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.
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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