I feel like I’ve had two major breakthroughs today. The first is easy to explain – I finally managed a full-range Eb melodic minor scale at a decent speed! As the sixth and seventh degrees of the scale (the ones that sharpen in an ascending melodic minor and then return to their original pitches on the descent) are on the top C and D in this particular example, I was really struggling to stay in the same key on my descent. Don’t ask me why, but I kept wandering off into B major! Anyway, some good periods of concentration have paid off and it’s now happening, it just needs to be faster.

My second breakthrough will be tested in class tomorrow, but I think I’ve finally figured out the relationship between all the different layers of phrasing in Andersen’s Op. 15 No. 3 study. Considering that I’ve previously played it for three different teachers and an undergraduate technical exam, it’s about time! The study’s in G major, and on first glances consists of a steady stream of undulating triplets with more-or-less regular slurring. When I first worked on it with my undergrad teacher Andrew Macloed (who did Trevor’s course himself while a student), we’d talked about the idea of a melody flowing through these triplets, essentially the first note of each slurred group. So the goal of the study became to bring out the melody by slightly elongating the first of each slur, but without overdoing it. Then, since a slur is always (or almost always) a decrescendo, there needed to be a coming-away over the course of each one. However, when I played the study for Trevor a few weeks ago, I was still accused of being unmusical.

What was I missing? I think I’ve worked out that the interrelationship between the overriding melody and the flow of the music is a bit more complex and subtle than that. I was elongating the start of each slur by more-or-less the same amount, and definitely at the same dynamic, delineating the melody but not really showing an understanding of it. Andrew also told me that Moyse added words to the melody: “I love you, yes I love you” with ‘love’ and ‘you’ being two beats and the other words being one beat only. I had practised the melody this way, thinking about the direction of the phrase, the focus on the word ‘love’ and then coming away on ‘you’. Yet what I had failed to do was allow this bigger plan to shape the way I played once I added the triplets back in, which now seems so silly!

So, not only does each slur need to be well-shaped, the direction in the musical line is always towards the ‘love’, the downbeat of the phrase. Here, the first note of the slur does need to be quite elongated, but those preceding and following it not nearly as much. Hopefully the result is a sense of musical ebb and flow rather than a more mathematical rendition, and I still need to remember to play the marked dynamics as well. We’ll see tomorrow, but tonight at least, I can allow myself a small sense of accomplishment.

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