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beethoven exam 2013 2014 piece allegro cantabile ornament trill phrasing

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#1 Step

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Posted 14 October 2014 - 16:46

Hi; I have few questions about my exam pieces which I'd love some clarification on!

 

I'm taking an ABRSM classical piano course and I'm currently in Grade 7. My teacher and I have chosen, from the 2013-2014 exam list, A4, which is Beethoven's Allegro Cantabile WoO 47 No. 1, i.e. this one:

 

There are two things that are troubling me and my teacher about the piece. Firstly, there's an ornament at 0:26 in the above video. That's PLAYED like a crushed note in pretty much every video performance I've seen on YouTube (example:  ) but it's WRITTEN as a leaning note (example: http://puu.sh/cc1CN.mp3). I MUCH prefer it as a crushed note (it feels like it was MEANT to be a crushed note), but I'm worried that playing it like so in the exam will net me lower marks, or at the very least a disapproved glare from my examiner! I checked the FAQ and it says that ornaments needn't be followed strictly, but I wanted to ask here to make sure.

 

The other thing that's worrying me is the weird and inconsistent phrasing/slurs and staccatos in the semiquaver (sixteenth note) passages, such as at 0:30 in the video I linked above, or 1:43 especially. It's written to be played something like this: http://puu.sh/cc1VH.mp3 but I always see the semiquaver runs played without regard to staccatos or slurs, like this: http://puu.sh/cc1Xy.mp3. I've been trying to practise the semiquaver runs with careful attention to where the slurs and staccato notes are, but playing them accurately at quicker speeds is proving simply impossible. Like I said, all videos I've seen of people performing this piece show them playing the passages as straight semiquavers, and I feel like that's the only feasible way of playing them at the speed required. Am I right to think this?

 

Some quick responses would be great. Thanks!


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#2 fsharpminor

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Posted 14 October 2014 - 18:10

First question.  I would not crush the note, its an apoggiatura, so lik eyour first clip.

Second question. The groups for 4 semis I would slur the first two and staccato the second two in each group of four, its not difficult with practice!


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#3 Step

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Posted 14 October 2014 - 18:21

First question.  I would not crush the note, its an apoggiatura, so lik eyour first clip.

Second question. The groups for 4 semis I would slur the first two and staccato the second two in each group of four, its not difficult with practice!

My first clip crushes the note. I think you mean like this, then?

 

It shows up at around 0:26 and is played as a crushed note in the video I linked above, which sounds a lot better to me personally. I've been playing it as an appoggiatura so far though, since that's what's written. I just feel like a crushed note (as played in the video) is a lot better haha.

 

As for the second question... I suppose I can keep practising. When I play it at its required speed I find it near impossible to slur the first two and staccato the second two, but maybe it'll come to me with practice.

 

Thanks a lot for the reply!


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#4 fsharpminor

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Posted 14 October 2014 - 18:53

Yes I would play that bit like your clip !   

The 'two slurred two staccato' type phrasing comes all the time in Mozart, it would be good if you could get that technique sorted.


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#5 linda.ff

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Posted 14 October 2014 - 19:11

You don't get disapproving glares from the examiner, however badly you may play!


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#6 GMc

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 10:32

I would look at all the editions you can muster and see if there is any variation - it is very hard to be certain what Beethoven wrote as Tom mentions.  I would need  a lot of convincing to ignore the official exam book edits.    However, the clip attached sounds rather alarmingly like a herd of hefalumps on the rampage so whatever you do I would not be basing my interpretation on that one too closely!  I am no great pianist but I can do the slur staccato groups OK...I am sure you can work on that.  Beethoven and Mozart are the ones that I used to find hardest to get to the sort of level I would be happy with for any exam though - I would be recording myself ruthlessly and listening to all professional recordings I could lay my hands on.


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#7 Step

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 10:37

Fair enough! For the record, I do put a lot of thought into the expressions ornaments and other nuances in a piece, and for the most part I try and follow what's written, in which case I'll just suck it up and play the leaning note instead of the crushed note haha.

