20 Piece Polishing Challenge Video #2: Bourée in F Major

For the second piece in my challenge, I chose a piece that would juggle nicely with Easter Triduum music and getting speed and memory secure in Typhoon. I picked Telemann's Bourée in F Major.


Composer: Georg Philipp Telemann (1681 - 1767), Germany

Source: RCM Level 7 Repertoire

Notable Score Markings: M.M. = 88 - 100 to the half note, devoid of expression and dynamic markings

Prior Experience with the Piece: I've taught this lively piece many times as it is a favourite choice amongst my Royal Conservatory students. 

Learning Challenges: Jumps, voice balance, fingering, speed

My Practice Log

Day 1: Ran through the entire piece. Reviewed patterns and structure. Identified fingering and coordination trouble spots. Did a bunch of blocked chord drills while yelling out the chords. Remembered to record practice videos to show how I drilled the trouble spots.

Day 2: Did a full run-through - cold. Tempo was just a few notches below the recommended tempo but wasn't able to maintain it during the trouble spots. Played around with ornaments and terraced dynamics. Will try a couple of different coordination and flow drills next practice.

Day 3: During my student's lesson, I showed her how I worked on her trouble spot in bars 10 - 12 using the Twice as Hard Drill. We dissected the harmonic structure in the B section.

Day 4: Did some slow run-throughs with and without the metronome, using the Every Other Bar Drill to work on flow. Decided to record a snippet of running through the second page for Instagram account. Naturally, I picked a spot where I wasn't swearing at myself for messing up.

Day 5: Did a full run-through of the piece at around while stopping to drill spots where I stumbled. Tried playing through again at a slower tempo (approximately 70 beats per minute). It was flowing fairly well. Dynamics and shaping is all there, if I can get the flow more consistently, then we're good enough to perform. 

Day 6: Played with the metronome set at 66 beats per minute to start. Got up to approximately the 76 bpm range sounding confident and fluent. Piece felt rushed and wobbly at a faster tempo.

It is important to note that most Baroque music is devoid of markings. That leaves tempo, dynamics, and expression up to the musician, based upon their knowledge of Baroque music and performance practices. Although the RCM book does specify a tempo marking, note that it's only a recommendation. 

Bourée the piece is based on bourée, the old Baroque dance. The important things to convey are the characteristics of the dance - upbeat and bouncy - along with the period characteristics of terraced dynamics and ornamentation. If that can be conveyed at a slightly slower or faster tempo than what RCM recommends, that's perfectly fine.

Having said that, I felt comfortable and confident enough with my Bourée in the the mid 70s range and decided to record. I wound up with a strong run-through on the first take. I did try for a second take in hopes of getting a cleaner performance but the magic was gone. This is still a fluent performance, so I'll take it.

Piece number #3 is in the works. I tried recording a practice video today but my camera batteries died and I wasn't too happy with my webcam and mic either. A clear sign that it's time for me to move on to practising music for this weekend's Easter services.

You can follow my progress with this challenge by checking out these two playlists:

The practice drills I have referenced are part of Maestro's Music Tricks - a deck of cards with practice drills that I have put together with my students' help. It's going to be getting a reboot later this year. Stay tuned for details.

Check back here for my thoughts and musings as I work through the pieces.