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Monday, July 25, 2011

Sight-Reading and Rhythm - Intermediate Repertoire

"I have benefited a lot from your suggestions of repertoire. Could you please suggest some SR material (intermediate)that explores diversity in rhythms?"

Upon receiving the e-mail above, the first thing that came to my mind was a rarely performed set of 10 pieces by Villa-Lobos: Francette et Pia. This set was written in 1929 for the piano class of the celebrated Marguerite Long. This suite mixes Brazilian and French songs and tells the story of a little Brazilian Indian boy (Pia)* and a French girl (Francette). I can't help imagining a recital alternating a boy and a girl performing these solo pieces and at the end, the two kids closing the recital with the final piece called "Francette and Pia Play Together Forever" (it is a duet - 4 hands).
Mixed with the Brazilian folk and indigenous melodies, you will recognize the French national anthem (Marseillaise - #8), Au Clair de la Lune (#1), Le Bon Roi Dogobert (#2) and Malbrouk S'en Va-t-en Guerre (#6).
As expected, Villa-Lobos writes challenging rhythms, but the repetitive patterns through the compositions make this set a good source for sight-reading (there are lots of opportunities for self-correction). Each piece is rich in tempo, meter and key signature changes.

1 - Pia Came to France.. (it opens with an Indian theme).
2 - Pia Saw Francette...
3 - Pia Spoke to Francette...
4 - Pia and Francette Play Together...
5 - Francette is Angry... (the edition I have translates this piece as Francette is sorry, however, the right translation is Francette is angry).
6 - Pia Went to War... (the composer writes "to make kids used to syncopation and exaggerated accents").
7 - Francette is Sad... (it opens with a Brazilian March followed by a French theme).
8 - Pia Returns Form the War...
9 - Francette is Happy... (the composer brings back a variation of previous themes).
10- Francette and Pia Play Together Forever... Four-Hand Duet

Villa-Lobos dedicated a lot of time writing pedagogical music exploring Brazilian children's folk tunes. My favorite set is the Cirandinhas (it is extraordinary!). There is also Guia Pratico (11 sets of 6 pieces in each), Carnaval das Criancas Brasileiras, The 3 Marias, Petizada, The Broken Little Music Box, and The Toy Wheel.

* Pia means a little boy of Indian descent. In Tupi-Guarany, it is an expression of affection like "dear boy". Today in Rio Grande do Sul (south Brazil), we call all boys "pia".
Guarany is an indigenous language in South America.

2 comments:

  1. What edition do you suggest?

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  2. This work was originally commissioned (1929) by the publisher Eschig. Now you can find the Durand Edition. The fingering is very good. The student can just take it home & trust them.
    http://www.halleonard.com/search/search.do?subsiteid=1&keywords=villa-Lobos

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