But there is only one triplet, on beat one of the second to last measure, so every student I have taught has disliked this piece.
One blasted triplet.
I laughed out loud reading your post. Not in derision, my friend, but in recognition, because I have had the same problem with the same piece.
Well, here goes...
What I am about to say will no doubt start a lynching.
Famous composers do not know how to write instructional music for beginners. They inevitably screw things up by having no idea what people can and cannot do in the first year or so.
I can play 50 or 100 or 500 pieces like "Allegretto" for my students, and they are gung-ho about playing them themselves on the basis of what they hear when *I* play them. The same would happen if you played them, or any other good pianist played them.
But the reality is *they* will not enjoy playing them until they are far better, and perhaps even then not until WAY later, when they are fine players.
The problem is creativity, because it is a double-edged sword. Creativity and originality are at least a great part of what makes music by great composers so special. But the drive to write music that has those qualities is the exact same thing that tempts fine composers to dump in some kind of technical or musical problem here and there that will make some part of a "little piece" suddenly unplayable for people with limited experience.
It's a bit like what would happen if William Faulkner set out to write Green Eggs and Ham. His version would have no punctuation in a run-on sentence a page long, with a few five or six syllable words here and there.
For what little it is worth, I actually take some of my students clear away from the piano and tap on a table top on a set rhythm 1/2, 1/2/3/, 1/2, 1/2/3, or some other pattern and so forth (and you address that in your post) to build up to the piece before even playing it (if I must). Well, that is hardly novel - I am sure 450,000 teachers do the same thing, only better.
My answer is to write something myself - which I have not yet done - that continually toggles between triplets and normal duple rhythm, or to find other less famous things that do the same thing.
I say "answer" because such a problem has to be mastered, sooner or later, and it needs to be in something that does feel to the student like punishment.
If a student gets used to playing a whole passage in triplet 8ths, steady triplets, then has to change to normal 8ths, that's part of the answer. The triplet section in Fuer Elise does that, before going back to duple. The fact that it is all in 16ths has nothing to do with the feel.
I use Fuer Elise only as an example, realizing that many teachers would as soon blow their brains out as teach that piece.
I wish there were 100 000 pieces like Kabalevsky's Toccatina, because such a piece absolutely HAMMERS on a concept. I can't think of another fairly easy piece that sticks to only one concept - 1st inversions - and then drills that idea and yet is liked by a LOT of students.
This same concept exists on a very high level. I don't think Chopin knew much of anything about teaching raw beginners, because he didn't have to. But when he got students who were reasonably advanced, THEN he certainly knew what he was doing.
If you examine something like his Etude in 3rds, there really isn't much to it. You simply work on a skill, and you could conceivably work on that skill for the rest of your life without ever getting it perfect, but the RH is simple in concept, not terribly difficult to read (because it is predictable), and there are NO rhythm problems.
I wonder if people ever think about that?
Either hand in a Chopin Etude may be very difficult, but the hand that is moving is elementary in rhythm.
So there is a conceptual problem in teaching music that has some kind of rhythm or technical problem in only one measure that is vastly more difficult than the rest.
You can always tell when something appears simpler, less impressive (less glory) but far harder to play than it seems.
The F Minor from Chopin's Trois Nouvelles Etudes is one of my favorites, but I can never get most students to play it. It sounds like a dream, it's not fast, and it takes great musicality to pull it off. Even on YouTube there are not so many recordings, and the people who HAVE recorded it tend to be rather impressive, famous musicians.
You know, in another post I have been on grind about musical literacy, and now I will appear to contradict myself and say that the printed page is really an obstacle course when it comes to and all manner of syncopations and off-beats...
But isn't this also about the idea that nothing can be truly notated as it should be played? The most accurate notation in the universe is just a suggestion, though a very good one.
If we learned to play only using our instinct to guess what is really meant, hearing no one famous play music, getting no idea of musical traditions and conventions, we would all be lost.
In fact, I feel very strongly that "classical" musicians, even some very famous ones, do not listen enough.
Have you ever noticed that Rachmaninov, in his own music often played a lyrical melody with almost a triplet lilt when it was notated in pure 4/4 or 2/4? I have in mind at the moment a place in the last movement of the not too well known 4th concerto, but there are other places. Other play the same rhythms absolutely "straight", as if Rachmaninov didn't quite mean what he played, and that we should ONLY pay attention to the score.