8 Great Duet Books 2022

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

My review of 8 Great Piano Duet Books published back in 2016 has been a popular post with readers ever since, proving that there’s plenty of interest in piano duet books.

Since then I have reviewed a trickle of other duet books, but ground to a halt during the pandemic. Meanwhile, more duet books have been amassing in my review backlog, and in this new round up I’ve got my paws on another 8 Great Duet Books for 2022.

For ease, I will introduce them in approximate order of difficulty…

For Rosalie & Finn

Introducing this truly delightful collection of easy children’s duets, publishers Brietkopf & Hārtel tell us,

The pianistic challenges are consistently similar for both players, and Schattel must surely be commended for his musically diverse but uniformly appealing and inventive compositions.

As well as introducing a variety of styles, moods and piano figurations, the pieces offer much pedagogic insight and content to chew on. While remaining in five-note positions throughout all 20 pieces, they introduce a wide range of notation and include keys signatures that are more adventurous than might be expected, including B flat, A and F# majors.

As one would expect from this publisher, the book itself is a treasure, with soft matt covers, cream pages within, and superbly engraved music notation. Primo and Secondo are presented in full score format, the one part above the other, while MP3 recordings of all the pieces are also available on the publisher’s website here.

The book has become a sourcebook for ABRSM Initial Grade duet repertoire, with Racing Against Each Other featuring in their current syllabus; there are rich pickings here, however, with many hugely enjoyable pieces included.

For Rosalie & Finn will undoubtedly bring hours of enjoyable and musically rewarding learning to children everywhere!

It Takes Two To Tango

In my original 8 Great Piano Duet Books round up, I gave high praise to Nikolas Sideris’s Fairyland in Treble duet publication, and have subsequently also been impressed by his Dusk of Day, Dawn of Night for one piano, six hands (reviewed here).

Sideris is clearly committed to the ensemble playing form, and has recently published another book of easy duets, this time aimed at adult beginners:

The deftly-titled It Takes Two to Tango delivers a superb suite of pieces, and you can listen to all of them in this video recording, which incidentally features the composer on secondo part:

Sideris poignantly tells us,

It is perhaps thus not a surprise to find that the Primo parts are appropriate for a beginner pianist, while the Secondo parts are written for a more advanced student or teacher. They are printed side by side on facing pages.

Perfectly pitched for adult beginner lessons, and with music which (true to Sideris’s established form) is superbly inventive and full of character, this book can be very highly recommended indeed!

Crazy Crotchets and Quirky Quavers

Easily taking the prize for silliness in this selection, Crazy Crotchets and Quirky Quavers is the entertaining idea of Richard Smith, published by Camden Music under their “eye for ideas” imprint, previously distributed by Spartan Press but now available via Universal Edition/MDS.

Subtitled “fun, action piano duets…” the book includes six original pieces suitable for elementary players (the cover says “Beginner to Grade 3” and the composer is also an ABRSM examiner), each with a rather comical twist…

In For the Love of Two Oranges each player takes turns to play while holding an orange. Key Cleaning Rag offers a ragtime pastiche in which players take turns to wipe down the piano keys with a rag.

In Split Ends the players actually swap places without the musical flow being interrupted. In a similar vein, Standing Up, Reaching over, Sitting Down Waltz includes everything you would expect from the title.

There’s no doubting that Smith’s deliciously daft sense of humour will be infectious, and that players and audiences alike will warm to these stimulating performance pieces.

In common with Smith’s other music books in the “eye for ideas” series, Crazy Crotchets and Quirky Quavers benefits from an in-depth instructional introduction explaining exactly how each piece works, while also giving superb advice about duet playing in general.

The book itself is clearly and professionally presented, with clean music engraving that presents Primo and Secondo on facing pages, and complete with useful fingering suggestions. In short, this is a terrific publication!

Easy Pop Duets 2

Easy Pop Duets 2 is part of a growing series of books from Willis Music which began a few years ago with Easy Pop Duets, Easy Classical Duets and Easy Broadway Duets.

The book offers “8 Exciting Arrangements” of the following chart favourites, drawn from across several decades:

  • I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (The New Seekers)
  • Old Town Road (Lil Nas X ft. Billy Ray Cyrus)
  • We Will Rock You (Queen)
  • Butter (BTS)
  • I Will Always Love You (Whitney Houston)
  • Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell)
  • Love Yourself (Justin Bieber)
  • Baby Shark (Pinkfong)

The arrangements are by Willis Music stalwarts Naoko Ikeda, Glenda Austin, Eric Baumgartner and Carolyn Miller, all of whom can be relied upon for arrangements that are both musical and pedagogically informed. The level is stated as early to mid-intermediate (for UK readers this equates to Grades 3-4, although some parts might suit players around Grade 2).

The 48-page book is attractively presented, with white paper within and well-spaced notation as one would expect from this brilliant publisher. Primo and Secondo parts are presented on facing pages.

