Feb. 25-Mar. 3: The Nutcracker

Andante Maestoso (Pas de Deux)

This is a piece from Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker, transcribed for piano by Pletnev.

As pianists, we must maintain good technique by practicing scales, chords and arpeggios, which are the building blocks of music.  This is very apparent with a quick look at the score!  The lush accompaniment is simply arpeggios and triads. Dazzling runs are simply scales (at top speed).  As you can imagine, learning a piece like this would be far more attainable for a pianist fluent in these building blocks of technique, as opposed to one who is approaching them for the first time.  While noticing this is simple, playing them is not easy.  It is important to remember these achievements do not happen overnight - it is a result of years of practice! 

Another aspect of piano playing that becomes very obvious simply by looking at the score is the importance of balance to maintain clarity - keeping the melody dominant and accompaniment soft.  At first glance, finding the melody may seem like looking for a needle in a haystack!  There are far more notes in the accompaniment than the melody.

I've included a video of a live performance as well as one with the score, which will be used for the following questions.

The is from Samson Tsoy's performance in Calgary 2015 at the Honens Piano Festival/Competition.  The festival/competition brings a great variety of music events to Calgary each year.  The competition takes place every 3 years - the next one is coming soon this year, 2018.  You can learn more about the competition/festival here: http://www.honens.com

Questions for everyone

  • What does "andante" mean?  What does "maestoso" mean?
  • What is the primary texture of this piece? (Hint: think back to old listening activities)
  • Can you find and follow the melody on the score?  Show me at the next lesson!

Questions for advanced students (anyone who practices scales/chords/arpeggios)

  • What are the two arpeggios seen at 3:36 on the score?
  • The dazzling run at 4:20 is a descending G major scale.  How fast can you play a 4 octave descending G major scale?  Practice and show me at your next lesson!  What are some practice techniques to make sure scale like passages are clear and even?
  • Bonus: Identify the ascending scale at 3:58 (where the hands play together).  Anyone who gets this right will receive a prize!

Hint: Scales/chords/arpeggios don't always start on the root.  Scales may appear beginning on any note.  Chords/arpeggios may be in inversions.