Sheet Music review
Easy Concert Pieces is a brand new series of three piano collections edited by Monika Twelsiek and Rainer Mohrs, and published worldwide by Schott Music.
No need to beat around the bush: I really like this series!
Let’s take a close look…
According to the Preface,
“The Easy Concert Pieces series presents easy piano pieces in progressive order. These pieces are intended to complement a piano tutor method and are particularly suitable for performance and auditions, concerts, competitions and examinations. They offer varied repertoire in a broad selection of pieces from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern eras.”
This is hardly a revolutionary concept, and aside from the many exam-music spin-off books on the market I was immediately reminded of the collection My First Concert, also edited by Monika Twelsiek and published by Schott last year. Indeed, several of the pieces from that collection are included again here, albeit in an enlarged book series, and organised more effectively into order of difficulty.
I must admit that I far prefer the presentation here, too, which I think is very classy indeed. Printed on cream paper and to the same well spaced and clean engraving standards enjoyed in other recent Schott publications, the books are saddle stitched, have simple but very attractive covers, and include full CD recordings of all the pieces.
For the first volume, the performer featured on the recording is Vera Sacharowa, who reappears and is joined from the second volume by Wilhelm Omen. These are well produced, and enjoyable to listen to; pupils will find them helpful for self-selecting pieces, and hearing good models of phrasing and style.
Easy Concert Pieces 1
The rationale for the first collection is summarised by the authors as follows:
“Volume 1 contains pieces in the five-note range and easy pieces spanning a single octave. Other criteria for selection are simple rhythms and very easy chords. Crossing the thumb underneath, playing several parts together and pedalling are not yet required.”
From this description, experienced teachers in the UK will immediately peg this book as a suitable transition between the ABRSM Prep Test and Grade 1 level, and indeed it would perfectly suit students at that level.
For even greater clarity, volume 1 is itself split into two halves – the first of which contains only pieces in the five-note range, while the pieces in the second half include different five-note ranges within them, and an easy octave range overall.
And the pieces in each half are grouped chronologically, so that the player can dip into pieces from different periods at will.
Looking at the first half of the book, which contains 21 pieces all within five-note ranges, I was immediately struck by the variety and quality on offer here. Just when I thought that I knew all the five-note pieces ever written, along comes this book, providing many which I have previously overlooked, and including gems that I am now eager to teach!
It is also worth noting that there is a striking range of keys and hand positions here, underpinning the imaginative range of moods conveyed. Excellent!
The second half of the book moves toward more familiar territory (for this writer at least), with familiar fare such as the Musette in D major from Bach’s Anna Magdalena Notebook, Diabelli’s well-worn Three Little Pieces and Schumann’s A Little Piece from the Album for the Young nestling alongside more recent pieces by Fritz Emonts, Gunter Kretschmer, Barbara Heller, Marianne Magolt and Mike Schoenmehl.
