I just started working on this
This is near and dear to my heart because it’s the first piece I learned on pedal harp and my mom is an organist, so we’ve played it as a duet many times. I played it two weekends ago with an organist for three services and will be doing it again with strings on the 21st.
Here are the tempo indications I use:
opening – 8th=69-72
letter D – 8th=72
letter E – 8th=80
letter G – 8th=72
letter I – 8th=56
If it goes too fast it can sound a little frantic, but if you drag too much then it’s hard to get a nice flow on all those arpeggios. It might help to write chord symbols overhead, i.e. at letter D: G, b minor/D, e minor, G/B, etc. You’re not doing the melody anymore at D so that should relieve a little pressure.
Julie in Atlanta
Tiffany- I just pulled out my copy of the Aria. it’s been years since I played it, but I guessed right about the part you are talking about. It’s the start of the grand arpeggios in the harp, with the organ playing the first theme.
The metronome marking at the start of the piece is an eighth note equals 72. Letter D is the start of the recapitulation and says “a tempo”, referring back to the beginning of the piece. So the tempo there is an eighth equals 72. But that may sound a little frantic with all the notes the harp has to play. I would suggest that you figure out what you can play tempo-wise at D and use that tempo for the beginning of the piece. If it sounds too slow for the beginning, play the beginning slightly faster and then relax the tempo down to what you can do at D. Just try not to have too much of a discrepancy between the two sections.
A word of caution. If you have not had a rehearsal with the organist yet, I think you’ll find that from letter D to the end of the piece it’s almost impossible for you to hear clearly what the organ is doing. You’re going to have to explain to him that he will have to watch you and follow your beat. You have to be positioned so the organist and you can see each other. And at D you will probably have to mark beats with your head as you play. Every time I have ever played this piece, I was never really sure if the organ and I were together in the second half of the piece!
The problem with metronome markings, when put there by the composer or transcriber, is that they usually figure out the marking by thinking the music in their head and then match that to the metronome. They rarely figure out those tempos from actually sitting at the instrument and playing, or better yet, listening to someone else play the piece, adjusting the tempo to the speed they feel is right, and then matching that to the metronome. And we always hear music in our head faster then we would actually play it. The composer Daniel Pinkham told me that many years ago, and I think it is true.
When I was a student, I labored endlessly to play whatever piece I was working on at the speed indicated by the metronome marking, and thought I was a huge failure if I just couldn’t pull it off. When I got back to playing again after a hiatus of more than 20 years, I decided to ignore all metronome markings and let the piece find it’s own tempo. When I get a piece to performance level, I’ll occasionally compare what I am doing to the metronome markings. About half the time I’m doing exactly what the composer or arranger indicated. The rest of the time I’m a bit slower. In either case, i don’t care if it sounds the way I want it to sound.
Once again, Carl, I totally agree with you.
In this particular piece I play the opening somewhat rubato, realistically between 63-72, but I tell organists 69-72. Otherwise, they can start to drag when they come in. They hear all these notes at D and think they have to wait for me, and I’m like, “Go, go, go!”
One of my peeves is when contemporary composers listen to the computer ‘play’ the part and then they just pick a stratospheric metronome marking. It can be technically possible to play but may not be musical anymore.
Julie in Atlanta
Julie- I’ll tell you something else that drives me nuts, and that is composers who compose at a keyboard with the “harp” button on. The sounds coming out are more or less harp sounds, but the notes are written for a keyboard, not a harp. So they do all sorts of things that simply won’t work on the harp: fast repeated notes, 5 finger patterns,both hands very close together or overlapping, etc. That’s all keyboard technique, not harp. And then they wonder why the part doesn’t work.
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