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Pieces to Play – Galuppi, Bach & the Schumanns

Are you looking ideas and inspiration for new pieces to learn? Or are you a teacher searching for interesting repertoire for a student? Our Pieces to Play series showcases a selection of works with links to new or existing resources in our repertoire library to help you learn them!

This instalment features works at a variety of levels, including some interesting alternatives if you’re looking for something different. Starting with the well known first piece from Robert Schumann’s beloved Album for the Young, we then look at a nostalgic favourite by MacDowell followed by an excellent introduction to playing two voice counterpoint by Bach. Next is an exploration of an elegant, hidden gem by Galuppi and a challenging scherzo by Clara Schumann before we finish with a dramatic romantic showpiece by Merikanto!

Robert Schumann – Melodie (from Album for the Young, Op. 68)

Schumann’s Album for the Young is a timeless array of character pieces, each vividly capturing a mood or narrative. Composed for his daughters in 1848, the pieces are invaluable for developing both technical and interpretative skills. In this video, Graham Fitch gives a lesson on the first piece in the set, Melodie, which is a charming miniature packed with pedagogical value:

This video is part of a new series in which Graham explores this timeless musical treasure trove, giving tips on how to practise, interpret and teach each of the pieces in the first volume. Click here to view Graham’s introduction to the series on the Online Academy with links to open domain and other recommended editions.

Level: Elementary

Why play it? This piece is a fantastic study for developing various aspects of technique such as balancing voices, shaping a legato melody, use of arm weight and more!

MacDowell – To a Wild Rose (from Woodland Sketches, Op. 51)

This piece was originally published in 1896 as the first of a set of piano pieces called Woodland Sketches. It has appeared in many arrangements and remains one of MacDowell’s most popular compositions due to its simple, unpretentious lyrical beauty. Although accessible at an elementary level, it does present some technical challenges, particularly around voicing and balancing of chords!

In this excerpt from his video lesson on the piece, Graham Fitch shows how to approach one of the main challenges in this piece – ensuring that all of the notes sound when playing softly:

Click here to view the full video on the Online Academy or click here for open domain scores for this work.

Level: Late elementary

Why play it? This tender, nostalgic piece offers opportunities for expression and imagery alongside developing voicing and pedalling skills.

JS Bach – Invention No. 4 in D Minor, BWV 775

One of the most beloved of Bach’s Inventions, this work is ideal for studying two-voiced counterpoint with equal challenges in each hand. It is an excellent vehicle for understanding of Baroque style, giving opportunities to explore dynamics, articulation and phrasing whilst also developing contrapuntal listening, hand independence and agility.

In this excerpt from his video lesson on the piece, Fred Karpoff performs the work and discusses the topic of tempo:

Click here to view Fred’s full video lesson on the piece and for a link to his marked score providing detailed analysis of invertible counterpoint, harmony, sequence and hemiola possibilities.

Level: Intermediate

Why play? This ingenious study is one of Bach’s greatest “hits” and offers technical challenges, expressive opportunities and a window into the intricate world of Baroque music.

Galuppi – Sonata No.5 in C major

This elegant piece was made famous by the great pianist, Michelangeli, and features a simple, expressive melody accompanied by an alberti bass and embellished with intricate ornamentation. While Galuppi may not be as widely celebrated as some of his contemporaries, this piece is an excellent illustration of the transition between Baroque and Classical styles and offers an opportunity to develop finger control, articulation and dynamic range:

Click here to view the full video lesson on the Online Academy.

Level: Intermediate

Why play? If you’re looking for a classical piece but perhaps want something different to Mozart or Haydn.

Clara Schumann – Scherzo in G, Op. 15 No. 4

This short Scherzo is a delightful piece to study at the intermediate level. A jaunty ‘A’ section is contrasted by a sustained, melancholic trio before the playful main section returns. The work provides a wide variety of technical and musical challenges, including fast staccato passages, arpeggios, two-note slurs, and projecting cantabile over chorale texture:

Click here to view Fred’s full lesson on the Online Academy in which he guides you in integrating three-dimensional technique with musical insights to play this piece with ease!

Difficulty: Late intermediate

Why play it? An opportunity to play a little known piece by one of the one of the most important female musicians of the Nineteenth Century

Oskar Merikanto – Merellä (Piano Transcription)

Finnish composer Oskar Merikanto created a virtuosic yet highly pianistic transcription of his own beautiful song, Merellä. This small ballade in the style of Liszt or Chopin takes the performer and listeners on an epic journey filled with dramatic, vivid imagery.

Click here to view the full video lesson and to download Fred’s marked score for this work.

Difficulty: Advanced, but possible as a challenge for a later intermediate pianist. 

Why play it? This makes a fantastic show piece if you’re looking for something different to present in a competition or concert. It’s also a great choice if you’re looking to play something dramatic but not quite as challenging as a Liszt or Chopin Ballade. Furthermore, it’s a great study for mastering tremolos!

Online Workshop – Repertoire Ideas and Inspiration

Are you looking for some new repertoire ideas for yourself or your students? Join Graham Fitch online on 3rd February for a showcase of inspiring and interesting works at all levels. This bouquet of pieces will include well known works alongside some hidden gems and exciting new pieces. As part of introducing these pieces, Graham will also give thoughts on narrative, interpretation and practice strategies.

The sessions will be filmed in our studios and all ticket holders will receive high quality recordings after the event along with links to open domain scores for all of the featured works. Click here to find out more!