As it turned out the incident was a blessing in disguise because it forced me to practise playing staccatos in a lengthy phrase. The experience became useful in the next bar - the end to the first part of the piano song.
A phrase requiring every note in it to be played staccato demands true grit from someone attempting to execute it. If that was not challenging enough, before starting the little staccato sideshow, the B that initiates the phrase has to be slurred before plucking the G that voices the first staccato.
Make those staccatos shine with color by adding the dynamics to them, go from soft as you pluck the G and increase the momentum of your fingers to heighten the crescendo.
Mozart’s sheer brilliance is put on display in the second bar of the fourth line of the piano song. A chord of B, D and G is sandwiched between two notes - D and G. The genius behind this seemingly elementary placement of notes is that they are crotchets arranged to be played as staccatos while accompanied by three beats of staccatos in the bass clef as well.
This results in three thumps of solid and detached exclamation from the piano that concludes the introduction of the piano song in a suspenseful climax.
From that peak, we enter the next part quietly. So quiet that the right hand remains silent for a whole bar. The left hand ushers us through this stage of the piano song.
Point the index finger towards C#, drop the finger hard to strike the key with steely clarity accenting the note before pressing the D next to it. The pair of notes is repeated four times, and then move the index finger away from the black key to accent the C. The C and D are repeated four times.
During this time, take advantage of the absense of activity in the treble clef to move your right into position for the next bar. The first note of that bar will be a D two ocatves higher from middle C. It is a bit out of the way so moving there while observing the minim rest is a good idea.
Here is another tip on how to create a reverberating trill. Place the middle finger on A and the index finger on G. Play these two notes successively as fast as you can without loosing contact with the keys. If you can not play them fast, practise slowly at first.
If you lift your fingers too high the trill will not reveal itself. Keep your fingers low and as close as possible to the keys – ideally, never breaking contact and always touching them. Get that right and you shall have the trill in the first bar of the fifth line ringing to your pleasure.
Difficulty comes from a different direction just as I thought being able to get the trill correct would make playing the rest of the piano song a bit easier. Except that Mozart’s fondness of the alberti bass shadows the it constantly.
Unlike in the earlier parts when it went C,G,E,G twice in a bar or a variation of that pattern, now the alberti bass is a string of semiquavers CDBD, ADBD, CDBC and CDAD – that’s four sets of patterns in one bar and they are supposed to accompany the trill in the treble clef.
He tortures me and yet he thrills me. I can not help feeling that way as soon as I played the next line – line No.6 on the score I am using. The all too familiar alberti bass in the accompaniment has vanished.
Instead, both hands now are supporting one another singing one melody. Each group of semiquavers are slurred before the next one streams along. As I lifted my right hand high and bring it down slowly to hit a key I could feel the ebb and flow of the tempo.
The lifting of the right hand is not merely an expression. It has to be played that way if this line is to be rendered perfectly.
I think of the phrase in the musical line here as made of four segments. The first starts with D (two octaves higher from middle C), the second start with the C next to it, the third B and the fourth A.
The D and C are separated from each other by an ascending string of notes rushing up the keyboard from the bass clef that crosses over into the treble clef (played with the left hand), followed by another descending one that originates from the first note of the segment, in this case a D. One more ascending movement by the left hand is made before the next segment commences.
This cycle is repeated in all four segments of the musical phrase. Everytime a segment is completed, lift the right hand high and bring it down slowly to start the next one. It helps you to land the fingers where they are wanted accurately and keeps your play in time.
It also has the opposite effect of eliminating hesitation. I used to think that if I lifted my hands high, it meant moving further from the keyboard - thus making it harder to locate the keys when I bring them down again. Through experience and with rigourous practise I realize that by lifting the hands high actually improves accuracy and timing. Just have to be confident about it. Continue reading part 3 of 'Piano Song - Sonata K545'