Those looking for good anthologies of easy piano music are fairly spoilt for choice these days.
Latest to arrive (on the same day as ABRSM’s rather disappointing Core Classics series reviewed here), a set of three new books from Schott Music, compiled by the ever-prolific Hans-Günter Heumann, and collectively titled: Mini Maestro.
With each of the three books containing 50 solo pieces and 3 bonus duets, Mini Maestro certainly offers great value and plenty to dig into, so let’s take a look…
The Mini Maestro Concept
According to the blurb,
“Mini Maestro presents little piano pieces advancing progressively from very easy to intermediate level, presented in chronological order across five centuries from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern eras through to jazz, pop and minimal music.
All the pieces are easy to learn and offer varied repertoire as an ideal supplement to any piano tutorial method with music suitable for concert performance, tuition purposes, examinations and competitions.
Children, adolescents or adults: anyone can be a Mini Maestro!”
There are striking similarities here with the Easy Concert Pieces series, reviewed here, which was published by Schott Music a couple of years ago and edited by Monika Twelsiek and Rainer Mohrs. Those three books follow a similar set of goals, and have proven particularly popular with adult learners looking for a fairly traditional repertoire.
Those books, too, included a generous range of pieces organised chronologically. It’s an arrangement which immediately suggests to the teacher and player that the book is to be dipped into, rather than laboured through from cover to cover, and it reinforces a recognition of historical style and period.
Also in common with the Easy Concert Pieces series, the first book is further split into two halves, the first including only pieces written within various five-note ranges, while the pieces in Part 2 of the first book include a range of an octave in each hand.
One notable difference: while the Easy Concert Pieces books each came with an included demonstration performance CD, Mini Maestro offers no recordings, either as a CD or download, which is a mild disappointment.
The publishers give this pedagogic overview of the three books:
Mini Maestro 1:
- Five-finger range (various positions, first 30 pieces)
- Octave Range (remaining 20 pieces)
- Simple Rhythms
- Easy chord sequences
- Melody in the left hand
- Octave signs
- Up to one sharp or flat
Mini Maestro 2
- Range of two octaves
- Chord sequences, including inversions (staff notation)
- Use of the pedal
- Simple ornaments
- Basic polyphony
- Up to two sharps or flats
Mini Maestro 3
- Range of up to four octaves
- More demanding rhythms
- Playing with expression
- Playing more than one part in one hand
- Advanced polyphony
- Up to three sharps or flats
From my perspective as a UK-based teacher, it is interesting to see the approach of a European publisher, based in a country where ABRSM and other graded exam boards don’t exercise the same influence as they do here.
Able to put together a progressive repertoire programme that doesn’t comply with the needs of the exam room, there seems to be an enjoyably looser criteria for selection, as well as a notably faster pace.
This is most obvious in the third book, essentially aimed at intermediate players, where we find Clementi’s well-worn Sonatina in C major Op.36/1 rubbing shoulders with Satie’s Gymnopédie No.1, a combination unlikely in a UK educational publication but which will surely inspire students as they explore the music on offer.
Here, then, are the musical contents of the three books…
Mini Maestro 1:
- Michael Praetorius (1571–1621): Old German Dance C major
- Anon (ca. 1600): Old German Dance G major
- James Hook (1746–1827): Minuet C major
- Alexander Reinagle (1756–1809): Allegro, Op. 1/4
- Charles Henry Wilton (1761–1832): Little Sonata C major: 1. Moderato
- 2. Minuetto
- Félix Le Couppey (1811–1887): Mélodie / Melody
- Kaspar Jakob Bischoff (1823–1893): The Industrious Student
- Friedrich Baumfelder (1836–1916): Melody F major
- Oskar Bolck (1839–1888): Sonatina C major: 1. Allegro
- 2. Andantino
- 3. Vivace
- Moritz Wilhelm Vogel (1846–1922): Brave Knight
- Kálmán Chován (1852–1928): Piano Piece G major
- Erik Satie (1866–1925): Petit Prélude à la journée / Little Overture to the Day
- Profiter de ce qu’il a des cors aux pieds pour lui prendre son cerceau / Taking advantage of someone else’s corns to steal his hoop
- Béla Bartók (1881–1945): Folk Song
- Georges Frank Humbert (1892–1958): The Cuckoo Clock
- The Nodding Mandarin
- Marko Tajčevič (1900–1984): For the Young; Piano Piece No. 1
- Henk Badings (1907–1987): Canon
