Robert Estrin - piano expert

How to approach Kuhlau Sonatina Op. 55 No. 1 - Part II

Learn how to approach the second movement of the sonatina

In this second video, Robert teaches you how to approach the second movement, Vivace, of the beautiful Sonatina Op. 55 No. 1 by Kuhlau.

Released on August 2, 2017

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DISCLAIMER: The views and the opinions expressed in this video are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Virtual Sheet Music and its employees.

Video Transcription

Welcome to, I'm Robert Estrin with the second part of the Kuhlau Sonatina Opus 55 Number 1, and this is the second movement we're going to discuss today. Now, this piece only has two movements. Oftentimes, sonatinas and sonatas have three movements with a slow middle movement.

Well, where's a slow movement? Ah! It's hidden in the second movement, in the middle section, which we'll get to shortly. I want to play a little bit so you can hear what piece we're discussing and then, I'm going to talk about how to approach this piece, both in regards to the first and last sections, as well as the contrasting middle section.


So again, just as in the first movement, you want to delineate your phrasing by utilizing the wrists, and make great dynamic contrast. Did you notice how refreshing it was to hear the same thing played more than once when it is at a different level of volume? It makes the piece much more enjoyable because it, honestly, could get monotonous if you leave out the dynamic changes.

Now, we're just about to come to this middle section, and how do you approach this? Well, quite differently from the first section, the first section you saw the wrist. If I do it slowly, you can see how both hands are delineating staccatos by using the wrist.


Now, we're going to move on to the lyrical middle section. There are repeated notes here that must be legato, and it's a great challenge on the piano to have repeated notes that are smoothly connected when they're the same note. This is because of the natural physics of the piano. There's a damper that engages the string whenever the note is released, ending the note.

Now, you might think you can use the pedal, well, I don't think it's appropriate, particularly for students, to use pedal in the sonatinas. Because you really want...the whole idea of this music is to develop the clarity in your playing, and if you obscure it with a pedal, you won't ever know what your hands and fingers are doing.

Now, professionals may use a pedal in a very sparing way in classical, period music. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that the period piano did not have a sustained pedal on it, so they couldn't have used pedal very freely because they didn't have one to use. So, let's listen how it's possible by changing fingers on repeated notes to be able to make them connected when you have the same note more than once.

Now, the secret is using the fingers, raising up high previously played fingers. The mistake that is so easy to make is lifting and pushing down with the arm for each note, which would get this kind of sound.

But instead, if you use your fingers and lift up high previously played fingers while the new finger goes down, you'll get this sound.

Even on the repeated third of FA that happens twice, go from one-three to two-four, so instead of getting this sound, you can get this connection.

And then, it continues with more repeated notes.

Notice on those three Cs, you can use five, three, one. Otherwise, if you use one finger for all of them, it'll get this sound.

Hear the difference? Hear how connected you can get it when you change fingers on those Cs.

So, this is the way to get contrast between the bouncy staccatos and punctuated accents of the first and last sections, and the glorious, melodic middle section. The only other thing that you want to take into account in this movement is the chromatic scale. And there are different ideas for fingering, but I think the easiest to learn, and therefore what I recommend for intermediate-level players, is use the second finger for your black keys. When you have a choice, use the second finger.

Now sometimes naturally, your third finger will be the only finger available and use that, but you'll see other fingering suggestions that utilize the third finger where you don't have to. It's harder to learn. It's just as good, and if you're comfortable with it, by all means use that fingering, but I think it's much easier to learn it using the two, wherever you can, on the black keys.

I hope this has been helpful for you. Once again, the Kuhlau Sonatina, one of my favorite as a kid. I love this piece, and I've always enjoyed teaching it. I hope you enjoyed this presentation, again, Robert Estrin here at
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Comments, Questions, Requests:

Meera Thadani on June 2, 2021 @10:15 am PST
Very clever fingering options. Great lesson.Thank you.
Robert Estrin - host, on June 2, 2021 @3:01 pm PST
Having good fingering makes everything so much easier on the piano!
Alice Borg on June 2, 2021 @8:20 am PST
Would love to hear your comments on Meditation (piano solo) from the opera Thais by Jules Massenet - both execution of it and history of it.
Robert - host, on June 2, 2021 @3:01 pm PST
It is a gorgeous piece that I am very familiar with from my father's recording of it as well as my daughter's performance on violin!
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