Here’s the complete listing:
- M. Praetorius: Old German Dance
- J.v.d. Hofe: Canario
- A. Reinagle: Minuetto
- A. Teinagle: Allegro
- C.H. Wilton: Little Sonata
- C. Gurlitt: A Midsommer Day’s Song
- C. Gurlitt: Dreary Hours
- G.F. Humbert: The Hurdy-Gurdy Man
- G.F. Humbert: The Train
- G.F. Humbert: The Snake Charmer
- G.F. Humbert: Tarantella
- G.F. Humbert: On The Way
- G.F. Humbert: Ragtime
- F. Emonts: Dialogue
- F. Emonts: Changing Time
- M. Tajcevic: Piano Piece for the Young
- H. Badings: Basso ostinato
- R. Mohrs: Here Comes the Caravan
- R. Mohrs: Folk Dance in the Mountains
- R. Mohrs: Shepherd’s Melody
- H.-G. Heumann: Rock Piano Fever
- J.H. Schein: Allemande
- D. Speer: Aria
- J. Krieger: Menuett A minor
- C. Graupner: Bourrée E minor
- J.-P. Rameau: Menuett D major
- J.S. Bach: Musette D major
- G.F. Händel: Gavotte C major
- D.G. Türk: Four Easy Pieces – D.G. Türk: Entrée
- D.G. Türk: Minuetto
- D.G. Türk: I am so Dull and Ill
- D.G. Türk: A Carefree Fellow
- A. Diabelli: Three Little Pieces
- A. Diabelli: Allegretto
- A. Diabelli: Moderato
- A. Diabelli: Vivace
- R. Schumann: A Little Piece
- F. Spindler: Song Without Words
- C. Franck: Dolly’s Complaint
- A. Gretchaninoff: Fairy Tale
- A. Gretchaninoff: Njanja is Ill
- A. Gretchaninoff: A Tiresome Lesson
- C. Orff: Dancing Piece
- C. Orff: Piano Study – F. Emonts: Tango
- F. Emonts: Bagpipes
- G. Kretschmer: Elephants
- G. Kretschmer: Rainy Weather Blues
- B. Heller: Tales from the Arabian Nights
- M. Magolt: Holydays
- M. Schoenmehl: The Spanish Guitar Player
Easy Concert Pieces 2
According to the editors:
“Volume 2 contains pieces with an extended range of two octaves. Crossing the thumb under, pedal use, simple polyphony and three- or four-part chords all feature here, as do simple ornaments, playing cantabile and differentiating between melody and accompaniment.”
While it’s fair to say that the pieces in volume 1 aren’t exactly devoid of all these qualities, the music here is definitely a step or two more difficult, and would comfortable suit players (and UK exam syllabi) at Grade 2 to Grade 3 level.
The pieces are organised in a through format rather than separated by difficulty. Once again, the order of pieces is chronological, so I would suggest teachers and players will want to dip in and out of what’s on offer, using the provided CD as necessary to spot favourites.
This is once again an enjoyable and well-judged selection, and here is the full contents:
- F. Couperin: Les coucous bénévoles
- C. Petzold: Menuett G major
- C. Petzold: Menuett G minor
- J.-F. Dandrieu: Gavotte en Rondeau
- G.F. Händel: Gavotte G major
- G.F. Händel: Chaconne G major
- J.S. Bach: Marsch D major
- J.S. Bach: Menuett D minor
- J.S. Bach: Menuett G major
- J.S. Bach: Präludium C major BWV 939
- J. Haydn: Menuett F major
- W. Duncombe: Hunting Jig
- J.B. Vanhal: Sonatina F major
- W.A. Mozart: Menuett KV 1e G major
- W.A. Mozart: Menuett KV 2 F major
- W.A. Mozart: Allegro KV 3 B major
- W.A. Mozart: The Sleigh Ride KV 605/3
- D. Steibelt: Adagio A minor
- Attwood: Sonatine G major
- L.v. Beethoven: Sonatine G major
- L.v. Beethoven: German Dance C major
- L.v. Beethoven: German Dance G major
- R. Schumann: Solidier’s March, op. 68/2
- R. Schumann: The Merry Peasant, op. 68/10
- R. Schumann: Humming Song, op. 68/3
- F. Chopin: Polish Song
- C. Gurlitt: Theme with Variations, op. 228
- C.L.H. Köhler: Sonatine G major
- P. Tschaikowsky: Old French Song, op. 39/16
- P. Tschaikowsky: The Sick Doll, op. 39/6
- P. Tschaikowsky: Dolly’s Funeral, op. 39/7
- M. Tajcevic: Cantabile
- F. Emonts: Blues
- H. Regner: In the Cave
- G. Nevada: A Little Dreamy
- G. Nevada: When A Dream Drifts Away
- J. Moser: Rainy Day
- R. Mohrs: The Bewitched Dwarf Awakens
- R. Mohrs: Dance of the Dwarfes
- R. Mohrs: A Song of Hope
- M. Schoenmehl: Criminal Music
- M. Schoenmehl: The Somersault King
As with Easy Concert Pieces 1, the consistency here is very high overall, and I particularly like the fact that the book provides a fairly even spread of material from across the centuries.