- Barbara Heller (*1936): Again and Again…
- Hans-Günter Heumann (*1955): Clog Dance
- Spanish Guitar Player
- Harlequin Waltz
- It’s Ragtime
- Five-Note Rock
- Little Pop Ballad
- Northern Folk Dance
- Boogie-Woogie Spirit
- Henry Purcell (1659–1695): Air D minor
- Georg Friedrich Telemann (1681–1767): Gavotte C major
- Christoph Graupner (1683–1760): Bourée E minor
- Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764): Menuet en Rondeau C major
- Leopold Mozart (1719–1787): Minuet D minor
- Anonymous: Minuet F major
- Daniel Gottlob Türk (1750–1813): The Lively Boy
- Muzio Clementi (1752–1832): Arietta, Op. 42/5
- Anton Diabelli (1781–1858): Allegretto, Op. 125/3
- Louis Köhler (1820-1886): Melody Op.218/26
- Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924): Scherzo F major
- Alexander Gretchaninoff (1864–1956): Farewell, Op. 98/4
- Samuil Maikapar (1867–1938): A Fairy Tale, Op. 28/10
- Reverie, Op. 33/2
- Thomas Frederick Dunhill (1877–1946): Gavotte G Major
- Béla Bartók (1881–1945): Quasi adagio
- Carl Orff (1895–1982): Piano Study No. 6
- Friedrich Zehm (1923–2007): Melody
- Hans-Günter Heumann (*1955): Tarantella D minor
Three four-handed Bonus pieces:
- Anton Diabelli (1781–1858): Melodious Exercise, Op. 149/4
- Franz Schubert (1797–1828): Ländler, D 366/3
- Mátyás Seiber (1905–1960): Tango
Mini Maestro 2:
- John Blow (1649–1708): Air
- Johann Krieger (1651–1735): Minuet A minor
- Christian Petzold (1677–1733): Minuet G major, BWV Anh. 114
- Minuet G minor, BWV Anh. 115
- Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750): Aria D minor, BWV 515
- Praeludium C major, BWV 939
- Georg Friedrich Händel (1685–1759): Gavotte C Major
- Passepied C major, HWV 559
- Joseph Haydn (1732–1809): German Dance D major, Hob. IX:22/2
- Minuet F major, Hob. IX:8/12
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791): Minuet F major, KV 2
- Allegro B-flat major, KV 3
- Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827): German Dance C major, WoO 8/1
- Ecossaise G major, WoO 23
- Anton Diabelli (1781–1858): Tempo di Menuetto, Op. 125/8
- Vivace, Op. 125/7
- Friedrich Kuhlau (1786–1832): Two Scottish Dances, No. 2
- No. 5
- Carl Maria von Weber (1786–1826): Allemande, Op. 4/2
- Maria Szymanowska (1789–1831): Mazurka
- Ignaz Moscheles (1794–1870): Scherzo, Op. 55/3
- Robert Schumann (1810–1856): Little Piece, Op. 68/5
- Félix Le Couppey (1811–1887): Arabian Air
- Cornelius Gurlitt (1820–1901): Piano Piece, Op. 179/22
- Gavotte, Op. 210/9
- Carl Reinecke (1824–1910): Song, Serenade 1, Op. 183
- Eduard Horák (1838–1893): Scherzino
- Oskar Bolck (1839–1888): Sonatine C major, Op. 30/4: 1. Allegro
- 2. Andante
- 3. Rondino: Vivace
- Frederick Scotson Clark (1840–1883): Tarantella
- Peter Iljitsch Tschaikowsky (1840–1893): The Sick Doll, Op. 39/6
- Alexander Gretchaninoff (1864–1956): A Little Dance, Op. 98/10
- After the Ball, Op. 98/13
- Samuil Maikapar (1867–1938): Waltz, Op. 28/5
- Béla Bartók (1881–1945): Play
- Carl Orff (1895–1982): Piano Study No. 20
- John Kember (*1935): Simply Blue
- Loris Tjeknavorian (*1937): Lively Conversation
- George Nevada (1939–2014): When Paris Dreams
- Jürgen Moser (*1949): Feelin’ Groovy
- Rainer Mohrs (*1953): A Song of Hope
- Hans-Günter Heumann (*1955): Cool Jazz Cats
- Magic Piano
- Rainbow Fairy
- Modern Sonatina: 1 À la Clementi
- 2 Pop Ballad
- 3 Boogie-Woogie
Three four-handed Bonus pieces:
- Anton Diabelli (1781–1858): Scherzo, Op. 149/6
- Franz Schubert (1797–1828): Ländler, D 366/5
- Mike Schoenmehl (*1957): Fips in the Park
Mini Maestro 3:
- Johann Pachelbel (1653–1706): Fuga C major
- Johann Kaspar Ferdinand Fischer (ca. 1656–1746): Praeludium harpeggiato
- Henry Purcell (1659–1695): Hornpipe E minor, ZT 685
- François Couperin (1668–1733): Les coucous bénévoles / The Benevolent Cuckoos
- Georg Philipp Telemann (1681–1767): Gigue à l’Angloise G major
- Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750): Praeludium F major, BWV 927
- Praeludium C major, BWV 846
- Georg Friedrich Händel (1685–1759): Air Bb major, HWV 471
- Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach (1714–1788): Marche D major, BWV Anhang 122
- Joseph Haydn (1732–1809): German Dance C major, Hob. IX:12/4
- Daniel Gottlob Türk (1750–1813): Spinning Song
- Muzio Clementi (1752–1832): Sonatina C major, Op. 36/1: 1. Allegro
- 2. Andante
- 3. Vivace
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791): Minuet G major, KV 1e + f (Trio)
- Minuet F major, KV 5
- Ludwig van Beethoven (1770–1827): German Dance Eb major, WoO 13/9
- Bagatelle A minor, Op. 119/9
- Happy – Sad, WoO 54
- Franz Schubert (1797–1828): Waltz B minor, D 145/6
- Ecossaise G major, D 145/4
- Ländler Bb major, D 378/4
