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Diabelli's Sonatina in F Major, Op. 168 No. 1

Cory Hall

This delightful gem has recently become my favorite teaching piece for a variety of reasons. I currently have several of my students working on this sonatina, students of different levels and abilities. This is "feel good" music that is fun to play and listen to, and in addition, is valuable for all piano students from the intermediate level up. Even students at the "advanced" or collegiate level can benefit from studying it. For more on the life and career of the lesser known Anton Diabelli, please CLICK HERE.

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The thing I like most about this work is that its brevity does not sacrifice musical quality. Every note and articulation is perfectly placed while each movement flows into the next with ease and grace. This sonatina teaches students many valuable skills, such as: staccato, legato, cantabile, staccato in one hand and legato in the other hand simultaneously, grace notes, short slurs, contrasting dynamics (pp to ff), ability to play in three different meters (4/4, 3/4, 6/8), ability to play in three contrasting tempos (Moderato, Andante, Allegretto), hand crossings.

In my opinion, this sonatina is an even finer work and has more to offer students than perhaps the most famous of all sonatinas, Muzio Clementi's famous Sonatina No. 1 (Op. 36 No. 1). Moreover, this sonatina serves as an ideal "litmus test" for the intermediate level pianist's overall technical and musical aptitude. If one has trouble with the technique and musicality in this sonatina, then one is not ready to study any of the Beethoven sonatas. However, if one plays this sonatina well and up to tempo and with good technique and musicianship, then one is ready to begin studying some of the less difficult Beethoven sonatas.

I urge all piano students to play and enjoy this sonatina, which is probably Diabelli's most well-known solo piano work. Please enjoy the video and thank you for reading this blog!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sLbHit2ows&w=560&h=315]

My Interpretation of "Für Elise" by Beethoven

Cory Hall

Für Elise (For Elise) is arguably "the most popular" piano piece of all time. I recorded it about four years ago for YouTube; however, I decided to upload a new interpretation which was brought about by my recent teaching of it to an 11-year-old student. (Teaching certain pieces to students often gets me motivated and in the mood to make video recordings.) I have since deleted the older version.

⇒ CLICK HERE for Piano Lessons via Skype -- I teach worldwide!! ⇐

 

One of the great things about music and piano is that, as long as one remains a human being and is still living and breathing, one will inevitably develop new interpretations of the same music. Play the same piece when you are 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60, and beyond, and you will discover a different performer each time. This does not necessarily mean a "better" performer, but rather a "different" performer with a new conception of a very familiar work. The ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus claimed that one can never step in the same place in a river twice because the water is always flowing, and thus, the ground and sediment below constantly change. Such is also the case with musical interpretation.

In my new interpretation, I have decided upon a slightly faster tempo than my first recording. Most pianists, and especially young piano students, play this piece too fast and aggressively. Moreover, most piano students -- and I know this by teaching it hundreds of times -- play it much too loud and not "cantabile" enough. For example, the third section (with the repeated "A" in the bass) is often played like an aggressive "Indian dance" as if it were one the ubiquitous "Indian" pieces found in almost every piano method book. The correct character, however, is "subdued" and "mysterious" rather than "aggressive" or "energetic."

It is important to note that Beethoven marked most of Für Elise piano or pianissimo and that the loudest dynamic mark is mezzo forte. In addition, Beethoven also indicated several diminuendos combined with ritardandos, usually before the return of the main theme or end of a section. These are very often ignored or overlooked by most pianists. Another interpretive subtlety often overlooked by most pianists is the crescendo-decrescendo hairpin accompanying the first measure of the main theme. This indicates a slight emphasis on the second beat where the last "E" occurs before moving down to "B". I like to do an ever so slight holding back in tempo here, that is, a slight "rubato" which gives the theme added expression.

Für Elise is a calm, serene, and cantabile piece of music that should be played with a controlled tempo and with much expression. I have known this piece for around forty years now, and I never get tired of it. A good way to ruin Für Elise is to play it like a robot and ignore all the expressive indications, which is the way I have heard it played 90% of the time -- even by seasoned professionals. By the way, the tempo I have chosen in my new interpretation is 108 per eighth note (quaver) which to me, at this point in my life, seems like the perfect tempo. Please enjoy my new interpretation of Für Elise and thank you for reading this blog!

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E8FDzcXKPNc&w=560&h=315]

"Christ Child Divine: Christmas Pastorale" for piano

Cory Hall

Many people with classical music educations are aware that the musical form known as the "pastorale" is traditionally associated with Christmas. With Christmas of 2013 fast approaching and only a week away upon composing this work, I felt a strong urge to compose a pastorale for piano that would be accessible to a wide range of pianists. It is not too difficult technically and is extremely gratifying to play and study. PIANISTS GET YOUR COPY OF THE SHEET MUSIC BY CLICKING ON THE LINK BELOW! SHEET MUSIC FOR "CHRIST CHILD DIVINE"!

Pastorales developed sometime in the Middle Ages and were usually played with bagpipes, hurdy gurdies, or other instruments that produce "drone basses." In addition to employing drone basses, pastorals are also always in some form of compound triple meter, the most common being 6/8 and 12/8. I have chosen a slower and more old-fashioned looking 6/4 time -- essentially the same as a 6/8 meter -- to symbolize its uniquely "medieval" character. As one can glean from the word "pastorale," pastorals were always associated with nature, the out of doors, and especially shepherds tending their flocks. It is this reason why pastorals are traditionally associated with Christmas -- that is, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, is the shepherd and his chosen ones (i.e., the saved) are the sheep. Christmas pastorals are peaceful and meditative-style works that should evoke the feeling of shepherds in their fields as well as the wise men visiting the baby Jesus.

I love playing and listening to this pastorale and the story about its composition is really something of a miracle, which proves to me yet one more time of the saving grace of our Lord and the power of his Holy Spirit in my life. I am a "sporadic" type composer in that I will often go long periods without composing anything and then one day I might get a strong urge to improvise and compose a piano piece. Such is the case with Christ Child Divine, which I composed completely from scratch with absolutely no preparation in merely 30 minutes. On December 17, 2013 I was overwhelmed with an unstoppable urge to compose a pastorale after having composed nothing for at least nine months. Everything just flowed out of me from the very beginning. I simply improvised a bit at my Steinway and the two main themes flowed out of me like water. Then, I toyed around with the last section (the coda section) that evening and wrote everything out the next day, the 18th. I wrote this blog and recorded it on the morning of the 19th.

I am constantly amazed at our wonderful God, his Son who died for our sins, and his Holy Spirit which is sent to all those who have been saved. I would have never become a composer had I not been saved in 2011 at the relatively late age of 48, and I constantly thank God for all he has given me. My wish this Christmas is that if you have not been saved that you will be soon. The only path to God and to eternal life is through none other than belief that Jesus Christ was the son of God and that he was born, crucified, buried, and was resurrected through the supernatural power of God the Father. May this pastorale for piano remind you that Christ came to take away the sins of the world and whoever believes in him shall never perish but be granted with everlasting life!

Merry Christmas to all and happy listening to Christ Child Divine!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vN4WiVIjDmQ&w=560&h=315]