Madeleine Dring’s ‘Italian Dance’

Dring Italian Dance headerThis is a lovely little piece and it’s a really good choice for a concert: it sounds flashy without being too difficult and its bouncy tune is guaranteed to get audience toes a-tapping.

My Josef Weinberger edition doesn’t include an exact marking for speed – only Allegro – and you have to bear several things in mind when deciding what sort of pace to set for yourself. For example, the piano part is quite tricky: my teacher only ever manages to put in selected highlights and he won’t even attempt some sections (I’m thinking of the piano solo nine bars before A). So you’ll have to decide on a tempo with your pianist in mind because you both have to be able to play it.

The temptation is to play the piece at too rapid a pace. It certainly feels as if it needs to move along, but there is a real danger that if taken too quickly, the whole thing could end up sounding messy…plus the piece loses a great deal of its poise if the oboist just gabbles through it. You don’t want to take it too slowly either, but don’t forget that you have to be able to tongue the triplets as quickly as you can slur through them, because the last two bars are made up of staccato triplets with a hairpin crescendo and diminuendo towards the final quaver. The whole phrase should swell in the middle and then die away to nothing, without losing any of the precision in the staccato. I suppose the thing to do would be to work out a safe speed for these two final bars and to take that as your pace. I generally aim for dotted crotchet = 125.

There are some bars or sections that simply require slow, careful practice: the arpeggios before D, for example, and those bars with left-hand D#s followed by C#s. I won’t go through those sections here, because there’s not much to say that isn’t obvious: practise the tricky bits slowly, with a metronome, and gradually build up the speed until you can play it perfectly every time. This is certainly something you should do with the two bars before C:

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You’re on your own here, but if you don’t play this absolutely in time, the pianist is going to struggle to pick it up at C. The notes aren’t difficult – it’s just running down and then up a C major scale – but it will stick out a mile if you bungle it. These two bars are something you will have to work at, and it helps if you aim to tongue the E on the third beat as marked.

There are four other practise/performance points I want to pass on here.

1) In the two bars before A (and later again when the same phrase reoccurs before D), keep the air flowing and don’t cut the last note of each triplet short. Think about the shape of the whole phrase – keep it moving forward, but keep it smooth and build a crescendo so that you’re at mf after A and/or D.

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2) In the fifth bar after B, keep the bottom B short – it’s only a quaver! The temptation is to thunder down the scale in the bar beforehand and to trumpet that bottom B, but this doesn’t fit with the bouncy phrases that follow. The dynamic is mf and there’s no crescendo marked so don’t put one in. Keep it mf and keep that B short, light and springy.

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3) The 6/8 bar after B can be confusing, but in fact, the rhythm of this bar is exactly what has passed before. In effect, you almost ignore the quaver rest entirely and move straight on to the top A.

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This is what’s gone before:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES4) Three bars after D, the oboe part sounds a little odd, but that’s because at this point you are accompanying the piano. You must, therefore, play accurately and quietly. The marking is mp, so don’t blast it out – you can play out a little more when you pick up the tune again, but until then, keep it down.

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Have fun – it’s a great piece!

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