Classical Improvisation for Students (and Their Teachers) Robert O. Music in the Galant Style. New York:…
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Classical Improvisation for Students
(and Their Teachers)
John Mortensen, DMA, NCTM
Steinway Artist & Ohio Artist on Tour
Professor of Piano, Cedarville University
Download the notes for this presentation at www.johnmortensen.com
WAYS TO IMPROVISE(FROM HARDEST
What is provided: A subject.
What you have to make up: Exposition, Episodes,
The performer needs to create spontaneous invertible counterpoint, episodes, modulations, presentations in various voices, sequences, cadences, etc.
Level: Highly Advanced.
The Dance Suite
What is provided: A bass line.
What you have to make up: Harmonies and stylistic elements of each dance.
The performer uses an established bass line to extrapolate harmonies, and then overlay the characteristic elements of each dance (meter, figurations, polyphonic motions, etc.
Toccata or Fantasia
What is provided: A key.
What you have to make up: Everything. But it can be very episodic and loose.
The performer must string together a series of stylistically appropriate elements, but may pause between each statement. The musical texture need not be seamless. Modulation is possible but not necessary.
Level: Moderately Advanced.
Variations Chaconne Passacaglia
What is provided: A looping progression.
What you have to make up: Continuous new variations.
The performer must invent variations on an existing progression. Because the meter and harmony and provided, the performer is only responsible for surface elements such as texture, figuration, and ornamentation.
The Figuration Prelude
What is provided: The chords.
What you have to make up: The pattern.
The performer is responsible to follow a given chord pattern and create consistent elaboration upon it. The performers only job is to create figuration.
Level: Moderately easy.
What is provided: The notes.
What you have to make up: The pacing and rhetoric.
Unmeasured Arpeggio Prelude
The performer can play only the written notes, but most imbue them with compelling rhetorical sweep and direction.
Erhardt, Martin. Upon a Ground - Improvisation on Ostinato Basses from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries. Magdeburg: Verlag Franz Biersack, 2013.
Gjerdingen, Robert O. Music in the Galant Style. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Mortensen, John. The Pianists Guide to Classical Improvisation. Forthcoming in 2018.
Sanguinetti, Giorgio. The Art of Partimento: History, Theory, and Practice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2012.