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Burgmüller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Studies, op. 100

Are you a pianist who has come from a tradition studies and exercises – a diet of Czerny, Hanon, Pischna and the others that were once the staples of a pianist’s training? Maybe you developed all your skills from repertoire itself, or you found a middle path, dipping into material with a clear technical goal when the need arose? For me, exercises need to be short and easy to learn, and very focussed on a clear and attainable outcome. Studies, unless they are of the calibre of Chopin and Liszt, are also best when they are short and to the point.

Friedrich Burgmüller (1806 – 1874) was a German pianist and composer who moved to Paris at the age of 26 and settled there. In addition to light salon music, he wrote three sets of études for young pianists. His 25 Easy and Progressive Etudes, op. 100 have been a mainstay of elementary étude repertoire for many generations – and deservedly so. Like all études worth their salt, the study of technique merges with attention to quality of sound and a musical purpose. The musical content of these pieces is on a level with the technical challenges they pose, so that the listener would not necessary realise they have any didactic focus whatever. Because each has its own descriptive title, the études inspire imagination and characterisation in the player, elevating the works to the status of real music (as opposed to the dry and boring studies we so often encounter). I cannot imagine any young pianist or elementary player who would not immediately engage with this charming set of études, or benefit from learning them.

As the title suggests the études are progressive in their difficulty, ranging from approximately ABRSM grade II at the start to approximately grade V by the end. A good plan with études in general is to learn them, master them and continue to play them on a regular basis (much as you would do with any form of physical exercise). As you go along, you will amass a repertoire of études you can draw on as part of your daily practice. It is a good plan to choose three or four to practise for a week or so, and then move to others so you don’t get bored.

I have just launched a series of short video walkthroughs of this set, beginning with the first two. The plan is to add to them until I have covered all 25. At that stage, I will add some downloadable practice worksheets which I hope will add value to the series. Here are some teaching or practising notes about the first two, La Candeur and L’Arabesque.

1. La Candeur (Openness) in C major

The quaver patterns require the cultivation of a legato cantabile touch and tonal gradation. Begin with the voice and sing the lines, shaping expressively and giving some space where the music breathes. Fingers need to be close to the keys, and the wrist flexible and mobile. As you glide through the five-finger positions sense the alignment of the arm behind each finger. You’ll feel this either as a tiny lateral movement in the wrist in the direction of travel, or as a small wrist circle (either is fine).

Don’t overlook the chordal accompaniment in the LH; a solidly prepared background can only help the foreground sound and feel better. Begin by labelling each chord – the progression in the first half is I-IV-I-V7-I, then a secondary dominant (V7/V) takes us to the dominant key (G major). An understanding of form and structure not only deepens learning but is vital for greater appreciation of music and as an aid to learning more quickly. Players with general musicianship and theory skills tend to learn pieces much more quickly and much more thoroughly, and are better sight-readers. A chord legato is an essential skill for any pianist, no matter the level. As you move from one chord to the next within a legato context, find points of connection in the hand to link. For example, to get from the first LH chord to the next, lift the fingers you cannot connect (thumb and 5th) while holding the 3rd finger and joining from that finger to the next chord. This facilities smooth connections and tonal control – it is a knack that, once acquired, will become second nature to you.

Here is a short extract from the video walkthrough:

2. L’Arabesque (Arabesque) in A minor

Allegro scherzando tells us to play fast and playfully. Keep the LH chords close to the keyboard, the fingertips firm and somewhat active, the wrist loose but relatively still. You’ll need to organise a good fingering for the LH chords (I give some tips on this in my video below). RH semiquaver patterns are played using a drop-roll (down-up) movement generated from the upper arm, the arm and the wrist assisting the fingers. Lateral adjustments (lining up) in the wrist keep us free and loose and help control finger articulation in the fast notes. The first note of each RH group is the strongest, the last note light and short. Don’t get confused with how this works in the crescendos. If you say a five-syllable word over and over again (such as “multiplication”) getting louder and louder each time, you will always put the stress on the first syllable no matter the dynamic level.

