Playing like the Winter Sun

The Fermata Series

Those looking to “catch some rays” may head for an exotic tropical beach, but as I drove an early morning errand a few days ago I was struck by the purity of the winter sun blazing brightly, but low, on the horizon.

The fact that in winter months the sun is lower in the sky doesn’t change its essential nature or dim its brightness, even though cloud cover might. On a clear morning, the low angle of the sun only makes it seem brighter.

Blinding, even.

The low winter sun is just as virtuosic as the blazing beast of the equator. The difference of course, is the angle of view, the more modest apex, the changed attitude towards altitude.

Piano Journey

Observing this puts me in mind of how our attitude similarly determines our view of the piano repertoire.

Some devote their piano journey to the pursuit of altitude, learning ever-harder pieces in their ascent to virtuoso prowess.

Others are more content to play “for pleasure”, perhaps neither striving for the same heights, nor ignoring them. They simply enjoy a different viewpoint.

Those who devote their lives to playing the most difficult repertoire may end up doing so with great difficulty.

Better, I believe, to devote ourselves to playing the most beautiful music, and playing it with great beauty.

As the great writer Albert Camus once wrote,

“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.”

Albert Camus

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What Christmas Piano Music Books, 2019..?

Sheet Music Review

The Christmas season is accompanied by a uniquely popular and significant body of music spanning multiple genres, and it’s no wonder that there are so many varied piano collections to choose from, whatever your level.

In this mega-review, I’ll be surveying the collections which have especially caught my eye as we enter the festive season in 2019…

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The Easy Piano Series: Christmas

Sheet Music Review

Faber Music’s ‘Easy Piano Series’ has steadily been establishing itself as one of the brightest jewels in the publisher’s sparkling catalogue of educational piano music. New for 2019, this collection of seasonal favourites sets out to maintain the high standards of the series…

Let’s take a quick peek inside…

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Andrey Gugnin plays Shostakovich

Recording of the Month

Though perhaps not the best-known of his piano works, Shostakovich’s solo music for the instrument surely ranks among the best of the twentieth century.

Now, in his newly released Hyperion debut, Russian pianist Andrey Gugnin presents an all-Shostakovich programme which showcases both the quality and variety of this repertoire…

Make no mistake: this is a stunning album, and even in a month crowded with new releases from major artists, I found it an easy choice for inclusion in the Recording of the Month series…

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June Armstrong’s “Alphabet”

Sheet Music Review by Karen Marshall

Many Pianodao readers will already be familiar with the wonderful, creative and pedagogically rich compositions by June Armstrong.

Andrew’s previous reviews on her work can be found here:

Having had much success on examination syllabuses including with Dusty Blue from Paint Box (set for LCM Grade 1 and ABRSM Grade 2), Unicorn from Stars (ABRSM Grade 3) and Sails from Stars (LCM Grade 4), June has just celebrated having sold over 5000 books to date.

Her latest book reviewed here, Alphabet, is her 16th publication.

This new collection is for Elementary Piano, and I would say in terms of the UK Grades it is Pre-Grade 1 to Grade 1. June herself suggests beginner to Pre-Grade 1, although I would clarify this after trying it with my own students by saying the book is best accessed at the end of a first Primer book.  

A level of reading and co-ordination is required to truly get the most out of this lovely collection. 

Continue reading June Armstrong’s “Alphabet”

Peaceful Christmas Piano Solos

Sheet Music Review

Peaceful Christmas Piano Solos from Hal Leonard offers a collection of 30 seasonal pieces arranged for solo piano.

Stick with me to find out what’s included…

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Jazz on a Winter’s Night

Sheet Music Review

Jazz music and Christmas have a beautifully nostalgic association for many, and it’s no surprise that jazz pianist Nikki Iles’ Jazz on a Winter’s Night has been such a huge success since its 2009 publication.

Jazz on a Winter’s Night proved to be a milestone publication that spawned three outstanding sequels in Jazz in Springtime, Jazz on a Summer’s Day and Jazz in Autumn, each including a selection of seasonally themed jazz standards and originals composed by Nikki herself.

I was thrilled to recently notice that Oxford University Press have now brought out a second collection of Christmas classics arranged by Nikki in a range of jazz styles that once again pay homage to legendary jazz musicians.

In this review I will recap what makes the original book such a classic must-have for every advanced pianist before taking a closer look at its excellent new sequel…

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Christmas Carols with a Classical Flair

Sheet Music Review

Phillip Keveren has established a formidable reputation as an outstanding arranger with his Phillip Keveren Series, numbering nearly 100 titles published worldwide by Hal Leonard.

Ranging from Gospel music, hymns and worship songs to contemporary popular artists such as Coldplay, Queen and Billy Joel, and with plenty of music from films and stage thrown in, these beautifully presented “Piano Solo” collections offer arrangements suitable for the late intermediate player, while there’s also a selection of “Easy Piano” titles aimed at elementary players.

The Phillip Keveren Series already includes several Seasonal titles, such as A Celtic Christmas, Yuletide Jazz, and for “easy piano”, Santa Swings.

For 2019, Keveren brings us another seasonal newcomer to the series, Christmas Carols with a Classical Flair, so let’s see whether he has again struck gold…

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Your FREE Christmas Downloads!

Great News!

Karen Marshall and David Blackwell have created some superb, FREE carol arrangements and Christmas lesson resources to accompany Get Set! Piano Christmas Crackers, which publisher Collins Music has generously agreed to host here on Pianodao!

Some of these resources appeared here in 2018, when Get Set! Piano Christmas Crackers was also published, while others are brand new for 2019…

Visit the Downloads Page here!

The Maze of Methods…

Here’s a fabulous opportunity for teachers to come and explore some of the many great piano methods currently available and in wide circulation…

EPTA UK have organised a special event at which some of the world’s leading method book writers and publishers will present an overview of the most popular books on the market, answering the questions you may have.

Hosted at the Schott Music London store, the event is FREE, but you will need to reserve a place using the link below.

I’ll be there too, chairing discussion and introducing the day, so I look forward to seeing you there if you can make it!

Full information in the poster below…

Continue reading The Maze of Methods…