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Poulenc Novelette in E min Grade 8


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#1 EllieD

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Posted 30 January 2021 - 12:38

Does anyone else think this is a bit easy for a Grade 8 piece? I'm making much faster progress on it than I have with any other Grade 8 piece I've tackled so far. It's great, though! :)

 

Also, does anyone know why it is in E minor, but there is no F# in the key signature and it's just sharpened whenever needed throughout the piece. Is this typical of Poulenc perhaps, or is there some other reason?

 

Also if anyone's been wondering where I've been, I moved house more than a month ago and useless Sky still have been unable to provide me with broadband. So I'm logging on once a week at my sister's (we're in a bubble), so I won't be able to reply to any comments until next weekend. :(


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#2 fsharpminor

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Posted 30 January 2021 - 14:04

I think its the most approachable piece in that Group. There's has been a lot of discussion on a Facebook Group comparing the Group B pieces , in particular the Poulenc and the Brahms op 116 no 6.  I have played all three Poulenc Novelettes for some years, love the middle one in Bflat minor, rather harder than the other two, but all three have been in Grade 8 syllabusses. 

 

Novelette in C major, no 1 in 1982/1996................. Novelette No 3 in E minor sur un theme de Manuel de Falla  in 2021............ Novelette No.2 in B flat minor  in 1972/1992/2003


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#3 andante_in_c

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Posted 30 January 2021 - 14:53

 

 

Also, does anyone know why it is in E minor, but there is no F# in the key signature and it's just sharpened whenever needed throughout the piece. Is this typical of Poulenc perhaps, or is there some other reason?

 

 

Mid-twentieth century music is often written in this way, even when it has a clear tonal centre. I'm not sure of the reason, but it may be reacting against composers of the previous generation who frequently changed key signatures when their music shifted into a new key that was somewhat remote from the original.

 

My favourite example of the latter is Gaubert, who was a flautist and wrote mainly flute music. He belonged to the generation before Poulenc, and the first movement of his Sonatine has around five or so changes of key signature. At one point he shifts into five sharps for around 20 bars, but a few bars in he has modulated so far away from this key that there is a bar with two C flats in. :o

 

If players were having to cope with this stuff at the beginning of the twentieth century, it's not surprising the next generation decided to do away with key signatures altogether.


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#4 Crock

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Posted 30 January 2021 - 17:08

In recent months I 've been learning  a number of the Grade 8 list B pieces looking eventually to choose one to polish up further for the actual exam.  I've looked at the Brahms Intermezzo, the Helen Hopekirk Air, the Poulenc Novellette, the Chopin Mazurka and the Arensky Novelette. Of these my teacher thought the Poulenc the hardest, mostly due to the speed and I think that so far I agree with him.  And so far I think the Hopekirk the easiest of this set of five.  I like all ten in the List B list but I am trying hard not to experiment with any more as I fear then I will never get round to the exam!


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#5 fsharpminor

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Posted 30 January 2021 - 18:16

T

 

In recent months I 've been learning  a number of the Grade 8 list B pieces looking eventually to choose one to polish up further for the actual exam.  I've looked at the Brahms Intermezzo, the Helen Hopekirk Air, the Poulenc Novellette, the Chopin Mazurka and the Arensky Novelette. Of these my teacher thought the Poulenc the hardest, mostly due to the speed and I think that so far I agree with him.  And so far I think the Hopekirk the easiest of this set of five.  I like all ten in the List B list but I am trying hard not to experiment with any more as I fear then I will never get round to the exam!

The Poulenc is 'Andantino Tranquillo', why should that tempo cause a problem ?  I still think its the easiest piece of the 6 or 7 I know in that list !  Still, each to his own opinion


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#6 Crock

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Posted 30 January 2021 - 22:23

 

 

The Poulenc is 'Andantino Tranquillo', why should that tempo cause a problem ?  I still think its the easiest piece of the 6 or 7 I know in that list !  Still, each to his own opinion

Well, it was definitely his opinion that the speed could cause problems.  It is in 3/8 and the suggested speed is 120 quavers per minute and there is quite a lot going on.  And I've made quicker progress with the others.  As you say each to his or her own opinion.