Enjoy the contrasts in mood in this piece. After a playful and light start, the arrival in C major (bars 7-10) feels somewhat triumphant as the RH has a melodic moment. Keep singing in the RH after the double bar, taking plenty of time in the dim e poco rall bars but snapping back into the tempo immediately in bar 19. There is a feeling of tenderness at the dolce (bar 23-25), and exuberance at the end. The risoluto semiquavers in the penultimate bar may be broader, and you might decide to add a direct pedal to the last chord for resonance.

The full versions of these videos along with walkthroughs featuring other works from Burgmüller’s Easy and Progressive Études are available for once-off purchase here or with an Online Academy subscription. Please click here to find out more about subscription options, or click here to view the series index if you are already a subscriber.

For my post on Nos. 6 – 9 click here (Progrès, Le courant limpide, La gracieuse, La chasse)

judi

Burgmüller’s Op 100 Studies on the Online Academy

One of the most popular series on the Online Academy is my exploration of Burgmüller’s set of studies, the Easy and Progressive Études, op 100. What makes these little pieces so special? Pitched at the elementary-intermediate level player, they fulfil all the requirements of what a study should be:

  • Descriptive titles that inspire the imagination
  • Technique that serves a musical goal
  • Short and to the point
  • Useful as a way to learn harmony, as well as form and structure

The problem with many of the didactic études served up to young pianists through the centuries is just how dry, boring and repetitive they are. Instead of inspiring players to practise, they have deadened their spirits. I’ve noticed how many youngsters are drawn to Burgmüller’s op 100 – they still sound fresh, and are immediately engaging.

In my series I take each étude in turn, giving a detailed teaching note and a video walkthrough that highlights the learning outcomes and offers advice on the technical aspects as well as how we might practise. We’ve recorded the whole set, and are busy releasing them one by one each week. So far we have reached No. 11, and you can find details of the series by clicking here.

The studies are progressive in their difficulty, ranging from approximately ABRSM Grade II at the start to approximately Grade V by the end. A good New Year’s resolution might be to learn the whole set over the course of the year – you will amass 25 studies you can draw on as part of your daily practice! Once you have learned them, you might choose three or four to practise for a week or so at a time before moving on to others.

In this post, I’ve pulled out an aspect from each of the first 5, illustrated with a snippet of the video (full videos last between 15 and 20 minutes).

1. La candeur

La candeur (Openness) in C major is a gorgeous little study featuring five finger positions that need to be treated expressively. In this excerpt I talk about how to appreciate the harmonic underpinning, and how to achieve a skillful chord legato in the LH.

2. L’arabesque

Here I look at the importance of discovering the musical character, and then investigate the drop-roll movement as well as the importance of mobilising the hand. I also show how we align each finger with the arm via a flexible wrist for optimal coordination.

3. La pastorale

Here I look at how we achieve a cantabile touch to produce a singing line, using stroking rather than striking fingers, and the importance of actually singing melodies in our practice.

4. La petite réunion  

This is surely one of the best elementary studies in double notes! In this video, I offer a few ideas on technical development of double thirds on white keys to be practised before this study is learned.

5. Innocence

What is an appoggiatura and how do we play one at the piano? There’s also another little harmony lesson in this excerpt – how to recognise augmented and diminished triads and how find out what they might mean expressively.

The full versions of these videos along with walkthroughs featuring other works from Burgmüller’s Easy and Progressive Études is available for once-off purchase here or with an Online Academy subscription. Please click here to find out more about subscription options or click here to view the series index if you are already a subscriber.

Many editions of op 100 make significant changes to the text (mostly with regard to phrase and articulation markings). The very best edition is the Wiener Urtext edited by Naoyuki Taneda. 

judi

Burgmüller’s Op. 100: The Complete Series

I am delighted to announce my series on Burgmüller’s 25 studies, the Easy and Progressive Études, Op 100 is now complete and available as a full set.

In my Online Academy series on op. 100, I take each étude in turn. You will find a detailed teaching note and a video walkthrough highlighting the learning outcomes, with advice on the technical aspects as well as how to practise. 

When it comes to studies at the intermediate level, there is of course a wealth of material available. For me, Burgmüller’s Op 100 is among the best. Each étude is short and to the point, with a descriptive title to stimulate the imagination. The technique always serves a musical goal, and because they are so well written each is useful as a way to learn about harmony, as well as form and structure.

