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02 September 2023

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Honey - Grade 6 ABRSM Piano B1 - Teaching Notes

Honey: (Humouresque): 3rd movement from "In the Bottoms"
R. N. Dett

Teaching Notes

The subtitle of this piece is "Humoresque", which refers to compositions from the Romantic period which convey a good humoured mood, (rather than the witty sense of the word humour).

The next direction we are given by the composer after the initial dynamic is capriccioso which refers to playing in a free almost unpredictable manner. For example, the tied grace notes before the bar lines (e.g. before bars 2 and 3) have the effect of unsettling the pulse in an unpredictable manner. Throughout the piece, you will need to use a lot of rubato and not be afraid to linger on the pauses.

Attention also needs to paid to the changes of tempo: meno mosso  bar 17 and molto meno mosso  bar 29.

Another source of unpredictability in this piece is the use of dynamics. The pp  opening is unexpectedly interrupted by the mf  in bar 4. Notice this bar contains a pause with the word lunga  above it. As mentioned above, don't be shy to hold this longer and keep your audience guessing what's coming next.

In bar 5, notice the octave D's in the RH tie over into the next bar, but then observe carefully the phrasing, where in bar 6 you'll need to lift the first note (and pedal), starting a new phrase from the second semiquaver. Similar bars will be found  in bars 13>14; 25>26.

Bar 20, provides another opportunity to engage your audience. The term lusingando  means "coaxingly" and again this is best achieved by not hurrying the pauses.

Another surprise the listener will not be expecting is bar 29. The dynamic here is f accompanied by the direction parlando meaning "speaking", so make them listen with your bold statements of these big chords. However, the playfulness continues with the alternating f, mf, f, mf so that one never really knows what's going to happen next.

Bar 39 has proved to be a trap for many students in that after mastering the "semiquaver / dotted quaver" rhythms of bars 29, 33, 37, it is tempting to incorrectly use this rhythm here whereas the quavers this time are even and equal.

And then we're back to pauses again. In bar 41, there is already a long note tied to the last semiquaver, but in my experience of teaching this piece, many students are uncomfortable waiting even longer for the pause on the bar line. Then after the characteristically unexpected (that's a contradiction right there - hence the title), echo effect, we find another pause before bar 44. And ANOTHER one on the 2nd beat of this bar, but this one is different in that you will need to be careful to release the LH (notice the rest) and just pause on the top D flat.

Of course we couldn't end without another surprise, so after dying away in volume and tempo, we wake everyone up again with a contrasting Allegro con brio.

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