The ability to write an effective miniature for solo piano – one which is personal but idiomatic, original but accessible – remains one of the true challenges for any composer, and one that many “big names” in classical music have seemingly avoided.
Not so for composer Jan Freidlin, who succeeds not just once but four times in quick succession in his latest publication from Edition Dohr, Four Stories.
For those not familiar with Jan Freidlin, the composer was born in Russia in 1944. He grew up and studied in Odessa, where he subsequently lived and taught, also becoming a member of the USSR Composers’ Union in 1974.
In 1990 Freidlin moved to Israel, where he taught at the Rubin Academy of Music for 3 years, and now teaches at the Levinsky College of Music, both in Tel-Aviv.
A prolific composer, Freidlin’s works include 5 symphonies , several concertos, a ballet, chamber music and solo compositions. He has written music for 7 movies and 26 theatrical shows.
His music is widely performed around the world, he has won several major awards, and several of his works have also been commercially recorded.
Four Stories for Piano Solo
This recent collection is published by Edition Dohr and distributed in the UK via Universal Edition. Included titles are:
- Lake flowing away towards the Stars (2016)
- Winter Sonatina (2013)
- Jumping Music (2016)
- At the Evening Window (2016)
Introducing the collection, Jan Freidlin writes:
“This album is a rather free combination of four different pieces. However, the pieces in some points of view all together form a complete picture: the first piece is like an ouverture that brings a perspective of being far away from boring reality; the second piece is a real contrast and leads us to the fairy tale of Hans Christian Andersen – so a dive into a story; the third piece is an escape from sad stories and is a rhythmical funny humoresque that might have been the final piece of this “suite”; however the last piece returns to the previous atmosphere of the first two pieces but now it is evening …
“Despite this explanation any performer is free to play any piece from this album as a separate item.”
The book comprises 28 pages (including the soft covers), printed on cream paper, and to the outstanding standards that one would expect from this music publisher. Notation is clean throughout (although there is one instance where quaver stems unnecessarily interfere with a dynamic marking) and is well spaced. While the first three pieces include page turns, these seem to have been carefully thought to ensure ease for the performer.
The pieces range in difficulty, I would say, from around Grade 6 to (predominantly) Diploma level. They are written in a contemporary style that eschews tonality, without being abstract. A mood of impressionism and elements of jazz harmony make their presence felt throughout.
The Two Questions
Whenever I publish a review of new music, I am invariably asked two questions:
- Where can I listen to a recording? – and
- Where can I buy a copy?
The answer to both questions is usually “online”, or if I’m feeling bolshy, “Google it!”. Not so on this occasion however; as I myself discovered, a little more homework was required.
Firstly, it would seem that professionally produced recordings of the four pieces are not presently available. That said, I was able to find two of the pieces in recordings shared on YouTube, and to save you searching: here they are – and they give a good flavour:
Lake flowing away towards the Stars
Secondly, purchasing a copy of the sheet music doesn’t seem to be straight forward. I tried all of the main online music stores (including Amazon) in the UK and drew a blank.
However, according to the publisher, music stores are able to order from distributor mds-partner.com so those keen to purchase a copy will need to ask their preferred supplier to investigate.
It seems to me a pity that the piano music of Jan Freidlin isn’t more widely known – and more easily available here in the UK.
The four pieces in this collection are certainly well worth the effort, and would make an excellent project for any more advanced player looking to explore fresh music, and who primarily uses the score to discover new works.
All in all, an excellent addition to the pianist’s repertoire.
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