For aficionados off the first book, it should be noted that the new title does not include the audio playback features which accompanied the original title in the series. Some may also find the song titles from the first book in this series more appealing, and I can recommend the arrangements with the same high praise.

With that in mind, the purchase link provided below includes both books for your convenience:

Phillip Keveren: Classic Duets

Hal Leonard’s ever-growing Phillip Keveren Series is becoming established as a studio favourite here, and I have previously reviewed several titles.

Recent addition, Classic Duets offers “9 Timeless Favourites for One Piano, Four Hands”

The timeless classics are:

  • A Bicycle Built For Two (Daisy Bell)
  • Chopsticks
  • Do-Re-Mi
  • Heart and Soul
  • Lean on Me
  • Scarborough Fair / Canticle
  • Silly Love Songs
  • Tea for Two
  • Two for the Road

This is an entertaining, if eclectic selection, and I suspect that it will particularly appeal to those older players most intimately familiar with the originals.

According to Keveren,

The intermediate arrangements here (suitable for players at around UK Grade 4-5) are presented in full score, Primo printed above Secondo, and would equally suit more advanced players looking for light relief or sight-reading fun together at the piano.

Keveren is, of course, one of the most superb arrangers in the business; the musical quality of any of his publications is beyond doubt. In this instance though, I find the good humour in his writing particularly enjoyable. While some might be tempted to dismiss the title choices as kitsch, this superbly presented little volume quickly proves itself to be a blast.

Devonshire Sketches

Mike Cornick is well known both for his excellent (and not to be overlooked) jazz piano books and for his many piano duet and ensemble arrangements. I have reviewed several titles from his catalogue, to be found in the Pianodao Music Library.

Cornick’s latest is a lyrical suite for piano duet, about which he says,

These are truly charming pieces which delightfully evoke an old-fashioned, even bygone age of village life in a quiet corner of England; the composer’s descriptive aims perfectly summarise what to expect.

The suite begins with the amiable Country Walk, with gentle cross-barline syncopations, followed by Stoke Woods (which has previously appeared as a solo piano piece), a pastorale in 6/8 time. Harvest is a jovial tune with a two-in-a-bar lilt, while In a Country Churchyard is suitably reflective. The Village Inn completes the work in good humour, a jig marked with the instruction to play “robustly”…

Primo and Secondo are again printed on facing pages, with both parts being suitable for players at around UK Grade 5 level, or a pleasant divertissement for the more advanced player. That said, the secondo player misses out on much of the fun, being largely relegated to accompaniment vamps.

All in all though, this is a congenial and relaxed affair that is sure to bring pleasure to adult players in particular.

A Summer With Elise

Michael Proksch is another veteran of piano duet composition, his curiously named A Spaniard for Elise published by Breitkopf & Hārtel a few years ago already delivering a quirky collection that has proved popular.

A Summer with Elise arrives from the same publisher as a sequel delivering 33 brand new pieces in a sumptuous 112-cream-page volume:

Proksch tells us in his introduction,

Presumably Elise has rich parents. In any case, this whimsical introduction sets the tone for what proves to be an enjoyable caper, and with titles as intriguing as The Loneliness of Moles there’s certainly plenty here to spark the imagination!

Underpinning this delightful musical jaunt, there would seem to be a clear aim of introducing players to a wide range of musical styles and reference points. And to further whet the appetite, MP3 recordings of the whole collection are freely available on the publisher’s website. The scores meanwhile are printed as full score, Primo above Secondo.

Such a large collection could of course provide ample material to keep players occupied for more than one summer, and with both primo and secondo parts pitched at the late-intermediate to early-advanced level (UK Grade 4-6), this is a bumper book which, though not cheap, could give extended value. Warmly recommended.

Best of Piano Duets

Schott Music’s recent series of “Best of…” compilations, curated and arranged by Hans-Günter Heumann and featuring a mix of original pieces and fresh arrangements, has been making some waves over the last couple of years.

The series has now grown to include two duet books, the first of which I am including as my eighth choice here (the second book is also well worth a look, and I have included it in the purchase link for those interested).

The Best of Piano Duets 1 book offers a delectable introduction to some of the very best masterpieces of the early advanced duet repertoire. Thus the evergreen Berceuse from Fauré’s Dolly Suite amiably rubs shoulders with Les chevaux de bois from Bizet’s Jeux d’enfants, Schubert’s Marche militaire Op.51/1 and Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No.5.

Beyond these greats, we also find an enticing selection of pieces by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, Tchaikovsky and Satie, with the added value of a few less familiar pieces by composers ranging from Weber to Reger.

The book benefits from a classy presentation, with cream pages and well-spaced music notation. Primo and Secondo are presented on facing pages. Helpful fingering suggestions are included throughout, making this an excellent collection for enthusiastic duos to delve into without necessarily needing a teacher’s input.

In short this collection offers a wonderful, well-considered and cost-effective introduction to a very rich seem of duet repertoire, making it a great way to round off this round up. Highly recommended.

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Published by

Andrew Eales

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