Insight into my favourite piano and keyboard works

Insight into my favourite piano and keyboard works


A keyboard instrument can include pianos, harpsichords, organs, clavichords and so on. Aside from my main specialism of the piano, I also had the pleasure of learning how to play the harpsichord briefly whilst studying for my undergraduate degree at Brunel University.


For this blog I thought I would explore three pieces that I enjoy playing – mainly because they connect me with my emotions:


1.     Bagatelle Op. 119, no. 1 by Beethoven (1770-1827)

2.     Echo by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) – worth experimenting on a harpsichord.

3.     Venetian Gondola Song by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)



Bagatelle Op. 119, no. 1 by Beethoven (1770-1827)

I enjoy the way that Beethoven builds intensity in this piece. The drama is intensified further as a result of the different melodic intervals he uses – including the melodic octave intervals in the left hand. The melodic intervals are exciting to play as they really push your muscles and joints to work harder. While playing this piece, I can feel the adrenaline kicking in as I work my finger joints and muscles more and more as the piece progresses.


Tips for playing Bagatelle

In my opinion, rotary movement is the best way to navigate the left hand melodic intervals in this particular bagatelle – which can prove difficult. Murray McLachlan says that

“When mastered, rotation is an extremely pleasurable technique to utilise as it makes for far less effort.”

He goes on to recommend pieces by Tobias Matthay to improve rotary movement in piano technique.


Echo by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

In general, Bach’s music is thrilling to play because of his unique style of composing. In his keyboard works, as with Echo, Bach’s style is often characterised by the equality between the right hand and the left hand as opposed to the right hand dominance and left hand as merely an accompaniment. We call this counterpoint. Bach’s Inventions, Sinfonias and so on can be daunting, but Echo is a less intimidating introduction to his contrapuntal works. I enjoy expressing the repeated motifs as if they were real echoes.


Tips for playing Echo

Work on keeping the pulse and tempo. It is very easy to let the pulse and tempo run away with you while playing works by Bach.


Venetian Gondola Song by Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)

This piece reminds me of a family holiday to Venice I went on when I was young. A ride on a gondola is an experience you must have if you like going abroad and travelling. I enjoy the pedalling during this piece as it showcases a different quality to the sound that the piano typically is used to produce. You do need to be careful with the legato lines in the right hand in this piece.


Tips for playing Venetian Gondola Song

Murray McLachlan gives good advice about controlling leaps while playing the piano or a keyboard instrument. His advice can be used to solve issues of technique that arise while working on these three pieces, especially in the left hand of Venetian Gondola Song and the Beethoven Bagatelle. McLachlan says that,


“When real pianistic ‘connection’ occurs, it appears as though the performer is hardly moving at all.”


These works can be found in Recital Repertoire, a collection by Fanny Waterman and Marion Harewood.


Spotlight Student

This month’s Spotlight Student is Willow Newton. I have chosen Willow because she learned her exam and concert piece really quickly. Her performance at the summer celebration concert was excellent. I am also impressed by her organisation and contribution to the group lesson.

Willow says that she enjoys playing There’s a whole in my bucket because she “likes the tune and it uses both hands”. Willow also says that, the piano makes her feel “calm”. Playing at the summer celebration concert made her feel “excited”. She says that she was excited because she was “performing in front of people and nervous” in case she “made a mistake”. While talking about what she has learned from her lessons, Willow says that, “Practising makes it easier and you feel more confident.” As a result of her performing experience, Willow says it is important to “take your time to focus on your music and not to rush.”

Willow Newton.jpg


Harewood, M. (1996). Recital Repertoire. Faber & Faber. 

McLachlan, M. (2014). The Foundations of Technique (p. 44 and 96). Piano Professional Series.

Ijeoma Mbubaegbu