I Begin to Play Rybicki

Feliks Rybicki: I Begin to Play

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing educational piano music by Polish composers. Captivated by my new musical discoveries, I have continued to independently explore and review the music of Chopin’s land…

The piano educational music of Feliks Rybicki is one of the great treasures of the pedagogic repertoire, and deserves to be known by teachers and students everywhere. Let me tell you more…

The Music

Feliks Rybicki was a pianist, composer and conductor who was born in Warsaw in 1899, and died there in 1978. He composed primarily vocal works, as well as chamber and piano music including many educational works.

These include the trilogy of childrens’ piano books, I Begin to Play for elementary players (the subject of the tutorial video below), and the intermediate books I Am Already Playing and wonderfully titled I Can Play Everything.

I Begin To Play Op.20 features 26 pieces set out in progressive order, making it a book a child can follow through from front to back cover if they wish.

The collection begins with very easy beginner pieces written in a C major five-note position, while those towards the end of the book are well into the Elementary level, post UK Grade 1.

I Begin To Play is not a method book; rather, this is a music collection which could be used alongside a method, or as a set of pieces that can be dipped into over the period of a year or two.

The subsequent two books are suitable for late elementary to intermediate students. I Am Already Playing Op.21 delivers a further 18 pieces, and there are 14 more in I Can Play Everything Op.22.

A distinctive strength of the pieces in all three of these books is that, while Rybicki succeeded in composing attractive, memorable, imaginative and characterful music, his pieces are also wonderfully crafted, consummately written to incorporate solid pedagogy and facilitate a child’s technical as well as their musical development. 

The Publication

I Begin To Play arrives in a delightful cover, printed on luxury matt card (as do the other books):

Within we find the 32-page book printed on pale ivory paper, and beautifully presented with black and white line drawings throughout, which I can imagine younger children will enjoy colouring in. As with the cover, the illustrations are by PWM Edition’s brilliant regular artist Joanna Rusinek.

The notation is well spaced, and the staves are a fairly standard size, rather than larger notation.

A generous amount of fingering is included, which is helpful given that from early in the collection the hands are moving beyond a five-note shape.

Overall this is a robust and gorgeously presented volume, and I can only imagine children and teachers alike taking great delight in it.

Tutorial Videos

In this video, I introduce the book as a whole before zooming in on some of my favourites from the collection, giving pedagogy tips and demonstrating these wonderful pieces…

As part of PWM Edition’s Music from Chopin’s Land project, here is the tutorial video for the book, featuring Hubert Rutkowski. English can be activated using the CC button:

And here is Hubert Rutkowski’s video looking at I Can Play Everything for Piano:

Closing Thoughts

The educational composers of the early to mid twentieth century bequeathed a veritable treasure trove of seminal pedagogic repertoire, and these collections of music by Feliks Rybicki are surely among the finest gems of all.

Melodically and imaginatively, they are easily the equal of Kabalevsky’s best, while they equally offer the same focus on sound production, articulation and musical detail as that other great contemporary, Bartók. And I can see a case for suggesting that Rybicki’ educational music surpasses both these masters.

Rybicki’s Op.20-22 collections comprise an unmissable and essential masterpiece.

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based in Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.