Adieu - Part 2/3

Section B (w/video)

Before you even give consideration to this article and related video, do please read the introduction article found here, then study and master part 1/1, as found here.  This article shall dissect and share study tips on Chopin's L'Adieu Waltz, Op 69 1 in Ab using the score downloadable for free from here (our discussion begins re. page 5, bar 4) and assumes that the piece is fully known and playable on your Internal Jukebox.  Given that you understand and accept all of this, let's dive straight in!

As with Section A, I mastered this section in the following way:  I made sure the piece was on my Internal Jukebox, I studied the score to make sure I was aware of the dynamic markings, key signature, time signature (they remain the same) and technical requirements, then identified the melody pattern using my Internal Piano.  I made sure I knew the melody notes so well, having studied the score, by being able to play it fully on my IP without reference to the score.  This took no more than 20 minutes.  I then did the same for the left hand part.  This took about 30 minutes to fully internalise away from the piano.  I then went to the piano to see how well I could play it straight-off without the score and had about 80% accuracy, albeit slowly.  You would do well to try the same, purely as experimentation and to increase the trust levels of your mind..  After all, as you know, the fingers can do what the mind can imagine them doing and they can't do what the mind cannot imagine them doing.  Since I had the shapes in my mind, all I needed to do, as will be the case with you, was to refine was the natural fingering and precision.  See here for my podcast on the Internal Manuscript to help you with sight-reading.

Upon completion of this first at the piano experience (playing straight-off to see how much had stuck from internal practice), I was able to recognise a few elements of this section which could be troublesome for a beginner, some of them also being troublesome for me!  I will share how I overcame the ones which were difficult for me, along with highlighting some difficulties I humbly predict will challenge the average beginner, with a view to preparing you before the storm, so to speak.

Water Pianism Podcast Collection

Above all is timing.  Section A was not as heavily demanding in terms of counting 1 2 3 1 2 3, as the Waltz goes.  It was possible to be quite expressive early on.  Section B, to master it, is clearly best done metronomically and by this, I mean dry, expressionless and without dynamics.  The reason is the somewhat demanding left hand requirements.  Of note is the 'bouncing' middle note in the left hand chords and the, as is notated on the score itself, con anima inflection of the right hand melody, itself quite demanding in terms of ascending and descending precision.  I shall discuss these, and more, below.

This image is the end of Section A and the first two bars of Section B, our focus.  Consider the C and Cb (B) at the end of Section A to be the beginning of Section B for melodic facility.  We can then divide the melody as follows:  C, Cb / Bb, C, Bb / A, Bb, Bb, Bb | C, Bb, G, Eb, Bb.  Of interest is the potentially difficult yet easy to master triple Bb, the third of which being an octave higher.  That top Bb is best landed on with the ring finger so that the little finger can play the C just next to it and then descend using the ring finger once again on the Bb up there.  In some versions I listened to and/or watched, that top C was held down.  It shouldn't be because it's not indiciated to do so.  Later, however, it is held down as you will learn.  My natural fingering for the Bb at the beginning of the bar onwards is:  index finger (Bb), middle finger (C), index finger (Bb), thumb (A), index finger (Bb), thumb (Bb), ring finger (Bb), and then as discussed just previously.  You would do well to get this phrase, especially the double Bb (using two different fingers) and the leap onto the generally weak, unused ring finger, down perfectly with your eyes closed before introducing the left hand, itself with a unique demand: the middle-note bounce!

The left hand chord of Ab, Bb, F (an implied Bb7 chord) is made up of two parts:  the held down top and bottom notes and the moveable middle note which begins as Bb and moves to D to be played twice.  What is useful is that this DD is absolutely in sync with the right hand's requirement of playing the Bb with first the index finger (recommended, at least) and thumb.  I therefore recommend playing the right hand alone and then introducing the left hand gently by combining it on that D, D / Bb, Bb moment.  The index finger is best used for this D in the left hand.  I use my ring finger for the Ab and thumb on the F.  Practise independently also the left hand chord with the Bb to D inner movement and bounce.  It will become natural quicker than you expect, especially if you close your eyes and feel it happening rather than watch it and worry about fingering.  When you can bring them together, the double note played by both hands (D/Bb) is a nice 'springboard' to the next bar, via the final Bb an octave higher which is played alone by the ring finger.

