25 Easy and Progressive Etudes (Op. 100)

7. Le Courant Limpide (The Clear Little Stream) in G Major

Le Courant Limpide (The Clear Little Stream) is a charming study in tonal control, evenness of touch, and using the imagination to create a vivid soundscape. The study features virtually continuous triplet motion in the right hand, the left hand crotchets providing a simple drone in the A section, and a counterpoint to the right hand’s hidden melody in the B section.

The melodic element in the first eight bars is in the right thumb (you will notice these melody notes have their own crotchet stems), so for this reason it is good practice to play the thumb line minus the triplets together with the left hand, creating beautiful balance between the hands and a shapely phrase from pp. Gauge how much to open up the sound in the crescendo (the composer leaves this to us), but do nothing too dramatic here. Keep the thumb close to the keys as you sustain the notes, the end joint supported and mobile. The gaps between the thumb notes should be as brief as possible as you aim for a generous, warm tenuto touch. Some preliminary practice playing scales and arpeggios with the right thumb alone can be useful; do this at the tempo you select for the study, and at the appropriate dynamic levels.

For the A section you might block the right hand triplets into their chord shapes (you can do this separately and then together with the left hand, chorale-style). When you open the right hand up into the triplet patterns, a small rotary movement of the forearm between the thumb and the 5th finger will assist the fingers and keep the hand and wrist loose. Practising the right hand in a variety of different rhythms can also be helpful in building up speed.

You will notice the melody line formed by the top right hand notes in the B section (from bar 9). The thumb A is present to fill in the harmony and to maintain the mormorendo (murmuring) character delivered by the triplet rhythm. Whereas in the A section the right thumb is the star of the show, in the B section we should hardly be aware of it at all. To encourage listening to the top melody line I am going to suggest two ways to practise these bars. First, before we begin, anchor the right thumb into its note, A, and hold it loosely. Play the top right hand note together with the left hand, aiming for good tonal balance and a sense of line (release the right hand note, but connect the left hand notes legato). Next, play the right hand top note just after the left hand crotchet as written, while continuing to hold the thumb A loosely, so that it does not play. When you play the notes as written focus your listening to the top right hand line, playing the thumb as lightly as possible.

After you have come as close as possible to your ideal sound, you can now add some pedal in the A section. I suggest a change in the middle of bars 1 and 3, etc; bars 2 and 8 (one harmony) may be played in one pedal. Release the pedal in bar 4, achieving the legato by hand.

The D.C (da capo) indication instructs us to return to the beginning, and play the first part again (until Fine in bar 8).

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