Andante et Allegro


Rimsky-Korsakov Concerto

Morceau Symphonique







Lesson 3

The Phrases

Having now addressed some of the more technical issues, let us now look at the beautiful phrases that this piece gives us a chance to express. Much of this is interpretive and subjective, and my thoughts here should serve to help you search out your own message and inflection. There are many different ways to turn a phrase, and you can make the same words say different things. How many different ways can you say the simplest of phrases, "I like spaghetti."? You may also recognize poetic patterns in the metrical make-up of the phrases, with repetition of some phrases underscoring the point, and expansion of others introducing new ideas for further development.

Look at measures 2-5 as a call and answer (or echo), with measures 6-9 being a more insistent repetition of the same. Measure 10 begins a 6-measure phrase that has a nice dramatic build with tension-building harmonic underpinnings. You should try "reciting" this phrase many times, like an actor trying to get just the right expression and delivery of a classic line. Practice pacing yourself through this phrase so that you have the greatest energy when you need it.

Measures 10-15

Or click here.

Now, you don't have to play it exactly as I did. I may say something different with this phrase next time I perform it anyway! But it is a beautiful phrase, and one worth repeating perhaps a dozen times until you get a good grasp of it and can make it say something to the listener.

Measures 17-20 function like 2-5 or 6-9, and set up the fanfare-like Piu vivo of measures 21 & 22, which in turn lead in the extended development section from measures 25-48. If you were taking part in a play, and this passage was your entire part, it would certainly be more than a mere walk-on appearance!

Measures 24-48

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Strive to formulate phrases that will match your story line through this piece. There are some bold declarations, and also some subtle asides in this music. Remember that one way to get peoples' attention can be to drop your voice to a whisper! Look at these phrases as brush strokes and splashes of color, shadings and hues as paint your own picture. Craft these phrases and paragraphs to portray something special to you that this music brings out.

Let us at this point consider some stylistic issues. In preparing to study this piece, we looked at other related musical repertoire of this period and style, which we can identify as French impressionistic. Listening to works by Ravel, Debussy, Faure and others, you should be developing a good feel for the nuances of this style. Let us look at some examples of art from that period. Looking at works by painters such as Monet, Cezanne, Gaugin, and others should help give you a further understanding of impressionistic expression. It is rarely concrete and robust, but more often very nuanced and fleeting, suggesting forms and shapes more than actually painting a photograph-like image. While looking at original paintings as opposed to prints and reproductions is similar to comparing live music with recordings, go ahead - until you get to some of the great museums - and check out websites such as:



Phrases are all about communication. We are musicians because we want to communicate. What we are given to communicate is not simply expressed in words or pictures, but rather in momentary sounds that dissipate as quickly as we can produce them. Sound and rhythm, technical facility, range and dynamics are all means that we use to communicate - but they are not ends in and of themselves! In this context I like to think of Louis Armstrong. If he had ever approached a voice teacher for singing lessons, he would almost certainly have been turned away and actively discouraged, perhaps even with a disparaging remark about his voice not even being fit to hawk newspapers on the street corner! And yet that artist went on to communicate to many millions of people with his voice - perhaps despite his vocal technique! (Good - he played the trumpet too, but you get my point, I hope.) He believed in his music, had a message, and a yearning to share that with others.

That concludes the lessons for the andante portion of this piece. I hope that the ideas presented here give you cause and motivation to explore the potential of this music in your practice and performance.

Click here for some picky critique of a student's phrasing.

Lesson 4  (Allegro)