At the Piano: Mozart

Sheet Music Review

Ask any classical performer to name which edition of the core repertoire they most highly regard both for daily use and as an authoritative Urtext Edition, and the name G. Henle Verlag will be at or close to the top of their list.

In their own words:

“Musicians need to be able to rely on their sheet music. This should be undistorted, free of errors, practical and durable. This is exactly what we provide. We call it Henle Urtext. Musicians around the world, both amateurs and professionals, know us.

Unlike the other music publishers, we have concentrated almost exclusively on producing Urtext editions of the great “classical” compositions ever since Günter Henle founded our company in 1948. As the world’s undisputed leader in this premium class, we have the most know-how about Urtext as well as the most comprehensive Urtext catalogue, comprising 1.000 titles to date.”

To this extensive catagloue, Henle recently added a new series of publications specifically aimed at those “returning to the piano”. That series, ‘At the Piano’ is happily now available in English.

According to the publisher:

  • Each volume includes original pieces by one composer.
  • The works are arranged in progressive order of difficulty (from easy to medium level).
  • The works complement one another conceptually.
  • The length of the pieces ranges from one to eight pages.
  • The works contain fingerings and practical tips on technique and
    interpretation.

There’s even this promotional video:

There are 12 volumes in the series, each focussing on the music of one core composer, and for this review I will be focussing on the Mozart volume in the series.

Details of the rest, including the lists of pieces they include, are on the Henle Verlag website here.

The Publication

At the Piano: Mozart looks and feels almost identical to the rest of Henle’s catalogue, and most readers will of course be familiar with their house style. A small dash of yellow at the top of the cover distinguishes this new series.

The sober, soft dark blue cover conceals beautifully edited and printed music on luxury cream paper, with world class binding that we all know will last the rest of our lives.

Mozart At the Piano Henle Verlag cover

The 15 pieces in this volume are:

  1. Minuet in G major K.1e
  2. Minuet in F major K.5
  3. Minuets in C major and G major K.6
  4. Piece in F major from The London Sketchbook K.15hh
  5. Contredanse: Das Donnerwetter K.534
  6. Etude K.626b/48
  7. “Sonate facile” in C major K.545 – 1st movement: Allegro
  8. “Sonate facile” in C major K.545 – 3rd movement: Rondo
  9. Sonata in E flat major K.282 – 1st movement: Adagio
  10. Sonata in G major K.283 – 1st movement: Allegro
  11. Sonata in C major K330 – 2nd movement: Andante cantabile
  12. Sonata in A major K.331 – 2nd movement: Menuetto
  13. Twelve variations on ”Ah, vous dirai-je Maman K.265
  14. Sonata in B flat major K.570 – 3rd movement: Allegretto
  15. Fantasia in D minor K.397

While I thought it a small pity to be missing the slow movement of the “Sonate facile” here (such a beautiful movement, and perfect for developing cantabile phrasing in a classical style), these are wonderful, well-judged selections, with pieces ranging from around Grade 1-7 level in UK standards, allowing the “returning pianist” plenty of scope for finding their feet and developing.

Speaking of levels, each piece here is levelled by Henle themselves, using their in-house scheme of 9 levels developed by Prof. Rolf Koenen, explained on their site. For the sake of UK readers, within the Henle system levels 1-6 cover the range of the UK’s 8 Grades, while Henle’s levels 7-9 are essentially diploma level.

In terms of editing, this volume and the whole series is edited by Sylvia Hewig-Tröscher, a piano professor at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Munich.

In most cases the pieces have been previously published by Henle, but having compared the Sonata movements with those from the Henle Urtext editions HN1 and HN2, it is immediately clear that Sylvia’s revisiting them has led to, in my opinion, some better fingering suggestions in the new At the Piano publication – which is of course no mean feat!

The Pedagogical Guide

Using Urtext editions with less advanced players isn’t always the natural choice of teachers, at least here in the UK, because the additions that appear in other versions are regarded as useful. The At the Piano series has an introductory page outlining its aims, countering with the following very interesting observation about the value of using an Urtext edition:

“We deliberately do without “well-informed” additions and questionable alterations, as are often found in other editions. Those who use our editions are free of such patronisation; they can be sure of the authenticity of the music text and make the most of the ensuing flexibility for their own stylistically confident interpretation.”

An excellent point, well made!

But in this series, Henle don’t leave the developing musician without support in how to get to grips with interpreting these works.

The At the Piano: Mozart volume starts with a page of helpful information about ’Playing Mozart’. Subsequently, each piece is preceded by a introduction covering information about the its background, editorial information, and some practical suggestions.

These notes are an invaluable addition, and although rather scholarly in tone, they do a fantastic job of drawing attention to important details in the music. In addition to their immediate value, the notes on each piece provide a useful model for adult players in how to intelligently discuss the music, and will be useful for those writing programme notes.

There is the essential authority to all these introductions which one would expect from Henle Verlag.

Conclusions

Having had a detailed look at At the Piano: Mozart I am really impressed with the effort that has been made here, resulting a collection that players can really grow with.

At the Piano: Mozart will undoubtedly help players foster their understanding and ability to communicate the music of this greatest of composers by bringing together some of his best and most well-loved pieces, while supported with helpful background information, excellent fingering suggestions and authoritative editing.

The additional information and understated but beautiful presentation all contribute to a package of inestimable value.

Collecting the whole At the Piano series would undoubtedly provide the enthusiastic adult player with a very attractive and progressive medium-term library of the great classics. I suspect that moving forward this is precisely what some of my adult students will want to do, as well as those teenagers who are more serious about studying classical music. I am certainly keen to see the rest of the series myself!

All told then, this is probably the easiest recommendation I have ever given here. Mozart At the Piano is simply brilliant.

Further Information:

Here again is the link to the At the Piano page on the Henle Verlag site, from which you can find out lots more information about the 12 volume series.

Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a pianist, writer and teacher based in Milton Keynes UK. He runs a successful independent teaching studio and music education business, Keyquest Music.