Clavier Companion - July/August 2017 - 52
Stress reduction at the piano
t's exciting to see a student
advance after years of diligent work, but often the
thought of moving on to larger works is daunting and stressful,
especially for those students juggling too many activities. That big
piece will never be finished, and
One solution for student
burnout is Felix Mendelssohn's late-intermediate
"Venetian Gondola Song" (often titled "Venetian
Boat Song") Op. 30, No. 6, one of the forty-eight
Songs without Words. Though the piece is available
in multiple editions, I like the Schirmer Performance
Edition, Selections from Songs without Words,
(Schirmer/Hal Leonard). This Schirmer collection is
edited by Immanuela Gruenberg and includes access
to online performances.
Imagining a gondola ride through the canals of Venice
is a perfect activity for any overworked student (or
teacher). In Op. 30, No. 6, a fifty-five-measure barcarolle in
F-sharp minor, a gently flowing left-hand figure suggests
calm waters. Patterns are repeated, and the tempo is
relaxed. Instruct students to follow the fingerings and to
carefully practice the jumps that span an octave or more;
muscle memory will soon take over. Students should
also be careful with balance, and listen for a singing tone
and expressive melody in the right hand. Any repeated
notes (as seen in measures 7-10) should not stagnate; a
crescendo will give them direction.
At measure 24, double thirds create a duet with
the right-hand melody. The fingering in the score will
make playing this section a breeze.
Undoubtedly, the dramatic trill in measure 33 is the
highlight of the piece. Mendelssohn indicates a huge
dynamic range, pianissimo to sforzando. Rubato is
appropriate, and at the discretion of the performer.
Encourage students to take time away from the
piano to study the score. How does Mendelssohn
use scales? How often does he begin a measure with
the tonic in the bass? How prevalent are dominant
chords? These questions can easily tie in with any
theory lesson on minor keys.
Most of the Songs without Words are more
advanced, but, in the Schirmer edition, seven of the
fifteen selections are only two pages long. Why stop
at just one? My students also love Op. 30, No. 3,
"Consolation"; Op. 102, No. 3, a lively tarantella; and
Op. 19b, No. 6, another "Venetian Gondola Song."
Got a Pupil Saver? We love to hear from you. If
you are interested in submitting your Pupil Saver
for consideration, please contact Susan Geffen at
Carmen Doubrava is an active adjudicator,
accompanist, teacher, and performer who has
performed in Texas, Michigan, New York, Colorado,
Wisconsin, and at the U. S. Department of State. She
lives in Carrollton, Texas, and has been featured in
articles in Keyboard Companion, Clavier, and The
Dallas Morning News.