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This question is about this arrangement for a beginner:

http://makingmusicfun.net/htm/f_printit_free_printable_sheet_music/marriage-of-figaro-piano.htm

There is one big slur over the first several bars. How am I supposed to play this? I know that a slur means: play it legato. And playing legato means releasing the previous key at the same moment you hit the next key. But how shall I do this when the previous key and the next key are the same? Don't I have to release first before I can hit it again?

Bonus questions:

Am I supposed to play the bass notes legato, too?

How fast am I supposed to play this? Why just cannot they note the BPM instead of allegro?

Which fingers am I supposed to use for the final chord?

Is there any fancy use of the sustainpedal possible, which might be beyond the expertise of the beginner this arrangement is intended for?

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I answered the main question. I think for the bonuses you should make separate questions. –  nonpop Aug 14 at 22:50

3 Answers 3

up vote 13 down vote accepted

In many ways, everything about playing the piano is about creating illusions. The minute you play a note it begins to decay, yet we find ways of creating the illusion of phrasing. The instrument is percussive, yet we find ways to make it seem more vocal or orchestral.

Playing a group of legato notes that don't change pitch is also an illusion and we have to accept that we can't do the same thing that a wind player or a singer can do. If you want to play this in a legato fashion you simply need to put very little space between the notes and articulate the notes so one note is a smooth transition to the next. Of course, you can always use the pedal, but in many cases, including this one, it's not really appropriate. Generally speaking, I would take the long slur to indicate phrasing more than articulation — it is indicating that you should consider the first four bars as one musical idea to be played through rather than breaking it up into smaller pieces.

It will help you play this piece if you understand where it comes from. This is an arrangement of Non piu andrai, one of Figaro's arias, in Act One of the Marriage of Figaro. Mozart's tempo is marked Vivace nor Allegro. This tells you it should be quite quick. He doesn't use BPM. The metronome wasn't invented until the 19th century after his death. Additionally, the tempos indicate as much a feeling as speed. Vivace should be brisk — this is something you can accomplish at different speeds and the performer is given a fair amount of license to interpret.

You should also know that the rhythm has been altered quite a lot in this arrangement. Mozart's original calls for dotted-eight/sixteenth notes rather than straight eighth notes, which further give the piece a lilting feeling.

As for the last chord, you will probably play the second to last chord with 1 and 5 in the right hand. To go smoothly to final chord, you'll probably end up on 2 & 3 in the right hand.

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What does brisk mean and how can I achieve this on the piano? –  catalyst Aug 15 at 7:09
    
For the last chord, I thought about 2 & 4 on the right hand. Which is better: 2 & 3 or 2 & 4 and why? –  catalyst Aug 15 at 7:13

A slur of that length tends to be a "phrasing slur" rather than a "legato slur", meaning to play the indicated notes as one consistent and connected unit.

When you need to play the same note twice in a phrase, you want the result to be similar to playing two different notes as legato.

That implies connecting the other notes not more than you can hope to pretend connecting the repeated note.

It is also a good idea to use different fingers on the two executions of the repeated note to achieve a similar flow and feeling.

"Play the whole phrase legato with just one finger" is obviously ridiculous, and it's not much less ridiculous on a repeated note. While "legato on the same note" is a contradiction, you want to have this contradiction start as late in the mechanics as possible. On a violin, using a different string is a nice expedient. But the least you can do on the piano is to have the key be the first double-action element, not your fingers.

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+1 particularly for "different fingers" –  yo' Aug 18 at 14:09

There are several ways to repeat a note legato. The easiest and probably most used is to use the sustaining pedal. Just make sure the pedal is down before the key starts going up and there you have it, basically. Without trying I would guess that the best result in this piece (without doing anything fancy) is achieved by using the pedal for each measure; keeping it down for the whole measure and changing it during the first beat of each measure. Maybe the third line would sound better without pedal.

Another way is to not lift the key completely; but this doesn't really work on upright and most digital pianos and is quite difficult anyway. A third option is to just play "as legato as possible". There will be a small gap between the notes but it will still sound legato enough in many cases.

BUT, I don't think you should do any of these. A slur does not have to mean legato. It can also mean that the notes under the slur make up one phrase. Try listening to the original version. It does not sound very legato in most cases. I would actually play most of the notes (both right and left hand) on the two first lines quite short. In my opinion playing it legato would make it sound too "heavy".

(I would also place the last slur on the bottom staff because that's where the melody is.)

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