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2 minutes reading time (390 words)

Jan/Feb 2018 Pupil Saver - Nocturne by Catherine Rollin

Pupil Saver

Nocturne from the collection Spotlight on Romantic Style by Catherine Rollin (Alfred) is an accessible and motivating piece for the intermediate pianist. My first encounter with Rollin's music was her Concerto Romantique when I was searching for a first concerto for a piano student. I was, and continue to be, impressed with how captivating her music is.

Rollin has made a significant contribution to the piano pedagogy field as a pianist, composer, clinician, and teacher. She has published more than 200 compositions, most for progressing students, that are recognized for their musicality and teachability. As a pianist herself, she knows how to arrange notes without overstretching a student's hands. Instead, her compositions work on building technique with simple motivic structures and soaring melodies.

The most important elements of the Romantic style are expressivo, cantabile, and rubato playing; Rollins captures these perfectly. The primary challenge of this piece lies in the balance between the right-hand melody and the left-hand accompaniment. To achieve a singing quality in the right hand, finger legato is necessary. However, keeping the arm and forearm loose is crucial. Students should practice left hand alone without pedal. After a consistent sound is achieved, they may add the pedal back in again. An analysis of the chord progression will help with the memorization of the piece.

The nocturne is in ABA form. The A section is in D major, and the beautiful opening bars are found below. 

The B section, in B minor, is eight measures long and introduces a secondary theme foreshadowed in the A section. Not only does the tonality focus in B minor, the right-hand melody plays the same notes. In measures 17-20, the phrase is intensified by the poco più mosso and the triplets in the left hand. 

After the final A section concludes, the coda emerges with four sets of distinct triplet sixteenths, each set soaring higher and higher, as seen in measures 33-37.

 This piece requires sensitive touch, smooth pedaling, and acute listening for balance and direction. This nocturne will provide preparation for more complex and ornamented nocturnes by Chopin. It is approachable at an intermediate level, and easily grasped with normal practice. It will capture student interest, demand musicality, and foster technical achievement.

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