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Learning a Scarlatti Sonata - Part One

A few weeks ago, following my 'debut' performance at Belong Morris Feinmann, Didsbury, I picked up some sheet music from a book shop that was tucked away behind a cafe in the main village. One of these was a book with a beautiful red cover and gold writing - 'Scarlatti'.

I knew / know nothing of the composer, but it looked very exciting, so I purchased a copy. Over the past couple of weeks, I have delved into learning his first sonata.

This sonata / movement is just two pages long, but is quite intricate. Here's my progress so far:

Despite a few stutters and times when passages could be cleaner, I am quite happy.

However, some skills needed a bit of extra work:

Even Semiquavers

The majority of this piece is in semiquavers, and because the passages are not staccato it is very important to get a fluid sound going. However, this can lead to a natural uneven-ness between the notes, owing to the fact that (especially when performing quickly) some fingers are naturally stronger than others.

Yes, I'm still working on my preparatory exercises and fingers strength and independence exercises, as well as scales etc. and probably will be forever more. However, taking the piece slowly to begin with is a necessity - as is often the case with learning a new piece. The metronome was invaluable because this piece - like many Baroque pieces - demands a rigidity to it as opposed to too much artistic licence.

Consistent Trills

There are a lot of trills in this piece. 8 on the first page. There are many ways to interpret them - start on the note above and rapidly alternate. Start on the note below and rapidly alternate. Start on the notated note and alternate above or below. For how long - the length of the note? Just a quick infliction like a mordent? Do you treat it more like a turn and do a bit above and finish below?

I'm keeping mine fairly simple. Starting on each notated note and giving 5 distinctive notes as an upward trill (root-up-root-up-root) because the piece is / will be too quick to consider doing anything too intricate. There is no notation otherwise to imply a different trill is ever required so I am making sure to keep them consistent and use the same trill each time.

Hand Positioning

One hand position was particularly awkward for me because it required my hands to play extremely closely together, so this was another one I had to work on slowly. The left hand was staccato quavers underneath the right hand slurred semiquavers, so I was given a bit of leeway with the ability to jump off the note so as not to be in the way. However, my hand itself had to do a little bit of work to make sure it was never too in the way!

As I progress with this piece, I will keep updating!


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