Gurlitt: Aus dem Norden, Op. 130, No. 21
Preparation and Presentation
Pieces that are helpful to have experienced or played before approaching this one.
- Kohler: Etude in F Major, op. 190, no. 27
- Diabelli: Vivace in C Major, op. 125, no. 7
- any pieces that involve playing a LH broken-chord accompaniment against a lyrical RH melody, in either 3/4 or 3/8
Creative activities to explore before the first encounter with the score, to prepare a student for deeper engagement and more immediate success.
- Improvise or imitate melodies in D minor from an aural model, using dotted rhythms as they appear in the piece.
- Tap the rhythmic figure in the right hand while tapping a steady eighth note in the left hand.
- Rolling LH chord patterns focusing on those used in the piece; these might include: iivi, iVi and octave-based patterns as in mm. 1, 10, using appropriate fingerings.
Features to pay attention to first; priority steps in reading and absorbing the music.
- Fingerings and gestures for the left hand.
- Blocking triads will facilitate note reading and reinforce triadic fingerings; when and why to use 421 and 521 (versus 531).
- RH mm. 910: prepare legato connection into the harmonic sixths.
Physical skills and drills for common technical challenges in the piece.
- A circular wrist motion for the LH adapted for chord progressions in each phrase, always initiated by the bass note.
Ideas to connect and reconnect with the expressive and musical nature of the piece.
- The title of this piece, "From the North," is abstract; develop specificity in conversation with the student after a teacher performance.
- Dark tonality and expressive melody, combined with the markings risoluto, forte, and accents, provide clarity as to Gurlitt's dramatic intent.
Approaches to set up for success with refinements that will need attention a few weeks down the road:
- A convincing performance of this piece requires controlled balance between the hands; all HT practice must prepare for this tonal control
- Harmonic analysis can occur alongside the initial study of the chordal left hand to prepare for exploration of melodic direction and cadences.
Process and Practice
Tips for maintaining focus and engagement over time:
- Consider phrase shape and contrast in a predominantly forte context; formal analysis can help in decision making as four-measure phrases conclude with half cadences (to the dominant) and full cadences.
- Unexpected harmonic twists in the B section are captivating; note the modal shifts in mm. 12-13, 15- 16.
Useful practice segments; how to connect them and plug them back into the whole:
- Phrase by phrase practice, alternating slow practice for precision with performance-tempo practice for shaping.
- Short segments (half-measure, full-measure) with careful listening and slow practice to secure the alignment of the dotted figure and steady eighths, and optimal balance of melody and accompaniment.
Tips for focusing on how the parts makeup the whole:
- The bass line—the bottom note of each LH chord—can be given subtle emphasis to enrich the texture.
- Practicing the bass line against the melody results in a clear duet between melody and bass.
Ideas for finding and maintaining tempo, managing modifications artistically:
- Conduct two pulses per bar while singing the melody (or while someone else performs the melody; use this activity to find the surprising rhythmic syncopations (mm. 11-12) and metric accents (m. 67).
- Try a variety of tempi, especially those outside the allegretto marking, from the slow and mournful to the fast and dancing; the ideal pulse will be between these two extremes.
- Repeat this exercise at three tempi within an allegretto range to find anideal allegretto flow.
Tips for developing and refining a personal, internal sense of the piece:
- The reprise of the A section (mm. 17-24) must be shaped differently; discuss the instability of the B section and how it transforms the mood of the second A section.
Tips for securing memory:
- After each four measure phrase, stop, remove the hands from the keyboard, and then resume the next phrase; the result is a series of firm memory landmarks.
Tips for ensuring performance readiness, maintaining freshness and spontaneity, and reinforcing an expressive personal connection:
- Conduct or play along with the student, having them experience a variety of ways to push and pull the pulse, shape phrases, and pace cadences, thus providing several convincing ways to interpret the music.