25 Easy and Progressive Etudes (Op. 100)

24. L’Hirondelle

Charming to the ear, L’hirondelle (The Swallow) is one of my favourite études in the set. It is packed with great teaching value, demanding attention to quality and beauty of sound. The main technical features are crossing the LH over the RH in wide jumps (excellent for eye-hand coordination), and skilful timing of the pedal (so that the short LH notes are caught in the pedal with the RH harmonies).

Careful LH separate practice at a slow tempo but with fast, precise movements will prepare the ground. Practise also a blocked version hands together where the RH chords come on the beat (together with the LH) in accordance with the harmonic rhythm (thus we play two chords in bar 1, one chord in bar 2, etc.). When thoroughly memorised, practise occasionally with your eyes closed - this will really help fine-tune accuracy in the jumps and encourage you to listen more attentively (difficult, but certainly worth trying).

There are several fingering options for the LH. You might use either a 3rd or 5th finger on the bass G and C (bar 1). Bear in mind that when the LH crosses over the least satisfactory finger to use is the thumb, since this risks an awkward position (a twist at the wrist and a raised shoulder). I suggest using a 2nd finger on the D and E (bar 1, etc.) and possibly 5–3–2 in bar 2. Experiment to find the best fingering for you, since this will differ from player to player.

Play the slurred groups (bars 7, 18, 25) with great expression, and notice the modulations so you can colour your sound accordingly: dolce at the D major modulation (bars 7-8), and with more intensity at the B minor (bars 16-17).

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