25 Easy and Progressive Etudes (Op. 100)

11. La Bergeronnette (The Wagtail) in C Major

La Bergeronnette (The Wagtail) depicts a genus of bird that constantly moves its tail; Burgmüller captures this flickering, fluttering movement by the prevailing rhythmic figure we hear right at the start – two semiquavers and a quaver under a slur. It is important that the first note of the slurred group is lightly stressed, and the last note released without an accent. Make sure to retain this strong-weak emphasis even in the crescendos (from bar 19, and from bar 26), where each three-note group is stronger than the previous one.

The leggiero marking invites us to use a light touch that is generated from the fingers; we sense it as a gentle scratching motion of the finger tips, the arm holding the hand weightlessly over the keyboard. It will be a useful preliminary exercise to practise broken triads, hands separately and then together in the contrary motion pattern that we find in the piece, perhaps two octaves ascending then descending, from memory. The composer’s fingering indicates the repeated notes should be played with the same finger rather than a change of finger. In order to achieve the legato in the right hand of bars 15-17 lift the lower note of the first pair of thirds under each slur while holding onto, and joining from the upper note. Even though there is a tiny gap in the lower voice, it is virtually imperceptible - the ear will hear the connection above.

The mood is bright, cheerful and somewhat dainty. The allegretto marking warns us not to take too fast a tempo. Enjoy the chromatic colouring the composer adds to what would be an otherwise diatonic C major landscape – the lovely harmonic progression in bars 3 and 4, and the left hand accidentals from bars 9-13. It is not necessary to use any pedal in this etude; however, a dab on the sf chord (bar 5) and also on the final two chords will add a touch of resonance.

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