“Music is a moral law. It gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, a charm to sadness, and life to everything. It is the essence of order, and leads to all that is good, just and beautiful, of which it is the invisible, but nevertheless dazzling, passionate, and eternal form.”

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Chopin: G Minor Ballade

     A student writes about the Chopin Ballade in G minor. "I'm having a very troublesome time with the right hand at this passage. Particularly the lower octave part. Actually, I don't have a problem with the higher octave part even though they're the same notes as the lower part, but it's GETTING down to the lower one AND hitting the notes (particularly the A). Any idea how to help?"

"PS: If I'm having such a hard time on this passage so early in the piece, is it a good idea to continue or will the coda destroy me?"

     My answer: Here are some thoughts for you. If the upper octave works to your satisfaction, but not the lower octave, lean your torso slightly to your left as the right hand descends in order to keep the same angle of hand to keyboard. When the same passage is repeated lower, it is even more important to lean slightly to the left in order to get your torso out of the way. Remember, we can be at any angle with the keyboard as long as the playing apparatus is straight with itself.
     The second idea is about grouping notes. Think of the chord as the start of each group. It will be very slightly heavier. The technical concept here is that we group from the heavier to the lighter. This can have the effect, if you want, if giving a slight accent on each chord, adding syncopated interest. This last idea is an interpretive choice, a concept with which some disagree.
     Finally, you state that getting there is the problem. If so, use your thumb to propel your hand over from the single D to the new lower chord. This is one use of forearm rotation. Pivot on the thumb to the left as if a string attached to the back of the hand is pulling it. Then, allow the and to fall back to the right on the new chord. Try it fairly big first. Then make it tiny, almost invisible.
     The coda has some different (and similar) issues. Some pianists with average-sized hands tire from keeping the hand more open than it needs to be. Try working out the coda before continuing with the piece. You may need some help from a teacher here.

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