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2. Initial Thoughts

Fredrich Kuhlau was born in 1786 in Germany, to a musical family. Having studied piano in Hamburg, he relocated to Copenhagen in 1810 becoming a Danish citizen in 1813.

Kuhlau’s music is rooted firmly in the Classical style, showing some affinity with the works of Beethoven, whom Kuhlau knew personally and whose music he admired. Kuhlau is remembered principally for his flute music for flute, for his delightful piano music and for his famous opera, Elverhoj. Kuhlau remained in Denmark until his death in 1832.

There are some sevenths required in the left hand, so hand span music is not too small. The ability to play scales evenly and musically is essential, or might be developed when studying the piece.

The tempo of ninety-two for the dotted crotchet is ample, although there is a degree of suppleness required to play the semiquavers at the cadence points.

Looking in a little more detail this Sonaina is in a typical Classical style, which is lighter than baroque in nature. The composition is less complex with the melody being dominant and the accompanying parts more in the same rhythm as the melody. Ornamentation is still used but less complex than in the previous era.

The Classical style is manifest through the music in three main characteristics.

Clear formal structure with two moods and nuances of those moods throughout.

Looking at our example today we can see the structure is that of a little Sonata, hence the name. The first section is known as the exposition as it culminates on the first beat of bar twenty in the key of the dominant, C major. The second section is known as the development, hence the first section is manipulated and developed, other keys and various motifs are used. In this example Kuhlau uses sequence in bars twenty-five to twenty-nine to raise the tension into the con grazia where the gentle couplets ensure the audience experiences the resolution to the exposition. This heralds that change into the recapitulation when the initial melody returns, slightly modified, to enable it to end in the tonic.

Figure 1: Bars 25 to 32

Slow harmonic rhythm, when compared to the complex treatment of harmony in other periods. Chord progressions are limited to those found within the key. The harmonic rhythm speeds up when approaching a cadence that is characteristic of this period's musical evolution.

Figure 2: Bar 55 to end.

Definite theme and accompaniment. Baroque gave equal importance to the different voices in a composition. Classical melodies, as seen in this example, tend to move stepwise or by outlining broken chords. Due to the motif bases they tend to sound almost instrumental or song-like. In fact, putting words to a melody can help some students learn it, in this particular example you can see flute technique emerging in the C, B, B flat and A of bar forty-eight to fifty.

Example to follow

The Classical period gives clear guidelines for phrasing. Each phrase is constructed from a collection of musical motifs strung together. These motif passages, when joined together, form the overall phrase. Knowing the start and end point of these phrases is the first step in achieving a convincing Classical style.

Observing the phrases the student should be aware of cadences and changes in musical character. It is worth noting that in music of the Classical period cadences are generally every four or eight bars.  These phrases, when played in a Classical style, should be overlaid with dynamic nuances, or breathing dynamics.

Example to follow

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Chris Caton-Greasley LLCM(TD) MA (Mus)(Open)

Ethnographic Musicologist, Teacher, Researcher

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