Christopher Norton’s “Idaho Suite”

Sheet Music Review

A few months ago I shared news here of Christopher Norton’s new in-house publishing company 80 Days Publishing, reviewing the first piano solo work to emerge – the excellent Jazz Piano Sonata.

Since that review, Christopher has been busying himself both as a composer and publisher, collating piano works and other compositions for publication through this growing business.

In this review I will highlight a few of the latest publications, starting with a particular focus on the Idaho Suite for solo piano. 

The Idaho Suite

Norton - Idaho Suite for Solo Piano COVER for Andrew Eales

The Idaho Suite is a new six-movement work written for members of the MTNA Collegiate Chapter at the University of Idaho. In terms of the level of the pieces, I would suggest that they broadly orbit around ABRSM Grades 7-8.

According to the introduction:

“The pieces vary greatly in style because they were written based on videos of the students talking about themselves, their interests, and backgrounds. Christopher Norton has in effect written 6 musical pen portraits.”

The premiere of the Idaho Suite took place in November 2017, with each of the original dedicatees performing.

The Suite opens with the glorious ’C’ me later, (written for Paul Zeller) whose expansive harmonies and chord clusters all lie surprisingly well under the hand, and speak to a positive, Copland-esque Americana.

The more lyrical and reflective The Darker Side of Blue (written for Roger McVey) is a beautiful study in sonority, but requires large hands (able to stretch a tenth) in order to perfectly realise it’s harmonies and syncopation.

The euphoric Sunlit Peaks (written for Megan Rich) follows – an astonishingly vivid piece of piano writing which proves to be a hugely effective scherzo.

The jagged, angular syncopations and dissonance of Unchained (written for Melody Morrison) is followed by Aerie, which is wonderfully evocative as it depicts (at least in my imagination!) the flight of the bird of prey (and was written for Morgan Kline).

The Suite concludes with Leaving’ It All Behind, which was written for faculty advisor Jovanni-Rey de Pedro, and is another more energetic and jazzy piece to provide the Suite with a fitting finale.

Taken as a whole, the Suite very much lives up to its title, proving to be an infectious and at times evocative portrayal of the different characters contained within its six movements.

Each pieces stands well on its own; as a Suite they combine to be an effective contemporary concert work which I suspect would be a real crowd-pleaser!

The publication is a simple affair which follows the same house style established with the Jazz Piano Sonata – the attractive high-quality cover conceals an excellent score printed on cream paper, with well-spaced notation.

Note that no fingerings are provided, as these are left to players’ discretion.

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Listen to “C me later” and purchase from 80 Days Publishing here.

Italian Suite for 2 Pianos

Norton - Italian Suite for 2 pianos COVER for Andrew Eales

According to the introduction of this new publication:

“The Italian Suite for 2 Pianos was written for Duo Pianistic Nicoletta & Angela Feola, Italian sisters from Bergamo who play a wide and varied repertoire to audiences all over Europe. The Suite has 4 movements and is a Fantasia, loosely based on four different segments of a single day.”

Those four movements are:

  1. Puro Piacere  (Pure Pleasure)
  2. Il Dubbio  (The Time of Doubt)
  3. L’Umore Peasant Si Solleva  (The Heavy Mood Lifts)
  4. La Fiducia Viene Ripristinata  (Confidence is restored)

You can listen to the Italian Suite here on SoundCloud:

The score itself, once again beautifully engraved and presented in the house style, includes just the Piano 1 part, with a pull-out copy of the Piano 2 part; so there is no overall score, just the two separate parts.

As you will hear from listening to the composition, this is another vivid work, well suited to the concert hall.

Find out more and purchase here.

Anatolian-Portuguese Suite

Norton - Anatolian-Portuguese Suite for 2 pianos COVER for Andrew Eales

Presented in the same format, the Anatolian-Portuguese Suite for 2 Pianos was composed for the Basgöse-Pinto Piano Duo – Pinar Basgöse and Susana Pinto, colleagues at the MacPhail Centre for Music in Minneapolis.

According to the composer:

“Pinar is Turkish, Susana is Portuguese, so it seemed appropriate to write them a suite utilising the music of their respective countries. The suite has 4 movements – in style terms Anatolian Folk, Fado, Anatolian Folk, Fado.”

This makes for a more exotic sound world, which the composer seems to relish exploring! You can listen here:

Audio preview, and purchase here.

Conclusion

I have written here before, and happily now repeat, that Christopher Norton is deservedly “one of the most famous and beloved educational composers alive today”. 

With the publication of these concert works, we can hopefully see Christopher’s more advanced compositions make their way more frequently into collegiate and professional recital programmes, and it is exciting to explore the range of musical expression and colour that permeates these works.

It should also be noted that through 80 Days Publishing, Christopher has also released his Sonata for Clarinet and Piano, Sonatina for Cello and Piano, Trio for Clarinet, Bassoon and Piano, Sonata for Bassoon and Piano, Trio for Two Clarinets and Piano, and The Art of the Guitar.

You can explore his full catalogue on the 80 Days Publishing website here.

For pianists, meanwhile, the big news is that 80 Days Publishing are also now bringing Christopher Norton’s acclaimed Connections for Piano series of eight books to the UK market, and refreshing the range internationally.

But that’s a story for another post – stay tuned, and in my next blog I will be reviewing that series!

Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a pianist, writer and teacher based in Milton Keynes UK, where he runs Keyquest Music - his successful independent music education business, private teaching practice and creative outlet.

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