As for the semiquaver passages, my teacher and I are both unsure about how to play them. On the one hand it's written to be played with very precise articulation and I respect that, but on the other hand I personally don't think the articulation differences are even very audible at a quick speed and I can't play them without stumbling when increasing the tempo. Perhaps it's just lack of skill on my part. In the FAQ I read that examiners prefer a solid performance without regarding ornaments over a shaky performance with regards to all the nuances in the piece, so I think I'll play them as straight semiquavers.

Thanks for the reply!
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#8 Step

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 11:34

Thing is, the edition I'm using (which is the ABRSM one) seems very... inconsistent.

For example, the left hand accompaniment at a certain section is articulated as "staccato + phrase of 3 legato notes" for a few bars, and then a few bars afterwards it just neglects to add in the staccato and phrasal mark, even though the rhythm and style of the accompaniment hasn't changed at all (and there was no simile written down anywhere). The semiquaver arpeggio passage that plays at 1:43 in my video clip has inconsistent phrasing, and in my edition it even differs from the edition used in the video! Couple all these inconsistencies with the fact that every performance I've seen plays it in a way that's different from what I have written in my edition, and I'm sure the confusion my teacher and I have about this is understandable haha.

I don't know... I'm taking the April/May exam session so I have plenty of time to practise. I can only try to play the slur + staccato properly at a quick speed. Maybe I'll get it with practice. One more thing I can do is check the CD that came with my purchase of the Beethoven book and see how the piece is played there, which I will do tonight as I have my piano lesson in 10 minutes!

Once again, thanks for the helpful replies.
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#9 linda.ff

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 14:24

Is there a metronome mark for this movement in any edition? I ask because I just listened to little snippets of it on commercial recordings by established recording artists (on Amazon) and they're played so fast that it's scarcely possible to do the da-ya-da-da with the semiquavers, and it isn't in evidence. If that's what Beethoven wrote, could it be that he didn't intend it to be an Olympic event? 

 


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#10 agricola

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 14:29

I have ABRSM edition of 7 Sonatinas edited by Harold Craxton which shows the ornament in bar 12 as an acciaccatura.  The articulation on the descending arpeggios in bar 23 is shown as three notes slurred and one staccato. 

 

I think the LH passage you mean is bars 11 -13 ?  The slurring here coincides with and reinforces a short crescendo in the RH part, which is not present in bars 13 going into 14.  Beethoven was usually very specific about articulation but these are quite early works (age 13 according to the Preface) so that may not apply here.


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#11 Step

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 15:51

I checked the CD that came with my book (which, for the record, is the ABRSM Beethoven The 35 Piano Sonatas Volume 1, edited by Barry Cooper) and since it's primarily full of commentary, it only contains the first 23 seconds of the piece, fading out RIGHT before the appoggiatura/acciaccatura in bar 12 plays, so I can't hear how it's actually played by them. Just my luck!
 
However, it seems to ALREADY do things differently than what's written. The first few bars have three staccato quavers/eighth notes in each bar, but in my edition only the first bar has them written as staccato. The other two are written to be played legato, whereas in other editions they are all marked as staccato and even in the CD that came with my edition, they're played staccato! It's inconsistencies like these which really confuse me. My point is, if it's apparently OK to add staccatos where there are none, then why isn't it OK to, say, play an appoggiatura as an acciaccatura?
 

As for deciding how to play I would ignore the way other people have played it until I had formed my own conception based only on the available scores, and my related knowledge and research. And as I said earlier, for an exam I would play precisely what it says in the score I was using, even if it is difficult, inconsistent, or hard to understand.

 

That makes sense. It kind of kills me inside to play that bar 12 ornament as an appoggiatura over an acciaccatura, since I think it sounds much better as the latter. I've been composing/producing music myself ever since I was 13, so I'm not great at resisting the urge to simply play my interpretation of it (i.e. acciaccatura) haha. Still, if it's for exam purposes I can't really argue that playing safe isn't the best option.

 

Is there a metronome mark for this movement in any edition? I ask because I just listened to little snippets of it on commercial recordings by established recording artists (on Amazon) and they're played so fast that it's scarcely possible to do the da-ya-da-da with the semiquavers, and it isn't in evidence. If that's what Beethoven wrote, could it be that he didn't intend it to be an Olympic event? 

