Sunday, May 17, 2015

Practice Tips for Waltz in Suzuki Book 2

      Almost half way through book 2, and we have been working on using the entire bow, playing at the tip, frog and then back at the middle. What will happen in Waltz by Johannes Brahms? Here are some practice tips as you work through it:

The Waltz is in the key of G Major, 1 sharp - F#. This means there is a low 2nd finger on the A and E string for most of the piece like #1, 3-4, but watch out for accidentals.

This piece is comprised of two sections, but I break it up in three parts. Part 1 is line 1 and 2. Part 2 is lines 3 and 4, ending with measure 15. Part 3 is line 4-5, starting with measure 16.

Counting Rhythm.
In Book 1 we encountered this combination of notes in Happy Farmer but with a hook bow. It is easy to rush the dotted-quarter note, so we need to count carefully that it is held for 1.5 beats. And since the notes are slurred, it is the left hand that will execute the rhythm, so we need to be firm and exact with our fingers.
This group of notes that repeats constantly throughout the piece is the following: dotted-quarter, eighth, eighth, eighth. The way that we count this group of notes is "1-2" for the dotted quarter,  "&-3-&" for the eighth notes.

Up until now we have had a few slurs crossing strings, but now we have it for the entire piece. Notice that for all the measure with slurs two notes are down-bow and two notes are up-bow, with the up-bow for less beats.

Ever since Book 1 we have been experimenting with playing piano, soft, and even in the Musette and Long, Long Ago we have some piano, but now the majority of the piece is played piano. The way to do this is to play at the middle of the bow and use a small amount of bow playing smoothly.

The Long Crescendo. 
In part 2 there is a poco crescendo, which starts from piano and grows all the way to forte. We learn to use more and more bow over the course of an entire line.

Grace Notes.
In book 1, Minuet No. 3 and the Gavotte we had grace notes to play. Now, we are going to play two grace notes in a row. These notes are played quickly before the 2nd beat in measures 3 and 18.

1. Practice the bow exercises with whole bow, tip and frog.

2. Practice the shifting exercises on page 29 with smooth slurs.

3. Count and clap the notes to work on the rhythm. Refer above for the counting on most of the measures. We want to have a steady tempo with notes that flow with the beat.

4. Play the piece with no slurs to be consistent in the rhythm, since it is easy to rush the eighth notes.

5. Next,  play all the slurs as hook bow, stopping between each note just like in Chorus from Judas Maccabeus and Hunter's Chorus. It is good to practice with gentle and soft hook bows so that we can already get used to the quiet and gentle feel of the piece.

6. Regarding the poco crescendo in the second line, one way for us to think about it is to use a little more bow every measure until we are using as much bow as possible for the forte.

7. In part 1, measure 3, there are two grace notes after the quarter note. These three notes are slurred followed by a two-note hook bow. Practice just the three-note slur, to get the grace to be quick flicks of the fingers. Next, play the three-note slur, then stop, prepare the two-note hook then play them. Do it this way at least 3 times every time you practice the piece.

8. Once the piece is comfortably played in 1st position we are ready to start adding 3rd position. Page 31 has some suggestions on where to add 3rd position. Get comfortable with these spots then expand and add more 3rd position.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Muzio Clementi, Part 2

In part one we saw how Clementi came on the scene before Beethoven, studied with a relative and then under the patronage of Sir Peter Beckford. It really pays to be excellent on your instrument, people take notice and will invest in you.

Coming Into His Prime
At 18, Muzio was freed from his duties to Sir Peter and moved to London. There he performed the harpsichord and conducted (from the keyboard) at King's Theatre in Haymarket, around London.

In 1780, he toured Europe. In Paris, he played for Queen Marie Antoinette. He went to Munich, Germany, and Salzburg, Austria. In Vienna, Austria, he agreed to compete with Mozart on the keyboard in front of the Holy Roman Emperor, Joseph II. Guess who won? The emperor declared a tie, very nice guy.

Mozart doesn't seem to have liked young Signour Clementi. He wrote to his own father, "Clementi is a charlatan, like all Italians. He marks a piece presto and plays only allegro." But Muzio was quite impressed with Mozart and, later on, Mozart came to respect Muzio. They influenced each others' style and borrowed from each others' music. In fact, Mozart used the opening motif of Muzio's B-flat Major Sonata in his overture for "The Magic Flute".

