Elena Cobb: Recital Piano Solos

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

Elena Cobb is without doubt one of the single most inspiring educators and committed visionaries that I have ever had the privilege of meeting.

A musical force of nature, she has made a global impact in music education through her Star Prize events at London’s Royal Albert Hall which attract young players from around the world, her festival and awards sponsorships, online networking (her Facebook community for Russian-speaking teachers has more than 10,000 members) and her music publishing.

Building her publishing business EVC Music from scratch, the last decade has seen Cobb supporting new music, in the process launching and expanding the careers of several excellent educational composers. It would be easy to overlook that Cobb is herself an outstanding composer.

Having recently signed to Hal Leonard as global distributors for EVC Music, her music is once again in the spotlight, and there’s never been a better time to remind readers of two excellent collections which showcase Cobb’s own, brilliant creative voice…

Recital Piano Solos book 1

The two Recital Piano Solos books are by now classics within the growing library of books published by EVC Music, and bring together pieces that in some cases were originally published as individual titles.

Recital Piano Solos Book 1 is a slim 12-page book including the following “slow pieces” for intermediate level players (around UK Grade 4-5), providing an opportunity for them to explore the more lyrical side of their playing:

  • Lavender Haze
  • Star Dust
  • Peony Pink
  • Babylon

We are told,

“In order to offer performers the best direction for their interpretation, the editors have given detailed instructions for pedalling, dynamics and articulation. Suggested fingering may be amended to suit the needs of the individual pianist, and metronome marking have been omitted, allowing the performer some freedom to select an appropriate tempo.”

And developing interpretation is certainly of the essence here: these pieces are very rich in expressive possibility. Indeed, it is the lush harmonies and expressive fluidity of tempo in Lavender Haze which has already established it as a favourite with my own students.

Happily, the other three pieces (which include the gentle jazz inflections of Star Dust, blues sensibilities of Peony Pink and evocatively moody Babylon) live up to the high standard set by the opening piece, making this a genuinely attractive collection.

Recital Piano Solos book 2

The second collection is described by the composer as“virtuoso pieces” suitable for advanced level, written in a Romantic style. According to Cobb:

“Filled with flamboyant octaves, cascading double notes and delicate trills, they offer young pianists a great opportunity to show off their skills on stage and during examinations.”

The four pieces in this second (20-page) collection, which variously appeared between 2014 and 2017, are titled:

  • Débutante Grande Valse
  • Arabia Étude-Tableau
  • Russian Bells Étude-Tableau
  • Peacock Grande Valse

I have heard these pieces performed in the Star Prize Concert at the Royal Albert Hall, and must say that they are truly dazzling.

Here again, Cobb’s ability to conjure memorable melody while also composing music which sounds “like a million dollars” is strikingly good, and though the Romantic aesthetic is certainly in evidence, there’s once again a contemporary vibe that makes these pieces immediately accessible to students and their audiences.

Closing Thoughts

Elena Cobb deserves the highest praise as an educational composer. Her piano music combines her deep-seated understanding of pianism and pedagogy with a wonderful ability to cast a magical spell on both players and listeners alike. This is music which will surely inspire practice and equally enthuse audiences!

As she continues in her passionate drive to promote the music of others, we must hope that Elena Cobb also continues to exercise her own wonderful, musical voice.

In the meantime, don’t miss these two great collections.

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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.