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SUCCESS - 'Keyboard Sonata in D Minor' by Scarlatti

You may have seen my previous blog post on the subject matter - not but one week ago - in which I was so so so close to perfecting this piece.

Well, I feel that as far as my current standards will allow (although I am always striving for improvement) I have.

Purists may wince slightly at my rendition of a Baroque piece in that I added a handful of pauses and rits across the music so as to live up to my strengths, as sadly my fingers aren't quite as agile as they once were and need at least to be teased of a break every now and then. However, this keyboard sonata - whilst, as ever, with room for improvement - can finally be heard performed properly in its entirety by me here:

So, what steps did I need to add to create such a performance? -

Get the Bad Performances Out of My System

This was by no means a first take, although in my defence it didn't take as many as it could have done. I think I probably had about fifteen minutes worth. Maybe twenty. Granted, even if I'd have reached the end of each the piece for each take then that would add to a lot of takes, being a reasonably short piece, but it made me consciously aware of things I needed to do each time.

As always, I found myself becoming more and more stressed which inevitably led to more and more mistakes. And guess what? This take you see is the result of just a five minute break following the peak of my frustration. Not only did I feel calmer anyway, but evidently it reflected in my performance.

(It was practising this piece that inspired this blog about the trouble with recording!)

Sustain Pedal

Being a Baroque piece of music, there is no pedal marking on the music and it is debatable as to whether or not you ought to incorporate at all (I wrote a blog on pedalling where I referenced Baroque music - have a read!).

Being rapid passages - especially with the majority of them being consecutive notes - pedalling would have made this all a tad muddy in my opinion, so I opted against it.

EXCEPT for at the end of each 'movement' (the ends of page 1 and 2, both of which are repeated).

This allowed for me to take a pause whilst ringing out the last note prior to immediately going back into the repeated / new passage at speed. It's doable without the pedal, but I would either have had to:

  • embrace a pause of silence

  • hold the note on manually and then jump quickly to my new position

Neither of these options sounded quite as desirable to me!


The romantic in me coming through (not literally - I'm referring, of course to the Romantic era musically). I added a little more rise and fall in the tempo, such as the aforementioned ends of passages.

However, I also did this at the very beginning for the first two bars. It allowed my fingers to settle into a more rapid passage and also perform the introductory bars evenly as playing evenly was something I was struggling to do at speed. It is, of course, something I can still work on, but for this performance I think it works just fine.

Controlled Trills

Every rendition I've heard of this has quite intense trilling, and it isn't one that I particularly enjoy listening to, let alone performing. I prefer the much more deliberate sounding root-up-down-up-down approach, which allows the finger to breathe for a slight nanosecond before its next trick (usually a rapid semiquaver passage, so the breathing time is extra vital for my precious fingers!).

Head Movement

In the second movement, there is a repeat of the theme from the first movement. However, the left hand jumps from a quaver bass note quite low down to vamped quavers in the rest of the bar two octaves higher. The first instance of this passage is at 1:21 (as this movement is repeated, remember!).

Naturally, going slow was one important practice technique here. But also, working on my head movement so I could know exactly where and when to look lower down to best aim those notes. There is a lot of instinct in piano playing that many professionals streets ahead of myself would be able to employ whereby they wouldn't even need to look. However, for me, because there is nothing relative in the two octave jump (such as the previous bar working down the the first note), I need to look.

Fortunately, the right hand is not only a direct repeat of the first movement that by this time was well practiced, but it is also very scale based. This means that it is of lesser importance that I look at the right hand as that should be able to do its thing without being watched. And it did!

Embrace the Repeats

I can't for the life of me fathom what it is, but if I do a perfect take of the first page which then repeats, I get more nervous about doing it again. Why? I can do it, clearly. Maybe I thought it was a fluke and I feel it at least now needs to live up to it if not be better?

I had to shift my mentality somewhat - which is rather hard, not going to lie - to realise that actually the repeats are a good thing. If you've done them once you can do them again. It's not difficult and it's not cause for concern. If anything, Scarlatti has given a substantial length of music for half the practice time because of the repeats.

Still, it's done now and I do enjoy playing it!



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