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30 June 2023

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Wind in the Willows - Bernadette Marmion - Grade 5 ABRSM Piano 2023-2024 B2 Teaching Notes

Wind in the Willows - from Allsorts
Bernadette Marmion

Teaching Notes

The "B" list pieces in the ABRSM exams generally tend to be slower and more expressive and so the examiner will be looking for your ability to phrase sensitively with a singing tone, being able to use some rubato at appropriate places with maturity.

One of the first instructions we are given after the tempo is "cantabile". Imagine singing this melody, (you could even literally sing it to give you a sense of the phrasing). Just as if you were singing the music needs to breathe. You will notice in the above performance tiny breaks in the sound as if you were inhaling before the next phrase. For example, listen to the last quavers of bars 9 and 10 which are separated from the rest of the bar by a small silence. This is indicated by the composer, who deliberately does NOT beam this final quaver to the others that would normally be beamed together in the same beat (remember your grade 5 theory??). More examples of this can be found at the end of bars 18 and 26.

Another instruction we are given is "sempre con pedale" but the question is how often to pedal. The rule is usually every change of harmony so as not to blur the sound and in this piece that tends to be twice per bar. However, for the breaths mentioned above, make sure the pedal lifts here too (try singing a note while breathing in - the result is not so pretty).

Dynamics are prescribed in detail and should be followed to get a good mark, but pay attention in particular, to bar 13, where a different dynamic is given to each hand. Obviously the main melody is in the bass here. However, the opposite is true for the rest of the piece, even though not prescribed, in that the LH accompaniment should never drown out the melody. Danger areas for this could be the chords in the LH bars 11 and 12. The volume has increased here to a "mf" and it would be very easy to let the LH become over dominant in an effort to add power to the higher dynamic level.

As mentioned at the beginning, rubato can be used and is even hinted at with the frequent instructions to change tempo. Take care from bars 16-18, where the poco rit should continue to the end of bar 18.

Also related to timing, watch the dotted minim upper RH bar 24, sustains to the end of the bar, especially since you will be changing pedal on the half bar.

Finally, although the last chord in the ABRSM edition is marked to be played with the LH, you will notice in the above recording that the RH is used. This is perfectly acceptable in an exam, so feel free to experiment with which ever you find the most comfortable.

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