Thursday, June 28, 2007

How To Play Well Known Piano Solos - 'Troika, Op. 37, No. 11 (November)' by Tchaikovsky

Source: 'Well Known Piano Solos – How to Play Them, Charles W. Wilkinson, Theo. Presser Co. 1915'

Being one of the piano pieces written for each month of the year, this is the Russian November with a sleigh scene. We have seen pictures of the Troika with its three black horses, gaily caparisoned with a hoop of sleigh-bells over their necks, and the occupants covered with costly furs. Here is the musical presentment, and it is really remarkable how even the varied motions of the horses can be depicted. The curious rhythm is the first thing which attracts attention; the half-note in the middle of each measure with two eighths on either side, is very original; and the staccato and legato treatment adds zest to the figure.

There is a feeling of the open air about it. Be sure you draw out the third eighth-note of the slur, according to the established rule of emphasis for the highest note of a phrase; and keep strictly to the pedal marking, which emphasizes and sustains the half-note. At the outset you should study the left-hand part alone, with pedal. It is very uncomfortable, and the eye is better on the keyboard than on the page. Measures 8, 12 and 17 deserve especial attention. Let the after-beat chords of the accompaniment be sharp and crisp, but light.

The galloping passage, at 18, is difficult because of the free chords in the right hand. Again, at the double bar, we have another gait; it is as though the horses were checked here into a walk, and, at 30, they tossed their heads. Perhaps there is a hill to climb and the fair occupants take this opportunity for more leisured conversation.

At 28-29 some young players do not make sure of the chords, two of G major and two of C major. The triplets, appearing first in 11, should not be "cornered," but made really three even notes; if you count them aloud, you may escape that awkward stop on the third one. As they come in so frequently, you should be able properly to adjust either the threes or twos.

We might even surmise that the sleigh has reached the level, at measure 48, and that the horses are impatient to resume their career, the sleigh-bells tinkling continuously in the frosty air and the snow flashing like diamonds. This pretty effect is brought about by the use of finger staccato, when the hand is held somewhat firm and the fingers, drawn in quickly and nervously, amplify the touch. At 41 I prefer the previous fingering; there is no need to change it. Measure 50 is hard to read because of the strange sharps and double sharps; but, like "an egg full of meat," you must digest it slowly. Study each hand separately, each quarter of the measure, and make a nice ad lib. at the end of this phrase, then it will come out all right. At 58 take care that the melody is not lost in the rushing figure of the accompaniment which must not be too prominent. The beautiful diminuendo at the end intimates the disappearance of the sleighing party. Let the music suggest as much.

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