Exams, Practising, Students

How to play…. ‘When Paris Dreams’

Nuit de Paris by Brassai

This brief, yet very atmospheric piece is from the alternative repertoire list of Trinity Guildhall Grade 2 piano, and would suit a more mature student or one who can give it the requisite wistfulness.

In my edition of Nacht und Träume (Night and Dreams), the date under the composer’s name is 1939, which immediately conjures up images of Paris just before the outbreak of the Second World War, a time of nostalgia and memories of good times. This is a useful starting point for shaping this music, and ‘telling the story’, and it’s certainly reminiscent of the kind of ‘piano bar’ music that might be played towards the end of the evening, a few couples dancing, low lighting, a weary barman polishing glasses…..

The piece is very simple, built on the opening 3-bar descending motif. Marked dolce (sweetly), aim for a warm, singing, and ultra legato sound. This can be achieved by keeping the hands and forearms soft. Singing the melody out loud will also help with the phrasing and dynamic shading. The pedalling is fairly straightfoward: in effect, it follows the phrasing, but it needs to be accurate to maintain legato throughout and to enhance the romantic mood of this piece. Keep the foot in contact with the pedal at all times and avoid releasing it noisily. Allow the foot to float up with the hand at the end.

I tried in vain to find any other music by Nevada, but for me some of the songs of Kurt Weill share the same wistfulness as this piece, and are useful ‘further listening’.

Karin Schmidt sings ‘Here I’ll Stay: Love Life’ by Kurt Weill


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