25 Easy and Progressive Etudes (Op. 100)

23. Le Retour

Le retour (The Return) is all about the excitement of seeing a friend again after an absence. Marked molto agitato quasi presto, there is a strong sense of agitation and eager expectation; the diminuendo e poco ritenuto in the coda seems to express relief that all the excitement is over, and contentment that both parties are happily reunited. It is worth noting that the title, key and time signature are the same as in the finale of Beethoven’s Sonata in E-flat, op 81a (“Les Adieux”).

The main technical challenge of the étude is how to manage the repeated notes without tightening up. In the introduction, the LH repeated notes work best when played with rotary movements of the forearm. It will be easy to feel the rotations if you first practise a rotary trill from the thumb Bb to the next-door Ab as an exercise. Then see if you can replicate the same motions as you repeat the Bb as it appears in the score; you’ll need to find a place for both thumb and 2nd finger on the Bb after the octave jump – make sure to have the elbow a little higher and keep it in one spot as you repeat the note. From bar 9 feel the repeated chords as a vibration in the wrist from a light, elastic arm, keeping super close to the keys. It is good practice to extract the top RH melody line here and play it alone, using the fingering you will use when you add the thumb line.

The colourful harmonies in the middle section (from bar 17) evoke passionate feelings. From C minor, the music moves to G minor and then to D minor before a crescendo assai urges us back to the home key of E-flat major, with an enthusiastic sf, followed by a subito pp.

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