Clementi: Sonatina in C, Op. 36, No. 1, I. Allegro
Preparation and Presentation
Pieces that are helpful to have experienced or played before approaching this one:
- Lynn Freeman Olson – Beginning Sonatinas
- Nancy Faber - Classic Sonatina in C Major
- Dennis Alexander - Simply Sonatinas
- Theodore Latour - Sonatina No. 1 in C Major
- Thomas Attwood - Sonatina in G Major
Creative activities to explore before the first encounter with the score, to prepare a student for deeper engagement and more immediate success:
- Improvisation/composing: create a LH melody, four measures long; add a right hand accompaniment in stationary broken octaves; balance the hands with care (preparation for mm. 20-24).
- Explore sonatina form.
- Research about Clementi: birth and death dates, biography, how many sonatinas did he compose?
Features to pay attention to first; priority steps in reading and absorbing the music.
- Rests: tap and count mm. 1-4, 15, 19, 38, lifting in an exaggerated way for the rests; circle the rests.
- Bracket potentially tricky places for special practice: mm. 6-9, 8-12 (moving LH early), 22- 24, and other spots that are likely to need special attention.
Physical skills and drills for common technical challenges in the piece.
- one-octave scales ascending, down a 7th, ascending again
- broken octaves, RH 1 - 5 - 5 - 5 = strong-light-light-light. Work on free technique; avoid overly stretching the hand.
- broken triad inversions using Clementi's opening gesture/motive: "down and it's up up", then block
- LH cadence progressions with Alberti bass pattern
- 4-note broken chords with inversions
Ideas to connect and reconnect with the expressive and musical nature of the piece:
- Dynamic contrast: pause before each dynamic change, verbally state the next dynamic, then continue.
- Character contrast: discuss the abrupt shift in mood, mm. 16-24; how can shaping, balance, "body language" project this most effectively?
- Compare the recap (m. 24ff) with the exposition; come up with mood adjectives to describe the differences.
- Balance: "ghost" the accompaniment hand.
- Long lines: play or sing a G Major scale in whole notes while playing mm. 8-15 (or C major mm. 31-38); the whole section is one big scale!
- Feel the music in "2" vs. "4" for more natural flow and phrasing
Approaches to set up for success with refinements that will need attention a few weeks down the road:
- Students with strong tactile memory will benefit from working back and forth between measures 5-15 and 24-39.
- Play (and sing!) the melody without accompaniment to focus on expressive shaping of the melody in mm. 16-20, 35-end.
Process and Practice
Tips for maintaining focus and engagement over time:
- Performance opportunities (group lessons, etc.) provide concrete goals and enable students to become more confident performers.
- Self-evaluation: students record their own performances and evaluate, making note of what is going especially well, and what specific goals they have for future practice.
- Creative practicing techniques: a variety of speeds, selected rhythms, and mixing up the order of phrases/sections in the piece.
Useful practice segments; how to connect them and plug them back into the whole:
- To build speed in mm. 8-16, 31-38: play at a faster tempo than the current performance tempo, pausing at each downbeat; follow by chaining two measures together, pausing at the downbeat of every other measure.
Tips for focusing on how the parts make up the whole:
- Structural analysis can help with interpretation and memorization.
- Detail how the first theme is modified in the recapitulation, how the development section makes use of the first theme to create a different mood.
Ideas for finding and maintaining tempo, managing modifications artistically:
- Sing and conduct the piece "in 2" to help with flow and breathing.
- Though metronome practice can be very useful, also play without the metronome and experiment with physical breathing and pacing between sections.
Tips for developing and refining a personal, internal sense of the piece:
- Develop a story about the piece: associate extra-musical ideas and/or assign descriptive words to each contrasting section.
- If student can vocalize or sing phrases in an expressive way, use this as a model for a more expressive and personal, organic interpretation; this works especially well with the development section, mm. 16-23.
Tips for securing memory:
- Harmonic analysis: label the scales in mm. 8 and 31; block and label LH chords in mm. 9, 11, 32, 34; block and label RH chords in mm. 1, 16, 17, 24, 28, 20.
- Play only the downbeats of mm. 8-12 and mm. 32-38 hands together; alternate between these sections, with the music and from memory.
- Keep playing with the score each day, even after memory is secured.
- Memory checkpoints: be able to start with and without the score from the following measures: 1, 5, 8, 12, 16, 24, 28, 31; before playing, verbally state the LH and RH starting notes, chord, etc.
Tips for ensuring performance readiness, maintaining freshness and spontaneity, and reinforcing an expressive personal connection:
- Continue with very slow practice, exaggerating every musical intention.
- Practice performing, even when alone: walk to the piano, take time, perform the piece in its entirety, do not stop even if not fully satisfied with the performance.
- Continue starting at a variety of spots in the music, with the score and from memory.
- Study the score without playing, imagining an "ideal" performance.