7

I just began to learn Clementi Sonatina Op. 36 No. 2. The edition I have (ed. by W. Palmer) shows Clementi's original fingering suggestions. For many repeating notes there was no change of finger (see green circles). Is there a good reason for this? I did see elsewhere some teachers/sheetmusic suggest changing fingers, but surely Clementi knew better?

Clementi Op. 36, No. 2, mm. 1–8, Palmer edition

Similarly, in Sonatina No. 1, Second Movement:

enter image description here

5
  • 1
    Just to clarify: the edition you have is explicit in stating that these are Clementi's fingerings?
    – Aaron
    Sep 27 at 2:36
  • 2
    On top of the Sonatina 1, there are these words: "The following note appears at the top of the first page of the original edition: 'N.B. Out of the VARIOUS MODES of fingering the SAME PASSAGE, the Author has preferred THAT, which appeared to him the best calculated to form the hand of a beginner.'" Sep 27 at 3:24
  • 1
    To add: occasionally, when the editor printed a fingering that is different from the original suggestion by the author, it is explicitly explained in a footnote which gives the original fingering. Sep 27 at 3:42
  • Depending on how early in his career these were, some of these may have been written for harpsichord, in which case the fingering doesn't matter as much since they lack volume control based on how hard you press. Clementi was among the earliest composers to write explicitly for piano, so the common techniques were still being developed, many by Clementi himself. Sep 28 at 14:30
  • @Darrel Hoffman That didn't occur to me, indeed! Sep 28 at 22:36

3 Answers 3

5

In every case where Clementi specifies no finger change, it is a weak beat (i.e., a half-beat) following be a strong beat. The one time he's explicit about changing fingers, it's on a strong beat followed by a weak (i.e., half) beat.

The convention of switching fingers on repeated notes is largely based on the idea that each finger gives a different nuance to the note. That idea supposes that using the same finger twice risks a robotic sound. However, Clementi may have felt that the rhythmic positioning of the repeated notes did not present a significant risk, except when the first note was the stronger of the two. I find this quite an ingenious observation on Clementi's part.

To back up this observation, I would point to measure 3, in which the first two Ds change fingers, but the same finger is specified on the second and third Ds.

This does beg the question of why Clementi leaves m. 7's second D unspecified. Here I suggest it's because since the first D is finger 1 and the third D is finger 3, he may have felt it sufficiently obvious that the second D would be finger 2. Clementi may also have felt that there was sufficient parallel to m. 3 that he did not need to re-specify the finger change.

4

My understanding is that generally changing finger on a repeated (or held) note is for two reasons:

  • to shift the hand position in preparation for what comes next
  • to play repeated notes rapidly

My thought in looking at this example was that none of the repeated notes are too fast.

Clementi's fingering examples in Art of Playing on the Piano Forte...

enter image description here

...show eighth notes as not too quick to require a finger change.

Of course there is a question of tempo. Your example is marked allegretto, but the Art of Playing example doesn't have a tempo mark.

I'm pretty sure Clementi, in the Art of Playing, was following the practice where note values were closely linked to general tempos. (The particular form was a general tempo indicator too.) So, eighth notes would be played in a fairly lively tempo. That's pretty vague by modern standards, but my point is don't worry about an extreme hypothetical, like eighth notes at presto 180 bpm. I suppose eighths up to around 120 bmp was the assumption for "not too fast."

2

A lazy student's interpretation would be that you don't change fingers when you don't need to do so.

To me it looks like all the places where Clementi suggests changing finger follow the pattern where a previous legato phrase ends, and there is a short pause where you switch to different finger. This fingering lets you position your hand for the next phrase and avoid thumb under fingering during the next legato part. Of course you will need smooth thumb under technique eventually, but this is a student piece and I'd interpret Clementi's note to mean that the suggested fingering is easiest for beginners.

I would interpret the fingering for bar 7 that it is not important which finger is used for second D as long as the third is on middle finger to prepare the next phrase.

13
  • So (as far as finger change is concerned), does it make difference whether it's a beginner or more advanced playing? In other words, if I don't find changing finger difficult, should changing finger be recommended? (I'm trying to decide on which way to settle on :)) Sep 27 at 16:08
  • 1
    @GrandAdagio I would play it like Clementi suggests because it's easier that way, but I can't hear the nuances or robotic sound Aaron claims different fingerings have.
    – ojs
    Sep 27 at 16:48
  • @ojs I claimed that's the idea behind it, not whether or not the effect actually happens.
    – Aaron
    Sep 27 at 17:27
  • 2
    @GrandAdagio Some beginners find finger changes difficult and counter-intuitive; others don't have a problem with it. There's no rule in that regard. More advanced players make the decision based on what allows them the greatest technical and musical command.
    – Aaron
    Sep 27 at 17:29
  • 1
    @GrandAdagio Those seem like good, well-considered decisions to me.
    – Aaron
    Sep 27 at 18:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.