In my recent review of Schott’s ‘My First Schumann’ I concluded :
“This is a collection that will “keep on giving”, with such a great selection of pieces for students to enjoy over a number of years… ‘My First Schumann’ is a brilliant introduction to one of the world’s greatest ever piano composers. Highly Recommended!”
Hot on its heels comes the latest book in the series, ‘My First Beethoven’. Can it repeat the success of the previous book? Let’s take a closer look…
‘My First Beethoven’ shares the same format as the previous books by Schumann, Mozart and Bach in Schott’s Easy Composer Series. And like those collections, it features original works (not arrangements) bringing together many of the composer’s easier pieces in one volume.
The book has a beautiful cover, a short biographical sketch which includes a timeline of Beethoven’s life and some thoughts on performing his music. This is followed by the 27 selected pieces.
The music is printed on cream paper and nicely engraved, as per the high standards that Schott set for all their publications. Manuscript sources and occasional performance notes are included as footnotes. There is no CD, but of course recordings of all these pieces can easily be found online.
Were I to ask a group of teachers which compositions by Beethoven they most often teach to players in the range of Grades 1-6, there would probably be quite a list of favourites. At the easier end of the spectrum, perhaps some of the Ecossaises and German Dances might appear. Personally I am rather fond of the famous Sonatinas in G and F major, and ‘Lustig – Traurig’ would be an obvious intermediate choice.
These pieces would perhaps be followed by the perennial ‘Für Elise’. One or two of the other Bagatelles might appear next. After Grade 5 the Sonata in G major Op.49/2 is a fabulous piece of course, and doesn’t every student ask to play the first movement of the ever-popular “Moonlight Sonata” Op.27/2 at some point?
But where do teachers go to source all these pieces? Answers here might vary from using scraps of paper printed from the internet through to buying several different collections of music, or even single sheets of pieces. None of these are ideal solutions, and the latter can quickly get costly.
‘My First Beethoven’ provides the ideal solution: in one excellently edited, attractively presented and modestly priced collection, we have ALL of the pieces listed above, and more. Essentially this is the only Beethoven collection that players will need until they reach an advanced level and are ready for the complete Sonatas.
The fingering throughout is well considered, as with the previous books in the series. As a sample, I compared the fingering given for the Bagatelle in D, Op.33/6 (which is quite awkward for smaller hands) with that included in the Henle Urtext edition, and found very few differences. Overall where minor differences do exist, I actually prefered the solutions given in ‘My First Beethoven’.
This surely underlines the quality of editing on offer here, and series editor Wilhelm Ohmen deserves the highest praise.
As with the previous books in this superb series, ‘My First Beethoven’ exactly hits the spot it is aiming for. Child-friendly without being childish, this excellent and inspiring selection of Beethoven’s easier piano pieces deserves a place on every pianist and student’s library.
‘My First Beethoven’ is quite simply an outstanding collection, and will undoubtedly become a staple of my own students’ musical diet in the years ahead, replacing numerous other editions and books.
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