ABRSM Grade 4 

 

A1

 

This 'work without opus number' (WoO) was not published during Beethoven's lifetime and the title Bagatelle is not Beethoven's though, meaning 'trifle', it fits well here. Some publishers have given this piece the title Happy - Sad, for obvious reasons.

 

Beethoven did however publish three sets of Bagatelles during his lifetime (op. 33, op. 119 & op. 126).

 

Heartening for those that write music today, Beethoven received this rebuff from the Peters Verlag publishing house to whom he had sent the 11 pieces that were eventually published as op.119.

"Your pieces are not worth the money and you should consider it beneath your dignity to waste time with such trivia that anyone can write."
Comment from the Henle Verlag edition of the Complete Bagatelles (HN158).

How many of us attempting to write music have been held back by the thought "why do I bother, I'm not doing anything new here and somebody else can do it better." Thank you, Beethoven, for persevering in spite of this kind of rejection.

I hope you too enjoy this piece. I'm pleased that it (and the other Bagatelles) are now available for us to enjoy and give us an insight into early 19th-century home music-making.

 

A2

 

This piece is RCM (2015) Level 6.

This single movement Sonatina is one of 34 composed by the Czech 18th-century musician Georg Anton Benda.

 

A3

 

Petit jeu is taken from Fugues légères et petits jeux.

 

A4

 

Bach composed three sets of keyboard suites - English Suites, French Suites and Partitas - six suites in each group.  No need to read anything into the titles, there's nothing particularly English about the English ones or French about the French ones. These titles are inventions of a subsequent generation of music publishers.  Almost all of the French Suites were part of the first Notebook that Bach put together for his new wife Anna Magdalena in 1722. She was a singer and Bach writes in the style galant - cantabile lines and immediacy of appeal. Very little counterpoint.

A Suite is a collection of dance movements, usually in binary form, each section being repeated.  The core dances were Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Minuet and Gigue with other dance movements being added too after the Sarabande (Air, Gavotte, Bourée, Polonaise).

 

What is a Minuet?

 

A5

 

This Scherzo is from Sonatina in G, op. 151, no. 1.

 

A6

 

This Presto is the final movement of Haydn's Sonata in A, Hob. XVI:26. It was on the Trinity Grade 4 syllabus (2015-2017).

 

B1

The Reef is no. 5 of nine pieces that make up In Southern Seas. Much of Walter Carroll's piano music evokes an image. Here the title guides our imagination as does the 2-line quotation at the start.

The great rock in the ocean stands
And battles with the waves for ever.

Here's a photo of the Southern Seas used as the cover for the first edition. Walter Carroll acknowledged and thanked the New Zealand High Commissioner for permission to use this image.

 

B2

 

Grieg's Lyric pieces, there are 66 of them in all, are a treasure trove!  Written throughout his life and comprising several opus numbers, op. 12 is the first group, and this Arietta is no.1. It is worth comparing this Arietta with the very last of Grieg's lyric pieces, op.71, no.7.

 

B3

 

The two pieces of Elgar's op. 15 were composed at the end of the 19th-century. Chanson de Nuit and Chanson de Matin, though originally written for violin and piano, were subsequently orchestrated by Elgar for performance in a Promenade Concert of 1901.

You may like to watch performances of the original violin & piano pieces.

 

Here is the orchestral arrangement of our piano piece.

 

It is difficult to recall Chanson de Matin without also mentioning Salut d'Amour, op. 12, also originally conceived for violin and piano and arranged for small orchestra by Elgar. Salut d'Amour was an engagement present for Caroline Alice Roberts. They were married in 1889. Do read their story!

 

B4

 

In the Fields is no. 10 from Glass Beads, op.123.

 

B5

Grandma Tells a Ghost Story is no. 3 from Scenes of Childhood, op. 81.

 

B6

Morning Prayer is RCM (2015) Level 3.

 

It is no. 1 of the 24 pieces, Album for the Young, op. 39.

 

C1

Holiday in Paris is published in 20th-century American Composers, Intermediate Level, (Hal Leonard).

 

C2

What is a Kwela?

Richard Michael tells us:

'A Kwela is a rhythmical style of African music similar to jazz. This vibrant kwela with its swung and offbeat quavers, often cut short by rests, has to groove! The tune goes from the light of D major into the dark of B minor - bring out that contrast and you've got it!

You may enjoy playing with the backing track I use in the video.

 

 

C3

 

The Czech musician Luboš Sluka celebrated his 90th birthday in September 2018. Whilst I claim no previous knowledge (one of the reasons I love opening a new exam syllabus - I know it will introduce me to new music and new personalities), he appears a busy figure in Czech music. In the 1950s he studied with Arthur Honegger and worked alongside George Auric in Paris. He has written a great deal of music in many forms: film & TV, orchestral pieces, chamber music ...

I whole-heartedly recommend this short video. Some lovely flute & piano music to top and tail a 12-minute film of Sluka discussing musical composition, technique in performance, the greats of 20th-century Czech music (Janáček, Novák & Martinu) and more generally the need for sincerity and good-health. All with a smile and a chuckle!

This brisk, sparkling piece has of course plenty of rhythmical interest, it also calls for crossed-hands and some speedy shifts in position. It is taken from a collection of piano pieces Moments at the Piano (1971).

 

C4

A relaxed, slow lazy feel is needed for this piece. It's from the collection of 14 pieces, Cool Beans! Vol. 2: Jazz, Blues and Latin Grooves (Editions Musica Ferrum). Ben Crosland writes in the introduction:

"This piece should be gentle and soothing. Don't be tempted to take the first page too fast - the 2nd page requires a lot of jumping around and you will need to time these jumps precisely to keep it feeling comfortable."

You may enjoy playing it with the backing track I used in the video.

If you are like me ...take care in bar 13; there are 2 E-flats in the RH!

 

 

C5

Anatolian 08 is published in a collection AlphaStyles, 23 contemporary pieces for solo piano (Van de Velde)

 

I can't think how this piece got its title. Composed during a visit to Turkey perhaps?

 

There are 3 backings tracks here for you to download if you wish; slow, medium and concert. Have fun!

 

C6

The famous 'Peter' theme from Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf is here transcribed for solo piano.

Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, written in 1936 is for narrator and orchestra. Here is the original orchetsral version of Peter's Theme.