delibes. Traditional mazurkas were of various tempi, some were slow, some were moderate and others were fast.
Pupil Match & Suitability
This cheerful piece will prove popular with both children and adults. A secure grasp of rhythm is needed however, with the ability to play dotted rhythms accurately.
There should be few problems here for small hands as the octave leaps may be detached without detracting from the style of the music.
Style & Tempo
Although the mazurka is in three-time, it has a much more rustic feel than the elegant waltz. The character should be communicated in a firm tone, yet a light spirit.
A tempo of around crotchet = 132 will allow the music to dance along.
Phrasing & Articulation
The phrases are four bars long, with the first and third phrases identical.
Care should be taken to shape the phrasing using dynamic gradation as this will help to convey a feel for the dance. Crescendo through each phrase, finishing with a diminuendo.
Playing without phrasing shape creates a dull monotony.
Tone & Texture
The melody is all in the Right Hand and this should sing out clearly above the accompanying Left Hand.
The dynamic is marked simply as forte, but beginning the second and fourth lines a shade quieter, without forgetting the accents, then building the dynamic back up to forte, could provide a little welcome variety.
The most challenging aspect of this piece for the inexperienced student is probably managing the LH leaps at a brisk pace.
The essence of achieving confidence is in absolutely secure memory of the LH. This might be achieved by likening the chords to the notes in the known arpeggios of D major, G major and C major.
The LH part may at first be divided between the hands, then played with the LH alone when secure.
Nimble fingers are needed to negotiate the lively RH melody, which sometimes requires finger changes and playing in thirds.
Beginning the RH on finger 4 works well.
In Bars 3 - 4, changing from finger 4 to 3 on the F sharp will enable clean articulation of the repeated note.
Some pianists may find that beginning each LH bar with finger 5 brings an easy logic and flow. (In this case, use 1 / 3 for B and D, Bar 2.)
Not expected in this piece, but the very talented student could use a mere touch on the first beat of the bar.
Much better to use no pedal than to over-pedal.
The preparation to this piece could be enormous fun if you can find out how to do the mazurka dance and teach it to your student.
Failing that, do aim to watch a dvd clip of a ballet company performing the dance, in which you will hear the inspiring, orchestral version of the music.
Practise clapping the rhythms in time with a recording of the piece before playing.
Practise singing the song (see Teaching Strategies) in time with the recording.
Separate RH practice should initially be done with the three important points in mind – rhythmic accuracy, fingering accuracy and note accuracy.
Separate LH practice might first consist of finding and naming the whole chord, ie chord D7, G, C. The LH should ideally be memorised.
The tune could be sung as the student plays the LH as a preliminary to playing hands together.
Careful, accurate, slow practice with hands together will then build gradually into a lively performance.
Once the dotted rhythms have been mastered, the student can be so confident that the quaver F sharp in Bar 2 is also played as a semiquaver. This is a very common mistake to be made in the Grade 2 examination.
Do stress this particular point right from the first lesson on this piece.
An excellent performance:
This will dance along at a lively pace. Phrasing will be shaped and there will be some dynamic variety between phrases to help show the structure of the music.
The melody line will sing out clearly and the LH chords will be controlled evenly with confident accuracy. Rhythms will be completely precise.
A good performance:
This will show some feel of the dance and, although there may be a few small smudges in accuracy, fluency will be achieved overall, with dotted rhythms mostly reliable. There will be a sense of phrase but, as yet, tonal control may not be completely poised.
A secure performance:
There will reasonable security of notes with a firm sense of pulse and of the three-time metre, although dotted rhythms may not be precise. Any slips will not seriously disturb the steady continuity.