In the next bar in the image, note again how the left hand plays a chord this time of two notes but the 'bouncing' middle note follows the previous bar's logic; this time, it's G and Eb in the left, held down for the bar's duration, with the Bb played twice in time with the final two notes.

The image to the left is the very next bar and is the most important bar of Section B.  Almost every interpretation I have seen or heard will play the left hand's three note requirement as an open ascending chord because it's too much of a stretch for almost every human hand.  A held-down Bb in the bass, held-down top D (that's a 10th!) with the moveable bouncing note in the middle being first an Ab and then a Bb.  It sounds nice but it does not have the marking (see here) which indicates to roll the chord from left to right on the piano, ascending.  Here, the notes are to be played together which means the right hand must, must, must be involved if you're to play it properly and not break it up with a rolling left hand stretch without right hand involvement.  It's not as difficult as it seems.

The right hand does the same thing as before but the fingering will be different because the thumb isn't available; it's playing the top F from the bass cleff!  The left hand therefore only needs to play the held-down Bb and temporary Ab and the right hand will be doing all the work.  Get used to landing on this shape for the first beat of the bar as follows:  LH:  Bb (little finger), Ab (index finger) / RH:  F (thumb), melody note Bb (middle finger), melody note C (ring finger), melody note Bb (middle finger), then end with the index finger playing the A.  Get that phrase into your fingers and try to land onto and play that first beat (plus the A note) following the previous bar, then stop.  That's the hard part out the way.  Do it with eyes closed for enhanced precision and feel.

Now, since you're playing the pedal in each bar, the low Ab (left hand little finger) and F (right hand thumb) can be released because they will sustain.  Next, play the Bb in the left hand with the thumb, forming a comfortable octave (and if you can't reach, then release the low Bb because the sustain pedal will carry it) and play the Bb in the right hand with the middle finger as the score says.  If you can keep the low Bb pressed, do so; same applies for the right hand thumb on the F because it is at this point, after playing the two Bbs, that you can release the left hand and let the right hand jump up to the Bb with the ring finger to continue as in the previous bar with the little finger on the C up there just after the Bb.

The next bar you can watch the video or read the score yourself rather than me continue to explain every bar in detail but those first bars I feel required deeper explanation.  Note how the left hand in this next bar plays the Eb, Bb and Eb of an Eb major chord, holds down the notes for the bar (sustain pedal again or physically) and then adds the double bouncing note, G, completing the major triad chord.  Also note how the top C this time is held down longer by half its duration and this is kept in balance by the shorter note duration of the next note (extra black tail - a semiquaver).  Note further how every C from then on is played as a standard quaver with a semiquaver rest.  If you're curious about the apostrophe above the C, then see here to save me repeating it.  Listen to most versions to get a sense of how this feels and sounds, such as in the recording shared above.

This whole section is played after Section A and is then followed by Section A, giving the structure thus far as ABA.  The next article and video will conclude the structure for you, providing Section C and D together, with D leading bluntly back into Section A.

I recommend mastering this section blandly with a metronome or at least with your own Internal Metronome if it's very steady.  This will help to drill the timing of this piece.  A lot of Chopin's music doesn't have such a solid 1 2 3 requirement like this Waltz does so I would suggest something else for those pieces; I'm not an ardent metronome supporter but when it is useful, I'll propose it, such as herein.

Consider mastering each hands' roles independently away from the piano and then at the piano but when you bring them together, aim for a 'wall of sound' rather than switching your conscious mind back and forth between hand demands.  Eyes closed helps achieve this.  And remember to spend a lot of time on your Internal Piano going over and over the right hand melody and left hand chord positions throughout the days until you know them without hesitation and no longer need the score.

Once again, if you haven't read the introduction article, please do so, followed by Part 1/1.  Good luck and see you in part 3/3!