Kabalevsky: Clowns, Op. 39
Preparation and Presentation
Pieces that are helpful to have experienced or played before approaching this one:
- Beethoven - Ecossaise in G Major, WoO 23
- Niamath - Playful Puppy
- Niamath - Penguins
Creative activities to explore before the first encounter with the score, to prepare a student for deeper engagement and more immediate success:
- Learn the LH ostinato figure by rote. Play this pattern up the C major scale.
- Improvise a 5-finger melody against the left hand ostinato.
- Play/imitate 5-finger patterns in a variety of touches and articulations. Familiarize the ear and hand by using the exact articulations from the piece.
Features to pay attention to first; priority steps in reading and absorbing the music:
- Maintain the bounciness of the LH rote exercises.
- Encourage close attention to the movements of wrist while executing precise RH articulations.
- Discuss the character of the sections from the very beginning; these characters are great motivation for practice!
Physical skills and drills for common technical challenges in the piece:
- Drill LH passages independently.
- RH articulations and wrist motions can be drilled by focusing only on the first three notes, alternating from major to minor.
- Practice RH staccato leaps separately from the slurred passages for accuracy.
Ideas to connect and reconnect with the expressive and musical nature of the piece:
- Write Emoji faces into the music to remind them of the characters chosen for each section.
- Compare LH ostinato figure to a clown rhythmically juggling balls.
Approaches to set up for success with refinements that will need attention a few weeks down the road:
- Encourage slow practice with attention to LH changes in mm. 13-17.
- The end can be tricky. Work backward for accuracy, starting with m. 25 and practicing slowly until mm. 22-25 are confident and comfortable.
Process and Practice
Tips for maintaining focus and engagement over time:
- Draw different faces in the score to indicate contrasting moods, which can vary from performance to performance.
- Embody chosen characters with facial expressions, while playing.
Useful practice segments; how to connect them and plug them back into the whole:
- Practice the A Major/minor sections (mm. 1-4, 5-8, 18-21) together to discover and show how they are similar and different.
- Individual practice for:
mm. 9-12 in F Major/minor
mm. 13-17 transition
mm. 22-25 coda
Tips for focusing on how the parts make up the whole:
- Identify where 5-note patterns occur and how they change throughout the piece. How are they different in the A M/m and the F M/m sections?
- Identify the key areas.
- Point out where the left hand pattern changes.
Ideas for finding and maintaining tempo, managing modifications artistically:
- Think of the LH as a metronome to keep the beat steady.
- Aim for a joking, clownish tempo; choose one that brings out the character and isn't too fast.
Tips for developing and refining a personal, internal sense of the piece:
- Exaggerate the articulations and dynamics.
- Allow some time (stretch) in m. 17 before returning to the first theme.
Tips for securing memory:
- Memorize the piece in its key areas.
- Note where the A section changes and leads to the Coda (m. 22).
Tips for ensuring performance readiness, maintaining freshness and spontaneity, and reinforcing an expressive personal connection:
- Draw multiple characters for each section and choose a different combination for successive performances.
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