In my previous two posts I looked at a handful of these études, with a brief video excerpt of what to expect from the full one. I will continue now, focussing on Nos. 10 – 13.

10. Tendre fleur (Tender Flower)

Tendre fleur (Tender Flower) is all about pastel colours, sensitivity of touch and mood, and delicate expression. Marked p delicato, we discover two-note sighing slurs in arpeggio patterns that rise then fall, meandering quaver (eighth note) lines and sparse harmonies. The harmonic language is extremely simple – tonic and dominant harmonies alternate with each other in the home key of D (A section) and then in the dominant key of A (B section). Here I am noodling around with a few ideas to bring out the sweetness of the music.

11. La Bergeronnette (The Wagtail)

La Bergeronnette (The Wagtail) depicts a genus of bird that constantly moves its tail; Burgmüller captures this flickering, fluttering movement by the prevailing rhythmic figure we hear right at the start – two semiquavers and a quaver under a slur. It is important that the first note of the slurred group is lightly stressed, and the last note released without an accent. Make sure to retain this strong-weak emphasis even in the crescendos (from bar 19, and from bar 26), where each three-note group is stronger than the previous one. Here I explore some possibilities for choreography in the right hand, and notice note lengths and harmonic colouring in the left.

12. L’Adieu (Farewell)

L’adieu (The Farewell) tells the story of a departure, perhaps of a close friend or family member, and the resulting feelings of sadness and anxiety. The only respite from the turbulent emotions is to be found in the B section (from bar 17) – in C major, but even then this brief moment of warmth and respite is tinged with regret (the Ab in bar 24). The form of the piece is ternary (ABA) with an introduction and coda.

The main technical problem posed by this étude is how to play the triplet quaver patterns at speed – with dynamics and shape, but without tension. While the use of rotary movements of the forearm will be more obvious in the LH Alberti basses (bar 13, 17 – 24, etc.) success in the RH triplets depends on finding ways to keep mobile by calling on rotations and micro adjustments in the wrist to assist the fingers as they execute what will feel more like a leggiero touch than a legato. There are two ways of practising the triplet quavers; at a slow tempo with a finger staccato, and faster in different rhythms (in groups of 3 then groups of 6 notes). Return to these methods regularly in your day-to-day practice.

13. Consolation

The thirteenth étude, Consolation (Comfort), returns to the familiar key of C major. Marked dolce lusingando (sweetly and caressingly), it calls for careful control of tone as we balance melody and accompaniment not only between the two hands, but also within each hand. There are many beautiful, expressive moments in this etude that we need to enjoy and savour as we play them. The harmonic progression in bars 5 and 6 that enhances chord ii in what would otherwise be a standard sequence of chords is one example, the modulation to E minor (bars 14-15) another.

The full versions of these videos along with walkthroughs featuring other works from Burgmüller’s Easy and Progressive Études are available for once-off purchase here or with an Online Academy subscription. Please click here to find out more about subscription options, or click here to view the series index if you are already a subscriber.

For my blog post on Nos. 1 – 5 click here (La candeur, L’arabesque, La petite réunion, Innocence)

For my post on Nos. 6 – 9 click here (Progrès, Le courant limpide, La gracieuse, La chasse)

Many editions of op 100 make significant changes to the text (mostly with regard to phrase and articulation markings). In my opinion, the very best edition is the Wiener Urtext edited by Naoyuki Taneda. 

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New Study Editions for Burgmüller’s Op. 100

As readers of my blog will know, I am not a great believer in too much separation of the study of technique from real music. Therefore, when I recommend studies and exercises they have to be really good – either easy to memorise and very much to the point (if an exercise) or on the short side and with enough musical interest to capture the imagination (if a study).  

Burgmüller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Études (Op. 100) have been a mainstay of elementary étude repertoire for many generations – and deservedly so. Like all great études, the study of technique merges with attention to quality of sound and a musical purpose. The musical content of these pieces is on a level with the technical challenges they pose, so that the listener would not necessary realise they have any didactic focus whatsoever.

