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Grade 6 ABRSM Piano Teaching Notes 2021 2022

THIS PAGE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS - 
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Sonata in Eb - 3rd movement - Allegro - W. A. Mozart - A2




Mozart is very precise in his articulation markings, but bear in mind that he uses the wedge staccato  to mean what we would normally perform as a normal staccato.  Also pay attention to which notes are actually slurred. For example the  right hand quavers in bar 8 are legato, but not the left hand ones. Later, in bar 14, notice the two note slurs, with a little lift between each pair. 

Be careful that the alberti bass figures (e.g.bars 20-22) don't become too overpowering for the melody.

In bars 48-55, be careful to make the dynamic contrasts exactly on the notes that Mozart marked, to create a dramatic echo effect.

Careful articulation is again needed in bars 60 and 61 lifting the last note of each slurred group.

Finally, there is one place where I believe the legato marking was not exactly as Mozart would have intended. In bar 100, there is a break between the first two semiquavers, but where the same theme repeats a bar later, this "break" is missing. I believe for the sake of consistency there should be a break here also, even composers made typos!! (See the missing notes that have been filled in as "small notes" in bar 68 - i.e. Mozart probably just forgot to write them) 

Mazurka in G minor - Chopin - B1





As is common with most of Chopin's music, the tempo should have some rubato  that is, played with freedom. In this video performance you will notice, for example, a slight lingering on the very first note and again on the last note of bar 8 and throughout bar 14, to name but a few instances. By the way, the wide chord in this bar 14 would be fine to play as a spread chord in the exam if your span does not stretch that far.

Regarding pedalling, the markings in the book are  not  the only places you should pedal, but they indicate where there may be some confusion, e.g. when it goes over more than one beat. Generally this piece is pedalled throughout, changing wherever there is a change of harmony, which is often every beat. Take for example the middle section marked  legatissimo. Here, no pedalling is marked, but it would be difficult to follow the composer's instruction of playing very smoothly  without pedal. The only places where you may decide not to pedal are where there are rests, e.g. first beat of bar 5 and similar.

The sforzandi should be done in the context of the overall instruction at the beginning of Cantabile, so a little extra weight without getting too harsh.

Notice that the section 29-32 is NOT as soft as 21-24 and there is even a slight crescendo, although again, in the context of cantabile

Bar 33 is marked sotto voce (under the voice / whispered) but then grows back into a mezzoforte for the repeat of the opening melody. A slight ritardando would be appropriate here (bar 40).



Page D'Album - Claude Debussy - B2



Debussy is very precise in his markings regarding articulation and dynamics, but maybe not so helpful with the pedalling marks. The simple “con ped” at the beginning, (you’ll notice in brackets, so editorial, not Debussy’s own), leaves a lot of the decisions up to the performer. In general you can be quite liberal with pedal in music from this impressionist era, but don’t let it obscure any staccato markings or rests. You’ll notice in the above performance, for example, the bottom D staccati of bars 5-12, can all be heard, as can the staccato chords of bars 19 and 20.

The use of staccato on a minim (bars 23-28), may seem a little strange. Remember however that the word staccato in Italian literally means detached, rather than how we normally interpret it in music as short and bouncy. So these minims, rather than being short are simply separated from their neighbouring notes. To further back up this interpretation, notice how in the next two bars (29 and 30) the bass note is now slurred onto the chords in a contrasting style.

You will need to be familiar with some French terms namely:
Cedez - slowing down
Mouvt (short for mouvement) - return to the original speed
En serrant - hurrying
En retenant - holding back
Un peu anime - a little lively
Mouvt retenu - speed held back
Tres retenu - very held back

To get a good mark in the exam, you will need to be able to bring out the important voice. For example, from bar 23, you should try to make the lower right hand melody more prominent. Also notice with respect to independent dynamics, how the “p” marking in bars 16 and 18 is for the left hand only. In fact, at this point, the right hand has just finished a crescendo.

Finally, make sure at the end that your right hand holds on for one beat longer than your left hand in the last bar.


Opening Jazz Night - Martha Mier - C1




The initial instruction "spirited" needs to be foremost in your mind as you learn this piece. Even if practicing slowly at first, to build muscle memory, have an image of what you're try to achieve as your final goal. A lot of the character of this piece, is attained, not just through speed, but also, tight rhythms and attention to the precise articulation markings.

For example, notice that the first note of bar 2 is longer than the previous short quavers (it might be tempting here to bounce it equally with such). Again in bars 7 and 8, notice the independence of the staccato notes in one hand, but not necessarily on the other.

Dynamics, also contribute to a spirited performance. Notice the "cheeky" mp  in bar 11, (be sure to observe the right hand rests in the next bar) and when you get to the bass line tune in bars 17, 18, 21 and 22, you really need to enjoy yourself with a solid forte

The page turn is nicely positioned at the end of the  poco rit  and you can afford to hang just a little longer on the last note of the page, before picking up the tempo again in  bar 29. Make sure your pedal, sustains until the first note after the page turn.

The final page repeats much of the earlier material, but again enjoy the  forte  section of the coda but make sure you finish with a piano  spread chord, which, by the way spreads over all six notes, not three and three simultaneously, in other words, the right hand start after the left hand, not at the same time.



The Buccaneer - Malcolm Arnold - C2





Are you ready to be a pirate with this bold dramatic piece. The initial fortissimo  opening needs attention as to where you place place the accents and it might help add extra weight to the dotted crotchets in bars 5 and 6 by slightly separating them (not legato). 

You will need careful control of note lengths when the main theme comes in at bar 9. Make sure the notes of the top line are sustained above the staccato bass and lower right hand chords. 

You'll need careful counting of the rhythm in bar 11. It might help subdividing the beat into quavers initially as you learn this section, counting "12 12 12 123 123". Similar rhythms occur in bars 20, 31 and 36 and to some extent bar 17 although the latter has only crotchets so count "12 12 12 12 12 12".

Watch out that G naturals return in bar 26, (you might be tempted to play G sharps are the earlier occurrence of such  in bar 24). Here the music comes down to a pianissimo. Use such quiet passages to make the louder ones even more dramatic. For example, the return of the main theme in bar 29 might be tempting to play louder, as in its first instance, but it is still pianissimo until bar 34.  This will make the  fortissimo of the following bar (35) that much more dramatic and then again, down in volume once more, in the very next bar. 


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