Last week’s post on passagework dealt with a fair amount of mechanics. Here, I would like to outline a process which strengthens everything – the ear, the memory and the muscles (more accurately, the reflex arc) and provides some variety in the practising routine.
Let us take this section from Mozart’s Rondo alla Turca (the last movement of the Sonata in A, K.331). I am choosing this example because it is very simply constructed – the right hand spinning patterns made from turns and scale passages over a left hand chord progression, oom-cha-cha-cha style. Assuming we have already done a certain amount of the mechanical work I discussed last week, and plan to return to this regularly, we can include other forms of practising.
The process I am suggesting involves playing the LH intact and complete at all times, impeccably shaped and articulated, and up to speed. Thus, there will be a feeling of a bass line (the first note in each bar), lightness in the repeated chords and a sense of the harmonic direction (the relative intensity level of each chord in the progression). Once we have built the LH to our satisfaction, we then add pre-selected parts of the RH.
We might start with the upbeat to every other bar, stopping on the first beat of the next bar:
Then either add a few more notes to this:
…or do something different, thus:
There is one thing to be aware of, and that is the finger you will be starting on each time. This might not be written in the score, either by the editor or by you, because it would be obvious in the context. However, if you are deliberately interrupting the flow like this, it might be worth writing in additional fingering so you don’t confuse your muscular memory by doing something different or arbitrary. It is my firm belief that we always practise with the fingering we’re going to use in performance, the exception to this is when we make a two-handed version of a one-handed passage (see my post on this).
This way of practising not only allows us to see different aspects in the landscape of the passagework, but gives wonderful security in performance. Should the unthinkable happen and we break down, we will have practised carrying on with the other hand, rejoining it at strategic points along the route.