Because each has its own descriptive title, the études inspire imagination and characterisation in the player, elevating the works to the status of real music (as opposed to the dry and boring studies that are so often the diet of pianists). I cannot imagine any young pianist or elementary player who would not immediately engage with this charming set of pieces, or benefit from learning them.

Following on from my series of video walk-throughs for the full set of twenty-five études, I’ve been working on creating accompanying study editions to assist you in learning these works. These editions focus not only on the technical considerations but also on the compositional techniques used by the composer – including an appreciation of harmony.

Each edition has a number of footnotes that are designed to assist you as you practise. There are also QR codes that can be clicked on (if viewing online) or scanned with a phone (if you’ve printed the edition) to view videos that provide further demonstrations.

Screenshot of annotations in study edition

Additionally, each edition contains a link to my detailed video walk-through, as well as a teaching note. I shall be publishing the whole set in groups of five, starting with the first five works in the set which are now available (please see below for further details on how to purchase or access this first volume). 

Screenshot of online content for annotation.

It is my hope that these study editions will bring real focus to your practice as you work on these enjoyable and effective studies!

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Access & purchase options

The complete set of video walk-throughs and the new study editions are included with an annual subscription to the Online Academy. Please click here to view the video walk-throughs for the full set of études or click here to view the new editions.

Please click here to find out more about the Online Academy or click here if you’d like to to subscribe. Alternatively, the video walk-throughs and study editions can be purchased separately from our store via the following links:

  • Study Editions (Vol 1) – Click here to purchase video walkthroughs, a downloadable score and annotations for études no’s. 1 – 5
  • Video Walkthroughs – Click here to purchase video walk-throughs for all twenty five études

Live event recording

Watch the video from my Facebook live stream on Thurs 18th June in which I demonstrate teaching and practising tips for selections from Burgmüller’s 25 Easy and Progressive Études.

Please sign-up to our newsletter for event updates and subscribe to our YouTube channel for recordings past events.

judi

Annotated Study Edition for Burgmüller’s La candeur –

At first glance La candeur, the first of Burgmüller’s twenty-five studies, opus 100, looks like any other elementary study in C major – with a stream of quavers (8th notes) in one hand and some chords in the other.

On closer inspection we discover a satisfying musical structure – a clear modulation to the dominant key at the end of the first half, and an effective coda that wraps the piece up, with moments of chromatic colouring that add interest.  When we start singing the lines we discover they are rather lovely (not at all dry or mechanical-sounding), offering us the opportunity to explore melodic shaping and to concentrate on balance between the hands and beauty of tone. 

In last week’s post, I introduced my new study editions for Burgmüller’s Op. 100 (La candeur being the first in the set), in which I focus not only on the technical factors but also highlight some compositional techniques used by the composer. This is an important consideration when the ability to analyse becomes necessary further along our musical journey!

I have added a number of footnotes to the score that will assist you as you practise. For example, as we approach the climax of La candeur, Burgmüller divides the RH into two lines:

An excerpt from our study edition for Burgmüller's La Candeur
Burgmüller’s La Candeur

This requires a certain amount of coordination and organisation in the hand, hence my suggestions for practice in footnote 7. If you scan the QR code a short video will pop up on your device of me demonstrating how this is done. You will notice that footnote eight points out a stock harmonic progression that can be appreciated even by inquisitive players at the elementary level. 

Excerpt from annotated study edition for Burgmüller's La Candeur
Video clip available fomr QR code in study edition for Burgmuller's La Candeur

The study editions also contain links to a detailed video walkthrough, as well as a teaching note. The following is a preview of my walk-through for La Candeur:

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Access & purchase options

The complete set of video walk-throughs and the new study editions are included with an annual subscription to the Online Academy. Please click here to view the video walk-throughs for the full set of études or click here to view the new editions.

Please click here to find out more about the Online Academy or click here if you’d like to to subscribe. Alternatively, the video walk-throughs and study editions can be purchased separately from our store via the following links:

  • Study Editions (Vol 1) – Click here to purchase video walkthroughs, a downloadable score and annotations for études no’s. 1 – 5
  • Video Walkthroughs – Click here to purchase video walk-throughs for all twenty five études