Liszt - Klavierstuck in A flat (S.189a)
Whether or not Liszt was the greatest pianist of all time or not, there is no question about the legend which he created as a consequence of his remarkable personality and dynamism as pianist and composer.
Ironically this short and little known piece was written in 1845 during a period in Liszt's career which saw waves of adulation and hysteria surrounding his fame as a touring concert pianist throughout Europe.
Pupil Match & Suitability
Here is an opportunity at grade 6 level to perform a real piece of Liszt! It is not that difficult, and at 24 bars long there is good chance of getting to know the piece very well and the possibility of performing it with great confidence.
Its challenges will only hinder the student if they do not go about learning the piece in a thorough and careful manner. Physical tension can prevent a comfortable and fluent performance, although this is often due to a poor method of learning the pieces in the first instance and a lack of comfortable technique: all aspects addressed in the various sections here.
An octave stretch is required.
Style & Tempo
Although not titled ‘Valse’, in essence this is a simple and gentle waltz. What may distinguish it from a waltz is the mood and tempo which, marked Andantino espressivo, should not be too fast.
A feel for the rubato, the ‘pull and push’ of the line will be important, the main element of the musical material being its simple and lilting melody.
Phrasing & Articulation
The piece falls conveniently into three 8 bar phrases, each consisting of two 4 bar sub sections.
There are numerous ways to interpret the line.
• Simply straight – no rubato
• With emphasis and time taken on the first beat of each bar
• Thinking through beats 2 & 3
Tone & Texture
The mood should sound warm and inviting.
Whilst this can come from the tempo chosen and the way the character is communicated, the means of that communication is in the quality of tone itself.
Technique is defined as the means by which the end result can best be achieved.
In terms of desired learning outcome:
(i) we wish the result to sound fluent and musical.
(ii) we also wish to achieve this via a comfortable, consistent and confident means.
Both go hand in hand. The knowledge of what is needed to make the result musical is essential in order for the physical movements necessary to take place in relation to the sound produced.
Technique should always aim to serve musical needs.
Pedalling must always be considered in relation to everything else going on at the time.
If the the LH playing in the middle register is too loud, with the melody not singing out above it, then the musical lines will be lost to the listener.
Students often have little idea of just how much impact the sustaining pedal has on the mid-register piano tone, since they may not yet fully grasp that the main function of this pedal is, in fact, tone enhancement.
Listen to how the melody sings here, due to careful balancing of textures.
Musical enjoyment should always be at the heart of lessons, but we are sometimes taken up with the need to achieve our goal of knowing that the student is able to play the piece fluently by a certain date.
This can lead us to forget the musical essence in favour of focusing on right notes and fingering etc. Whilst these factors need to be in place, the main reason for playing is musical enjoyment and achievement – at least this would seem like the principal aspiration.
Knowing the LH as well as possible is often the key to a fluent grasp of a piece.
This is the case here. It is not a difficult part. However the leaps down to Eb and F need to be well known from memory if the performance is to be fluent and utterly secure.
Most problems are likely to occur as a consequence of not knowing the piece sufficiently well to get around the notes with confidence.
The remedy is simple: spend more time working on the elements mentioned, and do not be in too much of a hurry. However if this is looking like too hard a piece then it would be wise to withdraw.
An excellent will have a certain panache, albeit a gentle and subtle one. The piano tone will be warm and compelling and the phrasing will sound natural and flexible, drawing upon a good range of dynamics and textural subtleties.
A good performance will have all the expressive traits of the style. Pedalling may be a little less sophisticated and there may well be refinements of balance which could be more detailed. There will still be a fairly keen sense of communication about this kind of performance.
A sound performance may well fall into this category as a consequence of lack of real communication. The notes will be there and there will be an attempt to do something with them. However the results may be a bit crude and are likely to suggest that the performer’s heart is not somehow in their playing of this piece.