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19 September 2020

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Grade 8 ABRSM Piano Teaching Notes 2021 2022

Fantasia in C minor - J. S. Bach

Grade 8 ABRSM Piano 2021 2022 A1

Teaching Notes

Let’s start with the ornaments. The realizations printed in small notes in the ABRSM edition are generally a good guide, but this performance moves away from them to some extent. For example, the long trill in bar 8, is not measured exactly as suggested, but rather a rapid trill, starting after the second LH semiquaver and finishing exactly on the seventh. A similar effect is found in bar 15 where a normal trill starts after the 4th triplet semiquaver.

For the written out lower mordents of bars 21-23, make sure they finish before the 2nd note of the other hand starts.

Bar 37 is rather complicated. After the initial lower mordent, startthe turn after the LH C withthe last two notes of the turn coinciding with the LH B flat. Then the ornament on the 2nd beat is like that in bar 1 but without the last two notes (of bar 1), finishing instead with a single “C” triplet semiquaver.

Watch out for sustained crotchets that continue through pairs of surround slurred quaver pairs e.g. bars 1, 2, 17, 18, 34 and 35 (all on 3rd beats of these bars)

As with any baroque piece there should be a slightly detached style of played the next to shortest note value, in this case the quaver. Another stylistic way of playing Baroque pieces is to use terraced dynamics. You will note that there are none actually printed in the ABRSM edition, but in the above performance there have been some added which are a suggestion only. Feel free to add some creative ideas of your own. In general, crescendi are not usually used, but you can give the effect of a crescendo by short sections stepping up a dynamic level. For example in bar 33, it feels like a crescendo would be appropriate, but instead, you could have steps up each group of six semiquavers.

Intermezzo in E - Johannes Brahms

Grade 8 Piano 2021 2022 B1
Also used for Grade 8 AGME; Grade 8 RCM; Grade 8 NZMEB; Grade 8 AMEB

Teaching Notes

The great conductor Carlos Kleiber always said “Brahms had trouble with bar lines; that he fought the tyranny of the bar line” and this can be seen in his Intermezzo in E. If you were listening to this piece and were trying to work out the beat, it can sometimes be rather unclear. This should be reflected in your playing, going with the forward flow of the music, rather than unduly accenting first beats as one might normally do. As the footnote in the  ABRSM edition says, 
Brahms’s music needs space to breathe and will rarely sound right if forced into the  restraint of a mechanical beat.

Also this footnote reminds us that Brahms used the direction “sostenuto” more in the sense of a “meno mosso”

Always be attentive as to where the melody is. Voicing becomes particularly important in the middle section, bars 25-42, where the triplets are generally subservient to the melodic line. Indeed, many of these triplet groups start with a note that has two stems, one of which belonging to a crotchet (the melody), and the other to the first of the triplet quavers. Pay attention to the long tied G sharp starting on the last beat of bar 40, that it is still audible by the end of bar 42. This idea is used again in the final coda section and notice especially, the crotchet G sharp in the LH of bar 62, which should stand out from its neighbouring quavers, not least because it resolves the suspended 4th note A on the first beat of the bar.

Be careful to shape the phrases as marked, sometimes with an easing of dynamics at the end of a phrase, or othertimes with a breath between them, (note the break before the 3rd beat of 13 in the recording above.

Pedalling, is generally changed on every chord although you will notice that the scalic passage bars 52-54 has no pedal in the above performance.

Air - from Suite
Helen Hopekirk
Grade 8 ABRSM Piano 2021/2022 B2

Teaching Notes

One of the main things the examiner will be looking for is the voicing of the melody. This is especially tricky in this piece with all the thick chords which should never be allowed to obscure the tune. You will also need to take care when the right hand is split into an upper and lower part. For example in bar 18, make sure that the final lower E doesn't sound like melody, keep it at a lower level than the previous upper C sharp.

Another aspect to gain a good mark is to use some tasteful rubato. Listen carefully again to the above performance and see if you can detect some pulling back at the ends of phrases. This can also apply to grace notes that occur in intense moments, for example the one in bar 42, is not exactly "crushed" onto the main note. In bars 35-38, notice too the tenuto markings on the first bass note of each bar. This also adds to the rubato effect.

Still in the area of time and speed, be careful of your rhythm when playing the demisemiquavers (e.g. bar 2). These can very easily turn into a lazy triplet. Attention should also be paid to the exact lengths of notes, Some examples that typically get missed (at least I circled them for attention in my copy) are in the bass, bars 20, 24, 28. Make sure they get their full length.

Finally I want to address the conundrum of the simultaneous crescendo / diminuendo of bar 30. You will notice that in the previous bar (29) there is also a diminuendo on the descending right hand figure. The same should apply to this bar (30), the crescendo however applies to the general more broad build up over the whole two bars, so although both bars tail off with the descending figure, the second bar is overall louder than the first, and then bar 31 will be louder still.

Novelette in E minor - Francis Poulenc
Grade 8 ABRSM Piano 2021 2022 B3


Teaching Notes

Right from the beginning of learning this piece, you need to be aware of the voicing of the melody. Generally these are the “stems up” notes of the right hand. There is however, one notable exception in bars 35-40 where the melody is at the top of the bass clef notes, (incidentally some of which are played in the right hand where marked with a bracket).

Another question may arise, regarding the pedalling. Poulenc simply instructs us “bathed in pedals” indicating that a little blurring is acceptable. In the video performance above, the pedal changes with each bass note. Indeed, it would be impossible to hold the initial bottom B of the left hand over two bars, without pedal.

Another thing you will notice about this performance, is frequent use of rubato. Although the ABRSM suggested quaver=120 metronome mark sounds quite busy, of much more importance is the composer’s instruction “Andante Tranquillo”. If at any time your playing sounds frantic, you need to chill out.

Notice in bar 67, not only a pause on the chord, but also on the following bar line. Likewise observe the “breath” before bar 72 and make sure you play the bottom E of bar 75 loud enough, to still be heard by the final bar.


Jingo - Christopher Norton

Grade 8 ABRSM Piano 2021 2022 C2

The direction “Marcato” at the beginning should set the tone as to how you should approach this piece. Accents abound and should be observed strictly. For example at the very beginning, notice the off-beat accents in bar 2. In bars 7 and 8, these accents are applied independently to the right hand, so be careful here that the left hand is kept a little lighter.

Take care also with the lengths of notes. The section from bars 12-14 is heavily pedalled, but be sure to pick out the odd staccato note that is not pedalled. Again in the second half of bar 15, the staccato applies to the right hand ONLY, so watch that the last left hand octave chord is longer than the notes above.

If you find the page turn problematic, try memorising the last three bars before the turn although from the video performance above it can be seen that a page turn at the very end of the page is just about possible.

Bar 21 requires a lighter touch and watch carefully here the exactly notation of the slurs. Some very precise pedalling will be needed in bars 27 and 28, being careful again to observe the isolated staccato notes.

Probably the most difficult part of this piece is the last two notes, with the very fast jumps of varying distances in each hand. As with most of the piece, metronome practice will be very useful here as you build up muscle memory, not only in the fingers but also the arm movements for the jumps. The same might be said for the jumps throughout the piece, where it IS POSSIBLE to build a good sense of “piano geography” without having to look down at your hands.

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1 comment:

  1. Hi!Everythi.g on this website is so helpful!Please could do Snow Moon and Flowers from C3? Thank you so much!


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