Notes from the Keyboard – “Song of the Lark” by P.I. Tchaikovsky
Hello! Did you enjoy my previous post on Chopin’s Prelude in E minor, Op. 28 No. 4?
In this shorter post, I will share some tips on how to play Tchaikovsky’s Song of the Lark from his Album for the Young, Op. 39 so that your performance shines.
Without further ado, let’s begin!
Tip Number 1: Know the subject
This piece is about the song of a particular bird—the lark. The lark is a small-to-medium-sized bird with a call more elaborate than most birds. Its small size also means that its call is in a higher pitch range.
In addition to this, the lark in mythology and literature symbolizes daybreak. Shakespeare’s 29th Sonnet has the lines
Like to the lark at break of day arising From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven’s gate;
Here’s a picture of an Eurasian skylark (Alauda arvensi), courtesy of Wikipedia.
Triplet and acciaccatura motives
Tip Number 2: Clarity is Key to Characterisation
In order to communicate the character of the piece effectively, and since the bird call motives highlighted above play a significant role in the creation and communication of the freshness of the piece, you have to be able to play those motives clearly, with good, crisp articulation.
Good and crisp articulation can be attained by ensuring that when you play the triplet (and also the acciaccatura—more information below), you curve your fingers. Flat fingers should only be reserved for cantabile playing, where brilliance of tone is not the goal.
Playing with curved fingers helps you to ensure that you do not over hold consecutive notes, particularly in this situation where the beginning of the next note marks the end of the previous one, where clarity is paramount and the tempo of the motives is brisk.
If you experiment at the keyboard with two fingers, each playing one note and one followed by the other, you might even find that to achieve a really good legato requires more concentration when one’s fingers are curved. You need to keep the first finger held until it has to be lifted.
We now turn our attention to the final point of this post: the acciaccaturas (as seen in the second music example above).
In addition to keeping your fingers curved, you have to just bear two more things in mind when playing these:
Firstly, keep your fingers close to the surface of the keys.
Secondly, the main note has to be fractionally louder than the ornament note, so the force you exert using your fingers when playing the acciaccatura has to increase between the first (ornament note) and second note (the main note).
I hope that you find this post informative and useful. As before, please try out my suggestions, leave a comment below, and I’ll see you in the next post!
Meanwhile, here’s my performance of this miniature. Enjoy!
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Along with 15 other people, Lee Jae once held a Guinness World Record for the largest number of people playing the same piano simultaneously.
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