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September/October 2018: Pupil Saver

From the "Motivating Bookshelf

Logan is sitting on the piano bench, his mother behind us. Logan and I are discussing repertoire for both short- and long-term goals.

Logan is in soccer, tennis, robotics, piano, violin, and a plethora of church activities. Following a polished performance of "The Little White Donkey" from Jacques Ibert's Histoires1, Logan was in a funk of sorts, and it was time to pull out the stops. I needed a piece that was flashy, but not too difficult, so I went to my "Motivating Bookshelf" (yes, I have one) and selected Introduction and Fugato, by British composer Cuthbert Harris (Willis/Hal Leonard). A D-minor golden oldie from 1958, Harris's piece has been a favorite of many a student.

The Introduction features large chords, brilliant octave playing, a sprinkle of scalar flourishes, and a cadenza featuring C-sharp diminished chords that ascend to nearly the tip-top of the keyboard. This piece sounds big. Teacher and student should map out the rhythms and locations of the chords. Logan and I did this with the lid closed, approximating the chords' locations, playing them on the lid, and counting out loud. This preparation will pay off when the student plays the opening measures.

Excerpt 1: Introduction and Fugato in d minor by Cuthbert Harris, mm. 1-4.

Next, with the lid open, Logan played the chord clusters in their approximate locations, still counting out loud. He then practiced the chords hands separately in their exact locations and inserted the scalar passages into the rhythmic context of the piece. Finally, he learned the cadenza's ascending arpeggios by rote. These arpeggios first appear in measures 25-26.

Excerpt 2: Introduction and Fugato in d minor by Cuthbert Harris, mm. 25-26.

Logan was now set to practice the Introduction successfully.

In the Fugato, we used colored pencils to highlight the fugue subject in the left and then right hand. The first statement of the subject begins at the pickup to measure 30.


Excerpt 3: Introduction and Fugato in d minor by Cuthbert Harris, mm. 30-33.

Harris includes subject fragments throughout the section, followed by a cadenza featuring octaves between the hands and the return of sweeping diminished chords. As he did when learning the Introduction, Logan began by approximating note locations on the piano lid and practicing hands separately.

It didn't take long for Logan to master this piece, and he enjoyed every minute of it! And, as it was for Logan, the Introduction and Fugato can be the right piece at the right time for any student who needs a lift.

1To learn more about Jacques Ibert's Histoires, visit the Pupil Saver page in our May/June 2018 issue: https://claviercompanion.com/article-details/may-june-2018-pupil-saver

Got a Pupil Saver? We love to hear from you. If you are interested in submitting your Pupil Saver for consideration, please contact Susan Geffen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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