Easy Concert Pieces 3
“Volume 3 is intended for advanced players who wish to work on expressive playing and individual interpretation. These pieces demand greater fluency and rhythmic control, more advanced articulation and phrasing, polyphonic harmonies (playing several parts even with one hand) and differentiation of tone and touch.”
In terms of the level of the collection, I would suggest intermediate is a better description than advanced – the pieces are roughly equivalent in range to UK grade exams 3-6, with the majority towards the middle to upper part of that range.
Speaking of “expressive playing and individual interpretation”, the included CD recording of all the pieces is again delivered here by pianist Vera Sacharowa, and is housed in a plastic sleeve glued to the inside of the rear cover. As with the previous two books, these are essentially demonstration performances with an emphasis on accuracy and clarity rather than indulgence or individuality. Tempi in almost all cases are steady, which is no doubt preferable for helping the student first encountering the pieces, if perhaps less immediately inspiring for students!
The pieces that make up the collection are once more presented in chronological order, defining this as a book to dip into rather than working from cover to cover (as you would a method book). According to the press release,
“These pieces are intended to complement a piano tutorial method and are particularly suitable for performance at auditions, concerts, competitions and examinations. They offer varied repertoire in a broad selection of pieces from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern eras.”
Here is the full list of included pieces:
- G.F. Händel: Chaconne D minor HWV 448
- J.S. Bach: Praeludium F major BWV 927
- J.S. Bach: Praeludium D minor BWV 926
- J.S. Bach: Inventio 1 C major BWV 772
- J.S. Bach: Inventio 4 D minor BWV 775
- W.A. Mozart: Rondeau D major KV 15d
- L.v. Beethoven: Bagatelle A minoe, op. 119/9
- L.v. Beethoven: Klavierstück “Für Elise” WoO 59
- L.v. Beethoven: Sonatina F major
- T. Haslinger: Sonatina C major
- F. Schubert: Waltz B minor, op. 18/6
- F. Burgmüller: Arabesque, op. 100/2
- F. Burgmüller: Ballade, op. 100/15
- F. Mendelssohn: Romance D minor
- R. Schumann: The Wild Horseman, op. 68/8
- R. Schumann: Siciliana, op. 68/11
- R. Schumann: First Loss, op. 68/16
- F. Chopin: Valse A minor BI 150
- F. Chopin: Polonaise G minor KK IIa, No. 1
- F. Chopin: Mazurka G minor, op. 67/2
- F. Chopin: Mazurka F major, op. 68/3
- S. Heller: Study A minor, op. 45/2
- P.I. Tschaikowsky: Sweet Dreaming, op. 39/21
- E. Grieg: Waltz A minor, op. 12/2
- C. Debussy: Le Petit nègre (Cakewalk)
- E. Satie: Gymnopédie No. 1
- E. Satie: Gnossienne No. 2
- A. Casella: Siciliana
- M. Seiber: Tango I
- M. Seiber: Tango II
- E. Pütz: Blue Waltz
- H. Weiss: Homecoming
- H. Weiss: Jumping Dance
- R. Mohrs: Prayer for Peace
- M. Schoenmehl: Melancholy Reflections
- H.G. Heumann: The Sunken Island of Atlantis
- V. Mohrs: Hallo Kitty
- V. Mohrs: Poor Mouse
- V. Mohrs: Cats in Love
As with the two previous books in the series, this offers a varied and balanced selection of core teaching repertoire, and one which should last most students at least a couple of happy years. And it’s useful to see good editions of favourites such as Für Elise, Gymnopédie No. 1 and Le Petit nègre included alongside less well-known pieces.
Across three books, the Easy Concert Pieces series includes a decent selection of pieces from near-beginner level right up to around Grade 6, nicely edited and beautifully presented.
I would certainly want to use these books alongside some more contemporary repertoire, but overall I think they are likely to become standard collections used in my own teaching practice in the coming months.
But taken as what they are, these books succeed admirably as a series which brilliantly fills its niche, and will have tremendous value to teenage and adult learners working at this level.
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