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Artistic Pedal Technique: Lessons for Intermediate and Advanced Pianists.

Artistic Pedal Technique: Lessons for Intermediate and Advanced Pianists, by Katherine Faricy Frederick Harris Music Co. (Unit 1, 5865 McLaughlin Rd., Mississauga, Ontario, Canada L5R 1B8), 2004. 104 pp., $18.95.

The first sixty pages of this useful volume are devoted to the damper pedal, which Katherine Faricy rightly claims often is treated like a light switch: it is either on or off. Instead, we should learn to treat it like a dimmer switch that can be adjusted to any level between those extremes. The great Russian-born pedagogue Rosina Lhevinne used to say there are ten such levels, although I find it hard to envision that inspired teacher kneeling on the floor with her ruler.

After presenting some exercises aimed at sensitizing the foot and ears to at least eight such levels, Faricy explores in a series of brief lessons the various ways in which the damper pedal can be used, including syncopated, simultaneous, gradual, long, flutter and legatissimo pedaling. Each discussion includes a concise explanation of the technique involved; a series of exercises accompanied by graphs that illustrate the various degrees of pedal depression and release; and, finally, some well-chosen musical examples--also accompanied by graphs--drawn from standard and contemporary piano repertoire.

Among Faricy's many valuable conclusions, one might single out four that are not widely understood: the depth of the damper pedal usually is related to dynamics, with a deeper pedal needed for louder dynamics; the una corda pedal can be used coloristically at any dynamic level, including in loud passages; the una corda pedal can be depressed just as progressively as the damper pedal; and bass notes marked staccato by nineteenth-century composers often should be pedaled.

On the other hand, it seems inconsistent for her to advise pianists to use all three pedals in Bach (because when playing his music we are making a transcription from the sound and touch of the harpsichord) but to advise against using the sostenuto pedal in Debussy (because his pianos didn't have one). In fact, there are quite a few examples in Debussy where his notation suggests he was composing with the sostenuto pedal in mind--notably at the climax of Hommage . Rameau and throughout his final piano work, Les soirs illumines par l'ardeur du charbon.

Although this book cannot supplant Joseph Banowetz's authoritative Pianist's Guide to Pedaling (Indiana University Press, 1985), it is nonetheless to be recommended to pianists of all ages whose ears are ready to be opened.

Reviewed by Charles Timbrell, NCTM, Washington, D.C.
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Author:Timbrell, Charles
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Aug 1, 2004
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