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24 April 2024

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Teaching Notes for Impromptu in B minor - Grade 8 ABRSM Piano 2023-2024 B1

Impromptu in B Minor
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Teaching Notes

Right from the outset, I would say that the suggested pedal markings in this edition are unclear and inconsistent and more than anything you should try to use your ear mrather than follow religiously what is printed. For example, compare bars 7 with 27. They both have similar melodic lines with identical articulation and yet one is pedalled to the 3rd quaver and the other to the 4th quaver. Personally, I believe the slur and staccato dot indicate a lift of pedal on the 3rd quaver in both cases.

The edition also has inconsistencies in articulation. Compare for example, bars 17-20 with 41-44. Specifically bar 41 should slur to the last note of the bar and NOT as printed over the bar line to  the first note of the next bar. 

Also compare bar 38 with 108. One pedals to the half bar, the other to the end of the bar. This is a matter for your own interpretation, but in any case do the same thing both times. 

Next consider the spread chords in the middle section. There seem to be many examples where there is a spread chord in one part of a phrase but not in the corresponding part of a different phrase. Just one instance is if you compare bars 47 and 63. Again, you will need to make your own mind up here, but I would advise a consistent approach in all similar instances.

Indeed the footnote on the first page implies that even this edition included corrections from the original source. 

Enough of the mistakes in the copy.....

As explained elsewhere in the footnote, an "Impromptu" denotes a spontaneous form of composition. I would suggest here that your performance too should have a spontaneous feel. The composer marks various changes of tempi, usually slowing down at the ends of phrases, but overall he is trying to give an impression of rubato, so you too can allow yourself a little freedom in your timing.

Voicing becomes very important from bar 21, where the left hand carries the tune. The octave chord grace note is awkward at best if performed as written, but there is nothing to stop you taking the F# at the beginning of bar 21(and similar in 23, 25, 27) with your right hand.

An area that many of my students fell down on in the middle section is rhythm, in particular, triplets and dotted rhythms. 

  • For the former, a triplet can often be uneven and end up sounding more like a quaver and two semiquavers.
  • In the latter case dotted quavers followed by semiquavers can often be heard performed more like "swing quavers" that is, that the final semiquaver occupies a third of the beat rather than the quarter that it should.

Just before the recap of the "A" section in bars 85-88, pay attention to the articulation where the right hand is marked slurred and the left hand semi-staccato.

You will need excellent tonal control to play the final "ppp" but give yourself a chance by not starting too soft in the "pp" of bar 109.

Finally, note that the pedal is written to continue to the end of the last bar, that is after you have released your hand and despite the numerous editorial confusions above, let's assume that this was the composer's intention in this case.

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