- Michail Iwanowitsch Glinka (1804–1857): Polka D minor
- Friedrich Burgmüller (1806–1874): Arabesque, Op. 100/2
- Soft Lament, Op. 100/16
- Ballad, Op. 100/15
- Robert Schumann (1810–1856): Wild Horseman, Op. 68/8
- First Loss, Op. 68/16
- Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849): Mazurka F major, Op. 68/3
- Louis Köhler (1820–1886): Chromatic Polka, Op. 300/160
- Peter Iljitsch Tschaikowsky (1840–1893): The New Doll, Op. 39/9
- Old French Song, Op. 39/16
- Edvard Grieg (1843–1907): Halling Norwegian Dance, Op. 47/4
- Alexander Gretchaninoff (1864–1956): The Little Show-Off, Op. 98/1
- An Old Romance, Op. 119/2
- Erik Satie (1866–1925): Gymnopédie No. 1
- Béla Bartók (1881–1945): Study for the Left Hand
- Children’s Dance
- Carl Orff (1895–1982): Piano Exercise No. 35
- George Nevada (1939–2014): Little Atlantic Rhapsody
- Jürgen Moser (*1949): New Orleans Blues
- Tim Richards (*1952): Tritone Blues
- Hans-Günter Heumann (*1955): Modern Waltz
- Rock Hurricane
- Prelude arpeggiated
- Cool Drinks
- Chopinette 1 Mazurka
- Chopinette 2 Waltz
Three four-handed bonus pieces
- Anton Diabelli (1781–1858): Hongroise, Op. 149/20
- Robert Schumann (1810–1856): The Happy Farmer
- Eduard Pütz (1911–2000): In a Funny Mood
A Balanced Repertoire?
The three books offer a very solid overview of the traditional pedagogic repertoire, with a mix of newer pieces bringing it up to date.
The chronological organisation of the pieces immediately reminds us of the importance of selecting music that suits the needs and taste of each individual student, rather than simply playing the next piece in the book; such an important point!
The early keyboard music and Baroque pieces, even from the first book, lack editorial dynamics and articulation. We have perhaps become too used to seeing exam boards presenting an easy-to-assess editorial interpretation; how refreshing that here the teacher and player can work on developing style and interpretation more creatively (and educationally), unencumbered by such intrusions!
In terms of more contemporary music, Heumann rather dominates, but his pieces here certainly introduce an enjoyable mix of pop, jazz and minimal music. I’m especially delighted to see the inclusion (in the second book) of the lovely Rainbow Fairy, a memorable miniature which first appeared in Heumann’s book Fantasy Piano, proving a popular favourite with my students.
Meanwhile, each of the books concludes with three ‘bonus’ duets; these are an attractive addition, and might serve to whet the appetite for more duet playing.
All of that said, I must note the strikingly conspicuous absence of music by female composers throughout the series, a pity given the wealth of great music that women past and present have contributed to the pedagogic repertoire.
There is also a Central European leaning to the music choices, with an overall bias towards abstract titles rather than more imaginative, child-friendly character pieces. Some might find this balance a little stodgy, and have preferred to find more light-hearted “fun” rewards in the mix.
In terms of the publications themselves, the three books are attractively presented, with friendly covers and notation within that is generously sized and spaced.
The music editing is good throughout, and the books are printed on cream paper for ease of reading.
Ample fingering (always so very helpful) is included throughout all three books, usefully nurturing good technique and supporting independent learning.
I cannot help feeling however that the presentation is just a little dull, and would have benefitted considerably had Schott commissioned and included illustrations throughout.
Similarly, I would have liked to see a short background comment introducing each piece; the context of a piece so often brings the music to life and stimulates the player’s engaged imagination.
All that said, Schott Music have not fallen into the trap of making grandiloquent marketing claims for Mini Maestro, and as well-stocked collections of supplementary repertoire and concert pieces, the series is handsome indeed.
These are books which deserve a close look, and are likely to enjoy enduring appeal.
+ A generous selection of tried-and-tested pedagogic music
+ Excellent editing, presentation, and helpful fingering
+ An interesting alternative to a Grade-dominated approach
– The presentation somewhat lacks visual imagination
– Background comments and recordings would be welcome
Mini Maestro offers an excellent selection of music suitable for players from elementary to late intermediate level, tastefully edited and presented; the series will be of interest to all teachers working with players at this level.
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