The Czech composer and teacher Emil Hradecký (b. 1953) has devoted much of his creative output to children and the piano. His pieces are frequently inspired by dance music and jazz, and are distinguished by their fresh melodies and distinctive rhythms.
Several of his collections are published here in the UK by Bärenreiter, including his Little Jazz Album for Piano, Jazz Etudes for Young Pianists and the duet collection Jazzy Pieces for 20 Fingers.
His latest collection is called Two-Part Piano Miniatures on One Page…
As one would expect from Bärenreiter, Two-part Piano Miniatures on One Page is a beautifully produced book. The gorgeous cover conceals a 20 page interior, printed on cream paper.
After the title page and contents, it’s straight to the music. Each piece, as advertised, takes up just one page, and most are accompanied by small, black and white illustrations by Andrea Tachezy – these are often quirky and humorous, giving the book genuine visual appeal, and will undoubtedly be enjoyed by children.
The music engraving is excellent, well-spaced, and ample fingering is provided throughout. I occasionally found myself questioning the suggested fingerings, but was pleased to see that often when musical passages are repeated, so too is the fingering, especially towards the start of the book.
This is unusual, and most welcome – too often, it is assumed that suggesting fingering for a passage once is sufficient; in reality, players often value having the fingering repeated throughout, especially if using the material for quick study, or when playing at sight.
Kudos to Bärenreiter for getting this right!
According to the publishers,
“Two-Part Piano Miniatures on One Page are ingenious small piano pieces for beginners which are easy to play yet musically interesting. Here children are introduced to the character of classical music as well as various dance forms: cha-cha-cha, tango, waltz, polka, blues and boogie-woogie.”
This seems to be a very fair description of the music, and illustrates the variety that is also on offer here.
All the pieces are written with a Two-Part texture, a single line in each hand, often based around scale patterns which thus consolidate an important stage in the child’s technical development. The absence of chords is a real bonus for the child with smaller hands, too, while the composer’s self-imposed limitation facilitates fluent music reading.
In terms of the musical style, several of the pieces can be described as traditional in their approach, reminiscent of the great pedagogic pieces of previous generations. The Menuet which begins to book for example (and is available as a sample page from the publisher, used here with permission) uses typical Baroque tropes and figurations which would not be out-of-place in Bach’s famous Anna Magdalena Notebook:
Other early pieces in the collection similarly recall the past – Dialogue and On the Swing would be right at home beside Kabalevsky and other early twentieth-century educational composers, while Polka (perhaps too closely?) resembles the first Children at Play from Bartók’s For Children.
As the book progresses, so does the difficulty of the pieces. In the Desert and The Sad Doll require careful legato pedalling, and the second half of the book is dominated by pieces in more contemporary styles. These are always spot-on in their observation of dance rhythms – I particularly enjoyed the Waltz from earlier in the book, and the Tango and Blues from the later pages.
Several of the pieces are remarkable in their imagination, particularly A Little Rain and Mist – both of which solely use the whole-tone scale, and to excellent effect. Meanwhile, In China is a pentatonic piece wholly played on the black keys, while The Bear stays in the lower register, with both hands playing bass clef notes throughout.
While some pieces seemed to me unexceptional, there are some real gems here. These more than justify the modest asking price of the book, and it would be great to see a couple of these pieces appearing in other collections and perhaps a future exam syllabus.
Another generous sample from the publishers, The Sad Doll, is one of my favourites:
In the last few years there has been a glut of new contemporary pedagogic music for players in the earlier stages, and given the variety now available it can be hard to make recommendations.
Two-Part Piano Miniatures on One Page stands out for its pedagogic integrity, gorgeous presentation, and for the best of the pieces included.
Though officially for “beginners”, to my mind this publication would make an ideal collection for consolidating just after Grade 1. I’m going to be suggesting it to one of my own pupils at that level, and am optimistic that they will thoroughly enjoy both the music and the presentation of this book.
Two-Part Miniatures on One Page is thus an easy recommendation – and I hope educators will be quick to take a look for themselves!
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