Gurlitt: Grandfather’s Birthday from Albumleaves for the Young, Op. 101, No. 13

A short celebratory work, “Grandfather’s Birthday” is set in E-flat major, a key not often used in books for novice students, which makes it a very useful teaching piece. The distinguished character of this solo, with its opening and closing fanfares and full chords in mm. 21-27, promotes the development of a rich, round sound. Full chords are used here for the first time: Students with small hands may need to omit the upper notes of the left-hand chords in mm. 21-27. Judicious use of the damper pedal will enhance the quality of the chord passages, fanfares, and the tolling bell in mm. 29-31. It is curious that this bell tolls only three times–perhaps it rings for each score of years that the grandfather has lived!

The song itself, which begins just after the opening fanfare, is a familiar tune to those who know the nursery song “Down by the Station.” Many of our favorite nursery songs owe their existence to their folk-song ancestors, and so it is possible to surmise that this melody originated as a German folk song that Gurlitt knew and incorporated into this piece. I could not find a folk-song source with the same melody to confirm my educated guess, but many young children do know the nursery song I mention above, and so this lovely piano solo will be a welcome treat.

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Cornelius Gurlitt: Biography
Elaine Schmidt
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Bartók: Andante from The First Term at the Piano (Elementary)
Immanuela Gruenberg