Andrew Eales is a pianist, writer and teacher based in Milton Keynes UK, where he runs Keyquest Music - his successful independent music education business, private teaching practice and creative outlet.
You’ve surely spotted the rise-and-rise in popularity of so-called ‘new classical’ music, as championed by Ludovico Einaudi, Max Richter, Yiruma and others.
Their music seems to travel from TV shows to school concerts, and from adult piano clubs to the studios where those of us who teach students of all ages are routinely asked to help them learn River Flows in You, The Heart Asks Pleasure First, Nuvole Bianche and more.
And why not? These are expressive, melodic and reflective pieces that seem to have struck the perfect chord in our otherwise often turbulent times.
How happy, then, to find a single collection that includes so many of the genre’s top titles in one tastefully presented bumper compendium!
Contemporary Piano Masters may just offer a one-stop-solution to your ‘new classical’ needs, bringing together 40 pieces from 20 of “the world’s leading piano composers”.
Hot off the press from Faber Music, and certainly not to be missed, the two books that make up the Teachers’ Choice Piano Collection have just appeared in partnership with EPTA UK, the European Piano Teachers’ Association.
Between them they include 58 pieces ranging in difficulty from Elementary/Grade 1 to Advanced/Grade 8, “selected by piano teachers for piano teachers”.
I must confess that when I first heard about these books a few months ago, my hopes for them were rather modest, but as soon as the finished collections arrived in the post I realised that they far exceeded my expectations. I think they are really wonderful!
Karen Marshall’s Piano Trainer Series for Faber Music, which includes The Foundation Pianist (with David Blackwell, reviewed here) and The Intermediate Pianist (with Heather Hammond, reviewed here), has reached its conclusion with the publication of The Advanced Pianist (Books 1 and 2, with Mark Tanner).
Taken as a whole, the complete series of seven books can be used as a core curriculum that can be interspersed with the eight grades of the UK examination boards, or used standalone by those not interested in taking exams.
In this review I will firstly take a look at The Advanced Pianist before drawing a few conclusions about the Piano Trainer series as a whole…
Philip Martin has long been well-regarded as one of our finest concert pianists, recording artists, pedagogues and composers, writing music that combines the influences of the folk music he grew up with, the British classical scene he trained in, and a longstanding passion for American classical and jazz music.
Now, in what must be regarded as a landmark publication, a retrospective collection of his more jazzy solo piano pieces have been published by Elena Cobb’s EVC Music Publications Ltd.
New York Nights offers the more advanced player a veritable “greatest hits” of Martin’s more accessible pieces, and promises to be an essential purchase.
While the best composers often write brilliant music in response to a commission or request, the creative impetus for composing will often arise from a specific moment of inspiration, musical or conceptual.
So it is with the latest scores from Nikolas Sideris, known to many not just for his own music, which includes Fairyland in Treble and Dusk of Day, Dawn of Night, but also for his Editions Musica Ferrum independent publishing house.
Due to a change in personal circumstance, Nikolas finds himself semi-moving from London to Amsterdam, and among other things this will mean that he will no longer be teaching his 18 students in one particular school. Having grown attached to them, Nikolas decided it a fitting gift to compose a piece dedicated to each of the students.
These personal gifts were no doubt enthusiastically welcomed by their dedicatees, but I think that they deserve a far wider appeal and use. Which brings us to “Personalities”, the two new solo piano collections containing these 18 pieces, now available from Musica Ferrum.
In addition to the embarrassment of riches already on offer at the Chetham’s International Summer School and Festival for Pianists (read all about it in my review here), organisers Kathryn Page and Murray McLachlan last year added a Piano Teacher Course to the menu.
Led in its first year by Margaret Murray McLeod, the course attracted some 35 teachers from around the world. This year Karen Marshall and Mark Tanner took the reins, and the organisers plan to involve different course leaders each year so that returning attendees can learn from a range of perspectives.
In the UK we have a rapidly growing number of well-regarded piano teacher training opportunities and courses (though sadly not a widely supported and accredited qualification), and the choice can be bewildering.
The availability of a credible training course with the benefits of a residential (rather than remote online) setting, held at such an ideal time in the calendar, and with such an impressive roster of world-class concert pianists on tap is certainly very appealing.
Could this be an obvious first choice for teachers looking for further training? As part of my visit to the Summer School, I was able to join the course for several sessions. Here’s what I found out…
The International Summer School and Festival for Pianists held each summer at the Chetham’s School of Music in Manchester UK is now in its 19th year, and has established itself as one of the major annual events in the piano calendar.
Incorporating a series of nightly public recitals as well as (this year) the sixth Manchester International Concerto Competition for Young Pianists, this extraordinary (if not exhausting!) event benefits from the stunning setting that is Chetham’sSchool of Music, which includes the new Stoller Hall, several recital and ensemble rooms, a huge fleet of pianos (the school’s impressive collection supplemented by additional pianos on loan from nearby Forsyth’s music store) and the enlarged premises opened in 2012.
The Summer School for Pianists provides the opportunity for players of all ages to have one-to-one lessons with the dozens of internationally respected pianists and pedagogues on site, who comprise a formidable faculty list that reads like a “who’s who” of the international piano scene.
Alongside these courses, there’s the recently-added Piano Teachers’ Course (led this year by Mark Tanner and Karen Marshall), which I’ve reviewed in more detail in a separate article here.
With more than 250 participants in each of the two weeks, the event combines several projects initiated and led by the inspiring and indefatigable husband-and-wife team of Murray McLachlan and Kathryn Page, both of whom are themselves hugely successful pianists, teachers and communicators.
I was delighted to receive an invitation from Murray and Kathryn to visit this uniquely all-encompassing event and see for myself how its strengths combine to add up to more than the sum of its parts, offering a fusion of inspiration, education and creativity for pianists and lovers of the piano of all ages and at all stages of their lives.
In this article I will explain more about how the course works, be a fly on the wall observing some lessons, talk to participants, enjoy the array of concerts, and offer my overall view of the week.
As the words boomed along the station platform, I realised straight away that they were directed at me. I turned, looked up the platform towards a burly man in an official-looking hi-vis jacket and sheepishly gave him the thumbs up.
I had been momentarily transfixed in a meditation on the nature of fear.
Looking down at the rails I realised how easy it would be (having first checked there were no trains on the horizon) to step down from the platform, hop across the tracks and explore the beautiful verge that faced me on the other side.
And yet I would never, ever actually do so.
A self-preservatory terror of the rails had been instilled into me decades ago by my mother. My guess is that most of the passengers waiting on the platform would feel something of the same fear.
When movie heroes leap onto the tracks, we regard it as derring-do, suitably convinced of the huge risks involved. Meanwhile we ignore the thought that ordinary Network Rail employees routinely mosey around the rail infrastructure on a daily basis without being vaporised on the job.
Most of us rarely question the fears or values that were instilled in us at a young age. But perhaps we should do.
Radiohead hardly need any introduction. Since forming in 1985, they have established themselves as one of the most unique and admired bands in the world, selling more than 30 million albums and regularly topping listener and critical polls.
Australian pianist and teacher Josh Cohen will perhaps be a new name to some readers however, although he has garnered an impressive following of some 70,000+ followers on YouTube, drawn to his improvised solo piano arrangements of popular songs by Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Sigur Rós and David Bowie.
Now, thanks to Faber Music, 11 of Cohen’s arrangements are being published (with the approval of Radiohead themselves) in a beautifully presented collection.
Here’s Cohen explaining in his own words the journey that brought us this publication: