“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.”

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Beethoven Sonata, Op. 81a. Das Lebewohl. Les Adieux.

     A student writes: I have a weakness at playing thirds which I can't understand. I can descend in the right hand 53 - 42 - 31, but climbing especially 42 to 53 feels totally unnatural and my fingers feel paralyzed when I try to play at speed. For example Beethoven op 81a (Lebewohl) allegro, I can play the rest of the movement up to speed (including bar 17 which is supposed to be much more difficult) but I can't play those rising thirds.
     Is there something about the technique I might be missing? Is there an exercise that might help? I doubt that simply playing rising thirds is going to work as I have practised that bar hundreds of times and still can't play it.

     The thirds is question are in measure 3 above. (Please excuse the water mark. It's a long story.) This is an infamous passage, although most pianists have trouble later on, with the repeated chord. 
     Here's my answer: Yes, you are missing an understanding about the technique. No, you do not need exercises. (Someone in the forum suggested Dohnanyi exercises, all copies of which should be burned in a ritual bonfire.)
     Fingering starting with A-C: 1-3, 2-4, 1-3, 2-4, 3-5. From your brief description it sounds as if you are trying to play the thirds as separate units, that is, by articulating with up/down arm or hand movements or by isolating your fingers. From the B flat-D (2-4), feel hinged on 4, release 2 and rotate slightly in the direction of the music (right). Then, turn back to 1-3 (left). The third finger will cross over 4, the principle being that a longer finger may easily cross over a shorter finger. 
     You mention that 4-2 to 5-3 feels unnatural. Again, it's likely that the rotation is missing. Feel hinged on 4, rotate to the right, turn back to 5-3. This has the effect of playing 4 to 3. Alternatively, moving from 4-2 to 5-3 can be accomplished easily by shaping slightly in the direction of in, toward the fallboard as you move to 5-3. These movements are much easier than they sound when described in words. A demonstration is much easier to grasp.

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