Jon Lee


Protect your pianos


This time the scales were too subtle. With B, b, E, and e, he expected the scales to include heroic, loud character. So for next time, the scales need to include the full range of expression for the key.

Always consider your audience:

You know, I just came back from an overseas trip and am really jet-lagged. How can you keep the music interesting so that I don’t fall asleep?

I suggested thinking about how Chopin crafted each prelude with the character of its key, which he said was a way to think about it, if it helped.

Next up: F, f, C, c.

Brahms #17

I’ve completed the cycle. Next steps would be to continue doing the same thing, or moving onto another exercise. I liked the purpose of the exercise, but would like another pattern to practice over. We decided to revisit G, A, A, B with the experience I have had practicing this pattern.

Brahms #20

Running through these at 80 bpm, it seemed like I wanted to go faster cause I was ahead of the metronome. We decided to up it to 92 next time.

Next up: E, F.


The theme is the hardest one to get right, so we reviewed that last.

Variation 1

Variation 1

Be light on pedal usage, and keep the legato in the upper melody. The lower notes could almost be detached but they don’t linger longer than their length, which is a 16th. The general lack of pedal means that the left hand needs to hold onto its notes. But that definitely clarified the texture.

One general theme across all of the piece is the treatment of appoggiaturas, or whenever the melody goes down a step, even across phrases. It always does a decrescendo. See variation 5 for how that leads to unintuitive but correct phrasing of the period. The musical effect ends feeling soft and gentle.

Variation 2

Variation 2

The general character needs to be jovial. For some reason I kept thinking of German people dancing in a biergarten. Left-hand bass notes need to bounce more, with no pedal. And the affect adds a delay before the left-hand plays the syncopated rhythm.

I was asked to play the turn with a reconfigured pattern. Normally I would play the annotation completely before the sixteenth. Instead, the first notes of the turn are played almost like a grace figure. In m. 38, for example, the A–B–A are on the first sixteenth, then G–A–B constitute the rest of the sixteenths.

One spot where performing the decrescendo on a downward step has been difficult are the overlapping descending scales at the conclusion of this variation, which happen in succession on beats 1 and 3:

Conclusion of variation 2

Variation 3

Variation 3

This needed to sound more brooding. And no matter what, the melody is prominently heard.

In the second section, the temporary transition to F major needs to be the temporary light in the darkness, before it descends back into despair with a crescendo. To sound like a daydream the octaves should be connected:

A light in the darkness

Variation 4

Variation 4

The left-hand opening should sound like a yodel, and each figuration crescendos to the accented high note. The steady right hand should use finger pedal, and use of the foot pedal should be light.

The second section has another passage of legato octaves that should be attempted with 5–4 fingers.

Variation 5

Variation 5

Attempting to do the decrescendo in the opening of each phrase was strange. My run-through of this had the appoggiatura land on the downbeat, but that was incorrect.

We see another iteration of the hopping figuration as in variation 2. In both cases it looks like Schubert only places staccato on the bass line in the first measure, but I assume that the staccato carries through the entire variation.

The left hand has its own two lines–the bass, and the top of the chords.


Which brings us to the hardest one of the set, the theme itself.


One thing I didn’t expect was the recommended pedaling. I assumed a pedal at each chord change, but instead it was recommended to do it on every beat. It is a good way to create the staccato in the bass line.

In the second section, there are several spots that decrescendo to piano, but it ends up being too easy to lose the line, so avoid doing it. Other aspects, like the texture of the music, will already give the impression of being in piano.

In general, when the first phrase returns but goes to the B7, make that feel more nostalgic.

The ending, as it descends in the tonal range, begin using the una corda pedal, since it is hard to play pianissimo down there.

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