I was working with someone on the Appassionata Sonata of Beethoven this week. The rhythmic organisation of the trill in bar 3 was not clear to me, so I asked to hear this bar slowly. Slowing the trill down proved a bit of a challenge, so I came up with a solution along the lines suggested by Artur Schnabel in his landmark edition.

The principle here is that since a trill has a finite number of notes, it greatly assists performer and listener if these notes can be accounted for metrically. Here is Schnabel’s first recommendation:

He goes on to give an alternative, but more difficult version:

So which to choose, and are there other possibilities? I often find myself advising students to practise two or three strict versions of trills (if possible) in order that a freer version might emerge spontaneously in performance.

And speaking of performances, we can easily research the vast number of different recordings available on YouTube using a simple tool hidden within the settings. This feature enables us to slow the speed down so that fast surface detail becomes clear and audible – at three-quarters, half or a quarter speed. The slower the setting, the lower the sound quality and of course the musical meaning is almost entirely lost. But how useful to discover how other pianists organise details such as this trill! I have made a short video to show you how to do it.

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