From 1783-1803, Muzio stayed in London and taught music. In 1798, he added more to his work by taking over a music publishing firm in London. Perhaps Jane Austen, the famous authoress of the Regency era, bought music from 'Clementi & Co' at their warehouse in Cheapside or Tottenham Court Road. At this time, Muzio also began a piano manufacturing buisness. Sadly, one of his manufacturing warehouses burnt down and he lost about 40,000 pounds.

After developing a relationship with Mozart, Muzio struck a deal with Ludwig van Beethoven and received the rights to print all of Beethoven's music. Muzio was criticised for "correcting" some of Beethoven's music - adjusting harmonies he thought were wrong, for example.

In 1810 Muzio stopped performing publicly so he could devote his time to composing and piano-making. Around this time, he and a group of other well-known musicians founded a music society that became the Royal Philharmonic Society. His piano-making buisness flourished, and he invented several improvements in piano construction, some of which are still used today.

At the end of 1816, Muzio made a trip to Europe, to present some of his new works in Paris and Frankfurt. Over the next eight years he made several trips throughout Europe. Perhaps he visited his family back in Italy. But he always came back to England.

Muzio's last public performance was at the opening concert of the Society he helped found. He retired form the Society in 1830 at seventy-eight years old.

He spent his final years in Evesham, a town in Worchester, England. On March 10, 1832, he doed after a short illness. He was eighty years old.

Muzio was buried at Westminster Abbey, attended by several of his students. He had been married three times and had five children. His gravestone reads:

"Muzio Clementi, called 'Faher of the Pianoforte'. His fame as a musician and composer, acknowleged throughout Europe, procured him the honour of a public interment in this cloister. Born at Rome, 1752; died at Evesham, 1812."

Muzio Clementi was the first to create keyboard works just for the pianoforte, or piano. He composed almost 110 piano sonatas, along with several symphonies and operas. His earlier, easier piano sonatas are called sonatinas. Later composers used his sonatas as models for keyboard compositions. Muzio's piano compositions are known for being delightful and, though difficult, good practice for young pianists.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Muzio Clementi: The Father of Pianoforte Playing

Historical Period: Classical - Romantic
Nationality: Italian
Born: January 23, 1752; Rome, Italy
Died: March 10, 1832; Evesham, England
Contemporaries: Ludwig van Beethoven, Carl Czerny, Franz Josef Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Works:110 piano sonatas, operas, and symphonies

What's Happening in History?
The British colonies in America declare their independence from England in 1776 and Napoleon Bonaparte is rising to power in France as the country has gone through a revolution killing many innocent people. At the same time, Jane Austen has published her first novel, Sense and Sensibility, in 1811.

Life and Education
Muzio Filippo Vincenzo Francesco Saverio Clement (baptized Mutius Philippus Vincentius Franciscus Xaverius) was born in Rome, Italy on January 23, 1752. His father, Nicolo, was a well-known silversmith who married a Swiss woman named Madalena. Little Muzio was the first of seven children in the family, which makes it all the more incredible that his parents had time for him.

Muzio's father soon realized that his little boy had musical talent, and he arranged for a relative, Antonio Baroni, to give Muzio private music instruction. At seven years old, Muzio was learning figured bass, a system of music notation where numbers stand for chords. At eleven or twelve years he learned counterpoint, and at 13 he had already composed an oratorio and a mass. When he was just fourteen years old, Muzio became an organist at the local parish. In this way, Clementi followed in the footsteps of Bach and Handel.

In 1766, a wealthy Englishman named Sir Peter Beckford visited Rome. He was very impressed with Muzio's talent at the keyboard and asked Signour Clementi to let his son move to England with Sir Peter. Muzio's father agreed, and so off they went to Sir Peter's estate in Dorset, England. Muzio must have been heartbroken to leave his family for a country so far away, but as a young man he was probably very excited as well. We can already see the growing commitment from Clementi's family to invest in music as a career.

Sir Peter Beckford promised he would pay for lessons until Muzio was twenty-one. In return, Muzio would perform for Sir Peter and his guests. During this time, it is said that Muzio practised 8 hours a day at the harpsichord. He practised music of J. S. Bach, Domenico Scarlatti, George Frederic Handel, and others. In 1770, Muzio gave his first public performance on the organ.

Guest Author: Rachel