Pieces that express sadness or reflectiveness - What sad pieces do you play or listen to

Discuss the piano literature and how to teach and learn it

Postby Stretto » Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:45 am

What are some sad or reflective pieces that you listen to or play on the piano?
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Wed Mar 28, 2007 9:44 am

The Schumann "Album for the Young" has some lovely ones, such as "Winter" and "First Loss." Then there are obvious ones like the Funeral March from Chopin's B-flat Minor Sonata, and the "Funeral March on the Death of a Hero" in Beethoven's Sonata in A-flat, Opus 26.

While I'm at it, here's a pet peeve of many pianists (including me): the so-called "Moonlight" Sonata of Beethoven has nothing at all to do with moonlight--it is not a classical version of "Clair de Lune". The first movement (which is the only part of the sonata most people know) is a highly expressive work of great sadness and yearning, and Beethoven's own title is "Sonata quasi una Fantasia" (Sonata in the manner of a fantasy). The absurd popular title was given to it by a critic named Rellstab, who thought it reminded him of moonlight over Lake Lucerne in Switzerland (Beethoven never went to Switzerland in his life).

Another beautiful piano piece expressing grief is "Pavane for a Dead Princess" by Ravel.

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Postby 108-1121887355 » Fri Mar 30, 2007 6:48 pm

I prefer joyous pieces - "The Joyous Peasant, Mendelssohn, Gershwin, Waltzes, Minuets, sweet and lovely melodies more than the dramatic or the sad.

:D :D
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Postby Stretto » Sun Apr 01, 2007 3:25 pm

loveapiano wrote:I prefer joyous pieces - "The Joyous Peasant, Mendelssohn, Gershwin, Waltzes, Minuets, sweet and lovely melodies more than the dramatic or the sad.

:D :D

:) That's kind of how I've been. I noticed that most of the pieces I have worked on and played through for years now are happy or even some funny pieces. I haven't played any sad and/or really slow, expressive pieces for a long time and think I should learn or play some for a change of pace. When I have played some slow pieces, I have really liked how expressive I could be in dynamic range at a slow rate rather than fast.

Sometimes if I'm in a bad mood, having bad day, etc. I might say to myself, "well, I think I'll go play the piano for a while". But then what is a person going to play? Do you feel like playing happy, light, fun songs when you're having a dulldrum day? Or do you play joyous songs to lift your mood? What if someone says something rude to you for no reason? Are you going to walk over to the piano and play Ode to Joy? Maybe that would be a good idea. Sometimes I've just wanted to play something expressive or sad when something like that happens or just for those "down in the dumps" moods. But then I realize I don't know any slow, sad, expressive pieces so I say, "well, there goes that idea" and so don't play the piano at all those times because I don't feel like playing something happy.

I have thought lately, I should be assigning more slow, expressive pieces to students because it's a great way for young people to learn a positive way to express their feelings and get them out of their system. They say, kids these days are under a lot of stress so playing the piano is a good tool to help them get out their feelings. That's another great thing for teacher's to add to list of reasons for why music lessons are important. :)




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Postby 108-1121887355 » Mon Apr 02, 2007 3:28 pm

Most students do not want the slow and sad. It is good to have them play some, but I find that their emotions may not be up to it. Forinstance, if they have not experienced some feelings, it is hard for them to put them into their music. i do not like to give a student a piece that I know they are not up to playing well. ("Fuer Elise" ok, "Clair de Lune", no.)

Last year I tried "First Loss" on a student who was well able to play it. When she came back the next week, the notes were fine but the tempo was fast. Feeling? NO! I asked her if she knew what the title meant when I gave her the piece. She said, "yes". I don't think she had had a 'first loss' so she did not know how it felt. We worked on it for a while, and the tempo improved, but a musical feeling of 'loss' was missing.

A younger student, a boy, seems to have innate feeling for his music and has played some slower songs with more feeling. I find it hard to teach feeling. You can have them play with all the dynamics and technic, but the feeling has to come from within. You can discuss the piece, the composer, what he might have wanted, and listen to the CD, but even that does not alwys produce the results.
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Postby Stretto » Tue Apr 03, 2007 2:22 pm

loveapiano,

Thanks for the insight coming from your experience of teaching for so many years. I suppose there are a lot of factors as to whether students would like to play slow expressive pieces or not. I guess it's good for the young one's to get some "energy" out of their system playing fast, exciting pieces. I remember one particular student who took lessons from ages 9-12. The faster the piece the better for her and a Scherzo she learned was her favorite piece. At around age 12, she had been asking if she could play that Scherzo for me at the end of lessons for quite some time. She was always coming up with little new variations on the piece. Since she knew it so well (and I was trying to get through to her on other music that one should slow down a little sometimes), I said, "I wonder how this might sound playing it really slow like a slow motion version? It would be neat to hear it slow followed by the same version fast". The next week, she played a beautiful, expressive slow version of the Scherzo followed by her extremely fast version. So I discovered she was capable of playing slow afterall! (Maybe it just wasn't as much fun as fast).

