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Analysis of Teaching Material (The Sonatine)

In these days the quest for attractive teaching material for the young pianist not infrequently leads us to seek the element of novelty, irrespective of any higher consideration. It is true that this must be the case in purveying to pupils who have yet to be interested before they can be instructed in music. It is a question, however, if this temporizing consideration may not be overdone; if there is not very much of interest in the easier "good music." which will, if properly presented, secure the very interest we are seeking to arouse. Some there are, it is true, who, living constantly in the presence of good music made by other people, preserve and cherish a little collection of gaudy covers and horrible contents; who are untouched by the lofty music they hear, yet contentedly strum out their own repertoire to their deepest satisfaction, a frequent wrong note notwithstanding. So it does take all kinds to make a world, after all; and the gaudy-covered music, while it may not make its lover a better man, leads him to commit a crime that appeals only to the ethical and not to the legal state of affairs. Liberty and the pursuit of happiness defend him.
In a previous article on Form as a principle in music that should never be overlooked by the teacher, I described the most common variety of the small forms, the Ternary. This three-part structure is common to all arts, and the teacher can, with profit to herself and to her pupils, make a study of it in pictures illustrating design, architectural details, painting and the like.
The Ternary is easily recognized in small forms, but it is frequently unrecognized in larger forms. For this reason the pupil often studies a larger classic movement and fails entirely to see its perspective; its boundaries are not clear to him, and the balance of parts which in Form is so necessary and interesting is lost to him. But, as a little practice in this, as in other things, tends to make perfect, let us suppose the student is willing to spend a portion of his time in learning the form- plan of all he plays: he will find the time well-spent and the reward worthy of his effort.
The Sonatine is often a thing unbeloved. Perhaps its plot is too deep to be grasped while the technical difficulties are yet unconquered. If we would take the trouble to describe the structure before we set the pupil at work with his hands, we could simplify his task and enlist his attention; that is, we should give his head a chance first, and then his hands. It may help him.
While the Clementi Sonatines have appealed to students for many decades, they are still fresh and spontaneous. As a type of the Sonatine form in miniature, there is no better example than Op. 36, No. 6, in D major, first movement. In the pupil's experience with the Sonatine, the first movement may seem long and involved. He may work at it with discouragement, which, in time, develops into dislike. I do not blame him always for this, for we should first appeal to his intellectuality, and then require him to practice. The opposite procedure is what involves us and him in confusion. By following this rule, that fearful search for novelties in bright covers may not be so necessary.
Let us tell him, and play as we explain, that this Sonatine movement, though quite long, is composed of nine parts, which, when properly grouped, form three principal divisions. These three principal divisions are:
I. From the beginning to the first double Bar (Measures 1 to 38).
II. From the double Bar to the point where the first part of the Sonatine is again introduced (Measures 39 to 54).
III. From the point reached in II to the end (Measures 57 to 90).
Part I is 38 measures in length. A piece of English literature as long as that (two printed pages of music) would be sub-divided into paragraphs, into sentences, and into phrases; and the comprehension of the whole would become simple as we read it, observing these. It is quite the same with this music. It is sub-divided; and the study of each sub-division tends to make the whole a simple and straightforward story.
The sub-divisions of Part I are four in number:
First Subject, in D (Measures 1 to 12).
Episode or Intermediate Group (Measures 12 to 22).
Second Subject, in A (Measures 23 to 34).
Closing Group, in A (Measures 34 to the double Bar).
In the practice of a Sonatine each of these four divisions should be separately mastered. Then their inter-relation becomes evident and the unity of the movement is much clearer in the performance.
It is in the interest of comparison that the pupil should next be shown the structure of Part III, so that it may be pointed out to him that this part is exactly like Part I, save in certain key-changes. (The reasons for the differences of key make an interesting story; and let us remember that whatever interests him is to our gain and his.)
We promised to show him nine paragraphs in this piece of literature, and we have already shown him eight of them. The ninth he can discover for himself. That ninth paragraph has its sentence structure, and should be analyzed to reveal it.
Part III is sub-divided as follows:
First Subject, in D major (Measures 57 to 68).
Intermediate Group (Measures 68 to 74).
Second Subject, in D major (Measures 75 to 86).
Closing Group (No Coda) (Measures 86 to 90).
Thus the Sonatine is displayed before the student as a short story in nine paragraphs, each paragraph conveying its particular message. Interesting comparisons should be made. Paragraphs one and five are the same; they are identical, in fact. Paragraphs two and six are the same in story, but differ in the detail of key. Paragraphs three and seven are to be compared as were two and six; so, too, are paragraphs four and eight.
If we do this clearly for the pupil, he will soon jump to a conclusion and alight on his feet with safety and delight. The first four paragraphs and the last four, separated by the long middle paragraph (after the first double Bar), make a Ternary. This discovery will help him not only with this particular composition, but with every other of the same kind that he is ever to study. In other words, this little talk on music form gives him insight into the structure of a great number of music compositions. So much knowledge of constant future use is certainly a good investment.
It may take one lesson, or two, or three, to get all this before him. Still, it is a good investment. And still there is much more of interest to be told. When he knows two or three first movements of Sonatines, let him compare them, so as to work out for himself such questions as these:
1.    Is the first subject generally repeated exactly as it first appeared?
2.    What key is reached through the Intermediate Group in Part I, in Part III?
3.    Is the second subject literally transposed to the Tonic (in Part III) from the Dominant (in Part I)?
4.    Is the Closing Group exactly repeated, or is it longer (with Coda) in Part III?
5.    If there is a Coda, what is its purpose?
6.    Is Part II (called the Development) entirely new music, or does it suggest what has appeared in Part I?
Many similar questions are possible, and they should be multiplied, to the end that the pupil will be led to observe and compare. The value of analysis as an aid to music memory need not be pointed out. It abounds with possibilities in that direction.
In order that detailed knowledge of Form may be gradually built up in the pupil's mind, the Phrase and Period analysis of the components of the   Sonatine's first movement should not be forgotten. Every Cadence must be carefully located and named; so, too, all Sequences, key-changes (especially in the Development, Part II) are structural devices employed to emphasize theoretic matter.
The Ternary structure of this particular composition is:
Part I to Measure 38.
Part II to Measure 56.
Part III (like I) to Measure 90.
The four-fold sub-divisions of Parts I and III have been already emphasized. There is no set structural sub-division ever employed in Part II.
We have now seen that a Sonatine first movement is Ternary in its balance of actual music material. But it has another Ternary characteristic that is often very pronounced in more elaborate types of the form; it is also present in the example before us, to an extent:
Part I has two key-colors—Tonic and Dominant.
Part III has one prevailing key-color, the Tonic.
Part II is frequently, and best, less restricted to key. It is, in fact, free in this particular, and modulatory passages are desirable. Therefore, the key of Parts I and III establish a color contrast to the more widely chosen keys of Part II.
The teacher will see at once that this structural analysis has in it a fund of interest. It should be employed constantly, for it does as much for the head as technics do for the hand. It helps to show, to some extent, why good music is good.
There is much in it to think about, and the more we investigate it the more we find.
The writer suggests that the reader who follows this article be provided with a copy of the movement in question. Number each measure, from the first full measure to the end.

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You are reading Analysis of Teaching Material (The Sonatine) from the August, 1910 issue of The Etude Magazine.

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