Notes from the Keyboard – Franz Schubert’s “Moment Musical” no. 3, in f minor

Hello again! In this post, I bring you another favourite of piano students — Schubert’s “Moment Musical” No. 3 in F minor!

This is a particularly special piece to me because it reminds me of my trip to Vienna in 2019.

If you’ve never been to Vienna, you should go (when the pandemic is over, that is). It is a great experience to take in the sights and sounds of the city which has so much history attached to it.

Unlike Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven, Schubert was a born Viennese, and I believe that this piece encapsulates much of the atmosphere of that lovely city.

Our big topic for this post is, therefore, CHARACTER.

 

Tip Number 1: Get the rhythm going

One of the first things that caught my attention on my trip to Vienna was the sight of horses and carriages parked along the side of the Cathedral in the centre of the city.

I know it is probably not uncommon to see this in European cities — the bus I took in Salzburg was directly behind a horse-drawn carriage — but my mind made that instant connection between the left hand rhythm in this piece and the clip-clop of the horses’ hoofs.

Here are the first few bars of the piece.

Bars 1 to 4

Since this accompaniment lasts for the entire piece, it is terribly important that you set the tempo and mood correctly in the two introductory bars at the beginning of the piece.

In practical terms, this means that our left hand has to have a regular kind of bounce that gently rings in the background.  The piece is marked Allegro moderato, which tells us that it has to be lively, but not running along. We are not horse racing here!

The key word is ‘bounce’.

Bouncing conjures the image of a ball. To get the articulation right, it helps to think about the point of impact between the floor (if you’re playing basketball) and the ball. It is a short and articulated sound, not a thud or a bang. If you can hold that sound in your mind, you have a pretty good idea of the kind of staccato you should be aiming for. It is marked piano as well, after all.

Now, the intensity of the bounce will vary according to the mood of the music as it changes during the course of the piece, but it should never lose its life.

It’s as if the clip-clopping advances into the foreground and recedes into the background throughout the piece.

 

Tip Number 2: Dare to be subtle

In the second half of the piece (see below), Schubert uses three levels of softness: p, pp, and ppp.

Does that mean that you have to play the bar marked p louder so that when pp arrives (bar 27), you are able to show that difference?

Perhaps so.

But note that the melody in bar 27 was first presented at the beginning of the piece p.

Okay, suppose you now decide that the opening theme should also be played louder so that this difference is noticeable when Schubert calls for it, are you not risking playing the opening a little too loudly and thereby decreasing your chances of achieving the nimble and curious character you want to portray there?

Uh-oh! We have landed ourselves in a tight situation here…

It seems that the only way forward for us is to find ever more degrees of softness. The difference between your p and your pp should be as small as possible, yet discernible.

I want to encourage you to experiment on your piano and find those degrees of softness. Be fearless!

There are two ways you can go about this:

  1. Start at fff and gradually inch your way down to a degree above silence, creating as many different levels as you can.
  2. Or start at a degree above silence and gradually work your way up to a thundering forte.

All you need is one finger playing one note.

 

That’s it for this post!

Click on the video to listen to my performance of this piece.

The video also includes pictures from my visit to Vienna and Schubert’s place of birth.

If you have any questions, please feel free let me know in the comments section below.

Feel free to share this post with your friends if you found it useful, and I’ll see you again at my next post.

 

The Author

Lee Jae Phang is on a mission to spread his love for great music far and wide!

Using his skills and experience, he helps others deepen their appreciation for and understanding of music through his work as an international concert pianist, teacher, and writer.

If you would like to be part of his musical adventures, follow Lee Jae on his Facebook page. Click here to see Lee Jae’s professional Facebook page!  

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