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A recent review that I read elsewhere suggested that Elena Cobb’s EVC Music has “cornered the market in pedagogical, developmental publications for piano”. While this is something of an overstatement, it is certainly great to see EVC at last receiving its due recognition for a published catalogue that has continued to go from strength to strength.
EVC Music is not just about pedagogy though; the company has been steadily bringing to market a growing and glowing range of performance works by contemporary composers, the latest of which is Art Preludes, a suite of five new pieces by British composer Graham Lynch.
Interested in finding our more? Then read on…
Lynch will be known to some readers as the composer behind the Sound Sketches series of books comprising an enticing and gently progressive mix of elementary to intermediate miniatures which I reviewed here, concluding:
“Each book contains sufficient variety and challenge to engage pupils, and teachers looking for fresh material will likely be overwhelmed by the wealth and diversity on offer here… Most impressively, the pieces in all three books reveal the musical personality of their composer, which is a noteworthy achievement in educational piano music written at this level.”
That sense of musical personality remains in view in the five pieces which make up Art Preludes.
Here, Lynch writes more complex, developed pieces suitable for the more advanced player (UK Grade 6-8).
And while Sound Sketches delivered a colourful patchwork of different moods and compressed musical ideas, Art Preludes offers a more unified concept and collection which the publisher describes as follows:
“This set of five preludes was inspired by the impressionist music and art of France, and blends these influences with flavours of jazz and French café music to create a delicious and evocative collection of piano pieces. The pieces fit beautifully under the fingers, and allow a pianist’s imagination full rein across the keyboard in creating a world of fleeting images and impressions.”
The preludes specifically evoke five particular artworks:
- Renoir: The Luncheon of the Boating Party
- Degas: Ballerinas
- Morisot: Julie Daydreaming
- Monet: The Gardens at Giverny
- Manet: At the Folie-Bergère
Unlike Pam Wedgwood’s recent Piano Gallery (reviewed here) and Piano Seascapes (reviewed here) collections, the publication does not include reproductions of the cited paintings, but the images are easily enough found online.
The influences the composer refers to are unmistakable, although as in Lynch’s previous work I can hear as many hints of the British pastoral composers as of the French school. The modern jazz influences are the more noticeable here however, from the many delicious harmonic inflections to the discursive passagework and nonchalant tone. The second prelude (Degas) even swings.
Selecting a favourite from among the five would be difficult, but for me the wistful slow waltz that depicts Julie Daydreaming is an absolute delight (and this is the most accessible of the preludes, both musically and technically), while the restless searching of The Gardens at Giverny is especially fulfilling to play, exploring the sonorities of the piano to beautiful effect.
Audio recordings of the pieces can be found on the EVC Music website here.
EVC Music continues to deliver no-nonsense performing scores with little preamble. The cover artwork, printed on thin card with a gloss finish, is clever in its illusion of textured paint and brush strokes, nicely setting the mood for the music within.
Happily, the rear cover includes (in English) the composer’s notes on each of the five preludes, explaining both the background of the paintings selected, and giving an insight into the parallel artistic intentions of the music.
Within, the notation is cleanly and spaciously presented on 16 pages, the excellent engraving making it a great score to work from. Particularly helpful, the fingering suggestions throughout are spot on, supporting the phrasing of each piece while helpfully facilitating fluent learning.
Having listened to and played through these pieces multiple times since receiving a copy, I have to say that they continue to grow on me. These are rewarding compositions that brilliantly evoke the pictures that inspired them.
They are a fantastic addition to the early advanced repertoire and would make enjoyable concert pieces individually, while a complete performance of the full suite would certainly not outstay its welcome!
These five Art Preludes are simply lovely!
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