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#7 Hildegard

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Posted 31 January 2021 - 11:06

 

Also, does anyone know why it is in E minor, but there is no F# in the key signature and it's just sharpened whenever needed throughout the piece. Is this typical of Poulenc perhaps, or is there some other reason?

 

 

A number of early 20th-century composers, particularly in France, used "open key signatures" (i.e. no sharps or flats in the key signature) to emphasise that their works were no longer subject to the hierarchies of tonal music. It seems odd that this piece has the sub-title "in E minor" but the New Grove, which is generally very well researched, doesn't record any such sub-title for this Novelette, so it may have been added by the publisher (and then copied by the ABRSM). It isn't really in E minor, as the prominent D-natural in its final chord indicates.


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#8 EllieD

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Posted 03 February 2021 - 11:54

Thank you everyone for your comments. I guess it is possible I find it a bit easier than some other Grade 8 pieces because it is something much more in my comfort zone than many, and probably helps that I am happy to play from memory (lots of leaps and jumps!!). The previous Grade 8 piece I'd looked at was the Shostakovich Prelude and Fugue from the 2019/20 syllabus and that was far from my comfort zone, and the fugue was very hard to memorise!!

 

Thanks also for the comments about the key signature - those explanations certainly make sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 It seems odd that this piece has the sub-title "in E minor" but the New Grove, which is generally very well researched, doesn't record any such sub-title for this Novelette, so it may have been added by the publisher (and then copied by the ABRSM). It isn't really in E minor, as the prominent D-natural in its final chord indicates.

 

 

That final chord is certainly odd! But interestingly, you do still end up with a sense of E minor at the end because the chord starts with an E played mf in the more resonant lower register and then works its way up getting quieter, and in less resonant octaves. All this is then held, so the overall effect is that the quiet, less resonant higher notes fade away and you're just left with that bottom E.

 

Great piece, I hope I can do it some justice!


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#9 Tortellini

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Posted 06 February 2021 - 15:29

Thanks to this thread I have just discovered this piece and am in love.  :wub:  I think it's probably too hard for me though and I'm not sure I could tackle it without a teacher.


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#10 Tezes123

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Posted 12 February 2021 - 22:10

I got to the third page of the Poulenc and have just made the decision to put in on the back burner. I just couldn’t get the melody to sing out, my problem is the 4 voices structure. I’ve raced ahead with My other two pieces so it was frustrating me to distraction. I’ve switched to the Brahms and two weeks in it’s coming along really well. ??
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#11 EllieD

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Posted 13 February 2021 - 10:49

Thanks to this thread I have just discovered this piece and am in love.  :wub:  I think it's probably too hard for me though and I'm not sure I could tackle it without a teacher.

 

That's lovely! When I first started with this forum, a member (I think Saxwarbler) was talking about Burgmuller's Angelic Harmony - I fell in love with that too and am a big fan of Burgmuller now! I might not have come across him without this forum!

 

As for it the Poulenc being easier ... OK, maybe not! It was relatively easy for me to learn the notes and play it slowly, but there is a huge amount of mental effort required to play it smoothly and fluently, and there is nowhere at all where you can have a break from the intense concentration needed. So a different challenge from most pieces I've tried so far, and definitely not the easy Grade 8 option I had first thought.

 

Tezes - I think I'm doing OK getting the tune out because the last piece I played before this one was Mendelssohn's "Duetto" Song Without Words, and I learned a lot from that. My top tip is to play it slowly while singing the tune aloud (If you live with anyone else, obviously you may choose to wait til they're all out...!). Then the brain starts to hear the tune amongst all the rest of the notes, and then your fingers will start to play it that way. Really hard work though!!


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#12 fsharpminor

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Posted 13 February 2021 - 13:18

I actually played Duetto at A dip back on 1963, still a favourite of mine.  I love Poulenc. All three Novelettes have been set for Grade 8 , and I play them all , but the middle one in B flat minor is tricky !! 


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