I have heard of having students make up a story to go with the music, where the sounds in the piece portray characters. Knowing you, you've done that? Can a young student play more "sad" sounds if they are trying to depict a character in a story in their playing? Or is it still a lost cause? :D




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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Tue Apr 03, 2007 5:55 pm

Whatever our personal preferences at the moment, isn't it wonderful that music can express so many different moods, from darkest to lightest? We who live with music have such an incredible gold mine to draw from. American composer Roy Harris once said to me, "I think every musician should get up in the morning feeling that he has something extra special in his hip pocket."

I was musing the other day about how you could compile a list of emotions, and name musical compositions that fit each. Here are a few:

1. Happy-go-lucky: "I Got Rhythm" (Gershwin)
2. Tender contentment: "Summertime" from "Porgy and Bess" (Gershwin)
3. Despair: 4th mvt. of Sixth Symphony (Tchaikovsky)
4. Quiet night scene: "Claire de Lune" (Debussy)
5. Sheer joy: Finale of Piano Concerto in A major, K. 488 (Mozart)

Any other ideas? Can be simple or complex music, with or without text.

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Postby Stretto » Thu Apr 05, 2007 4:31 pm

Just off the top of my head:

To ensure a cheery day:

"Oh what a Beautiful Morning"

and "Zip-a-dee-dooh-da"

:D
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Postby Dr. Bill Leland » Thu Apr 05, 2007 6:47 pm

.....and--as you just reminded us--was there ever a song more full of plain exhuberance than "Oklahoma!"?
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Thu Apr 12, 2007 10:55 am

Stretto,

Thanks for your ideas.

One of my older girls is creative and has made up some 'stories' for some of her music, but the other one concentrates on the music notation and doesn't seem to be able (or want to) do so. I loan recordings and give information on the composer and the period in music. Her first question when giving a new piece, is, "Is it fast"? She has played slower music, but she really doesn't enjoy them. Give her a Sonatina and she is off and 'running'!

As for music for moods - I guess it depends. All music is a joy for me. If I were to chose, most of the time it would be the slower pieces or movements with lovely melodies and a few trills! Certain pieces are associated with people or places or situations in life.

I like "Somewhere over the Rainbow" and remember Judy Garland, especially when she was at the Palace in NYC and I was studying music there. "I'll be Seeing You" reminds me of my Mom. I could fill this site with all the songs I grew up with. My Dad - "Alexander's Rag Time Band"; one of my audition numbers, "Blue Skies"; music from"Porgy and Bess" when I received my engagment ring. Walter (2nd time around) asking me to teach him "Dites Moi" (English and French). My young son, who would come running when I played "I'm Late" and sit next to me singing. My daughter as the lead in "Oliver" singing "Where is Love" and bringing some of the audience to tears. My first born, who could change keys several times during "Mary had a Little Lamb"! (She did play drums in Middle School).

Now I have grandchildren and starting some new favorites.

Classical - today, it is Chopin Andante spianato played on piano by Dr. Leland.

I could write a whole article on the music in my life. My first song, I have been told, was "The Isle of Capri" I sang when I was about 2yo.

:D
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Postby minorkey » Fri Apr 13, 2007 7:54 pm

loveapiano wrote:I could write a whole article on the music in my life.

If you do... I will read it! :)
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Sat Apr 14, 2007 1:20 pm

Thank you - but will anyone else?

I'll ask John what he thinks.

I have 75 plus years of music and all of it played and plays an important part in my life.

:D
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Postby Glissando88keys » Thu May 03, 2007 1:52 pm

For me, it's Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber (arranged for piano.) The first time I ever heard this piece I loved its poignant sadness, and the theme has haunted me ever since.

This piece was featured in the movie "Platoon" about leadership and the struggle between good and evil during the Vietnam war.
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Postby jenscott90 » Wed May 30, 2007 9:34 am

The theme from Schindler's List always fills me with grief. Not a great technical difficulty, but I used it with a 6th grade girl who had been studying a little about WWII and the Holocaust...she had not seen the movie, but she was an amazing technical player...just no emotion. We used that piece to try to give her permission to slow down and speed up as the music moved her, to express herself with dynamics and to really try to make the piano 'sing' so that it would make your heart break.

Of course, that piece will never be the same as on the violin (I believe Itzhak Perlman played on that movie).

I love the deep, moving pieces that just reach in and grab your heart right out of your chest. There is something profoundly beautiful in that sorrow.
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Postby 108-1121887355 » Tue Jul 10, 2007 12:40 pm

With all the technique you give your students, it still seems to me that it takes an understanding of feeling on the student's part, for them to be able to translate it into their music. When you can relate it to a feeling they have experienced - happiness at losing the first tooth, sadness after the picnic is rained out, and so on, I think is means more and is easier to express through music. Knowing your student is very important - so you can find the right analogy for him
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