 

 

It's played very quickly (more quickly than in the video I posted). I've estimated that, judging from the 23 seconds I heard from the audio CD, it's at 138 crotchet beats to the minute (I made this clip to give you an idea of the speed: ). This is precisely why I'm concerned. I can play the da-ya-da-da semiquavers at a leisurely 100 BPM or so, but bringing it up to that speed is proving impossible for me. Not only that, but it's played so quickly that it's hard to even audibly discern between a staccato and legato semiquaver at that speed. I suppose I can practise it, given that I have quite a few months left till my exam, but I haven't had much luck so far.

 

I have ABRSM edition of 7 Sonatinas edited by Harold Craxton which shows the ornament in bar 12 as an acciaccatura.  The articulation on the descending arpeggios in bar 23 is shown as three notes slurred and one staccato.

 

I think the LH passage you mean is bars 11 -13 ?  The slurring here coincides with and reinforces a short crescendo in the RH part, which is not present in bars 13 going into 14.  Beethoven was usually very specific about articulation but these are quite early works (age 13 according to the Preface) so that may not apply here.

 

My edition is ABRSM as well, and it shows it as an appoggiatura. Here are some relevant snippets of my edition (don't mind my teacher's pencil marks):

 

http://puu.sh/cdhcZ.jpg - bars 23 to 24

http://puu.sh/cdhkM.jpg - bars 47 to 52

 

As you can see the articulation is pretty much all over the place in those semiquaver runs haha. Some groups of semiquaves have no slurs/staccato, others have 3 legato + 1 staccato, others have 2 legato and 2 staccato, etc.

 

And yes I'm talking about bars 11 - 13. My teacher told me to play all the left hand accompaniment in 11 - 14 articulated in the same way (i.e. one staccato followed by three legato quavers), even though that's not what's written, so that's how I've been doing it.

 

Once again, thanks for all the responses!


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#12 Spanish Pavane

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 19:23

Hi, I do have a Grade 7 candidate playing this piece.  Firstly, the version you have on YouTube is not a polished playing - there are other interpretations which are much more pleasing and inspiring.  Secondly, at the front of the AB edition, the editorial tells you everything you need to know. It explains when editorial suggestions have been put in on the evidence available, interprets what Beethoven probably intended and the performance of the ornaments.  I do hope you received it with your copy as it is very comprehensive. Thirdly, practise the articulation slowly and continue to practise these passages slowly; the results will be worth it.  I understand what you mean when you say that the difference is barely audible at speed, but it is there.  The comments explain when continuing the same pattern of articulation is expected.  Fourthly, don't get too hung up on the ornaments but do try to follow faithfully what Beethoven intended (and in general they are explained in the copy or in the editorial). As long as they are neatly executed and in keeping with the period, you wouldn't lose marks.  However it is Grade 7, and so one would hope that by this stage you are wanting to play them as authentically as possible.  Lastly, like The Muso, I am surprised that your teacher hasn't done the research for you; the information is all there in the front of the copy (mine came with an extra pull-out sheet on this specific sonata as well as the general comments on the editorial process for all 35 sonatas).


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#13 linda.ff

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Posted 15 October 2014 - 20:40

... but there might be consequences. If what you produce is too far away from the expectations of your listener(s) ... then you might not be invited back, and in an exam you might simply fail.

Aw, Muso, don't scare the pianist - I'm QUITE sure that at that speed one grace note played long instead of short or vice versa, if it's played with conviction, and that's the crux of it, should not lose anything. Correctly as intended


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#14 UnnaturalHarmonics

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Posted 16 October 2014 - 06:41

I think he meant that you might fail if you went wild and turned it into a jazz bash.
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#15 agricola

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Posted 16 October 2014 - 08:16

ABRSM publications can come in more than one edition.  For example in bar 50 of the edition you posted articulation is shown and in mine ( ed Craxton) there is none. So I think you can assume that you will not lose marks in an exam for doing it either way.  The main thing is that whatever you play should 'live' and not sound like a museum piece. The question I would be asking is not whether a particular note should be played staccato but "What is Beethoven's meaning in this piece?"  If he was 13 when he wrote it a certain exuberance and playfulness might be suggested and I would try to create that rather than worrying over every dot and dash.


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