Vanessa Benelli Mosell: Casta Diva

Recording of the Month

I first heard the 33-year-old Italian pianist Vanessa Benelli Mosell a few years back when she released an impressive disc of Debussy on the Decca label. Exploring her catalogue I soon found myself considering her one of the most artistically adventurous and astute artists of her generation.

Her latest disc, Casta Diva, more than confirms that view, and is quite simply one of the most dazzling piano recordings I’ve heard in a while.

So it’s a very easy choice for the first Recording of the Month in 2021…

Continue reading Vanessa Benelli Mosell: Casta Diva

Last Post “…from Chopin’s Land”

Sheet Music Review

Music from Chopin’s Land.
In 2020 I was commissioned to record five short films showcasing piano music from PWM Edition. Captivated by the music, I asked to see a wider selection. This series was written independently to introduce this wonderful Polish repertoire to a wider audience…

At the start of this series I gave an account of my surprise 2020 visit to Poland, and in subsequent articles I have discussed some of the best piano music I discovered on my trip, together with the tutorial films that I and a team of international colleagues created to showcase this music to the piano teaching community worldwide.

As the series draws to a close, I would like to share a couple more books that were featured in the PWM promotion, as well as a series of three special collections which actually bear the project name, Music from Chopin’s Land.

And then the punchline! I will end this final post in the series with a short reflection on the lasting lessons I have learnt about piano pedagogy following on from my visit to Chopin’s land…

So, firstly, a few extra reviews and videos for your interest and enjoyment…

Continue reading Last Post “…from Chopin’s Land”

Zbigniew Bargielski: A Flea Market

Music from Chopin’s Land.
In 2020 I was commissioned to record five short films showcasing piano music from PWM Edition. Captivated by the music, I asked to see a wider selection. This series was written independently to introduce this wonderful Polish repertoire to a wider audience…

Polish composer Zbigniew Bargielski was born in 1937 in Łomża and initially trained in law, until switching his focus to more serious music studies in his twenties. After his years at the State Higher School of Music in Warsaw and then Katowice, he took composition classes with the great Nadia Boulanger in Paris and then at the Hochschule für Musik in Graz.

Bargielski has enjoyed a long and successful career as a composer, with a prolific body of chamber and solo works to his name. He has also distinguished himself as a teacher (lecturing in composition at the Academies of Music in Kraków and Bydgoszcz) and music journalist.

PWM have collected a range of his quirky and highly varied piano pieces in three volumes called A Flea Market, and in this review I will be particularly looking at the first of these, which brings together a range of works suitable for late intermediate to early advanced students.

Featured in the Music from Chopin’s Land international promotional project, this article will include tutorials from French pianist Ernestine Bluteau and recordings of some of the highlights from this unique and rather wonderful collection…

Continue reading Zbigniew Bargielski: A Flea Market

Everything We Play

Your Stories
guest post by Amy Boyes

I am delighted to share this reflective and uplifting vignette by Canadian pianist and educator Amy Boyes.

“Everything We Play” is a personal essay written from the perspective of an exhausted mother and music teacher. Wishing for some uninterrupted practice time to play something emotionally satisfying, the author is reminded by her young daughter that all music-making is beautiful…

Continue reading Everything We Play

Exploring Janina Garścia’s Educational Music

Music from Chopin’s Land.
In 2020 I was commissioned to record five short films showcasing piano music from PWM Edition. Captivated by the music, I asked to see a wider selection. This series was written independently to introduce this wonderful Polish repertoire to a wider audience…

Janina Garścia (1920-2004) was one of Poland’s great piano educators. In addition to teaching in primary schools for close to 50 years, she composed around 700 pieces for younger players, mostly for piano.

Much of her best educational piano music remains in print from PWM Edition, and in this review I will focus on three collections which were selected to feature in the recent Music from Chopin’s Land promotion, together with tutorial and demonstration videos filmed as part of that project.

The three collections I’ll look at here are:

  1. Musical Pictures for the Youngest
  2. Teasers for piano
  3. Little Sonatinas for piano
Continue reading Exploring Janina Garścia’s Educational Music

Piano Scale Mnemonics

Sheet Music Review

Recommending a no-fuss scale book used to be a simple matter: just get a copy of the ABRSM Grade 5 book as was, and all the keys were there, clearly presented in order.

But following ABRSM’s 2021 piano scales revision this is no longer the case, their new graded scale books offering a shockingly slight smattering of just a few scales, as limiting as they are limited.

Good teachers everywhere are inevitably (if sadly) left looking for more helpful alternatives, and thankfully a number of well-known writers are presently forming an orderly queue to occupy the educational high ground that the exam board have so perplexingly ceded.

Paul Harris’s revised Improve Your Scales books look to a composite of all the exam boards for common sense, while Karen Marshall’s Piano Trainer series from Faber Music will soon add an all-purpose scales book specially devised to fill the gap. I will be reviewing both these resources in the coming months.

Meanwhile, here’s a new book from Catherine McMillan, whose unique take on learning scales will particularly appeal to children, and whose stunningly presented Piano Scale Mnemonics book is now a studio essential.

Continue reading Piano Scale Mnemonics

Is this the definitive KV 331?

Sheet Music Review

Published in 1784, Mozart’s Sonata in A major, with its famous Rondo Alla Turca finale, is one of the most popular works in the entire classical piano repertoire.

A couple of years ago, a newly resurfaced section of the lost autograph prompted Bärenreiter to issue an up-to-date Urtext edition of this celebrated piece, which appeared as edition BA 9186.

Now, another source has surfaced with the appearance of a previously unknown contemporaneous copy of the complete manuscript, which has prompted the esteemed publisher to update their urtext edition again.

The newly discovered source by a professional Viennese copyist sheds new light on the numerous discrepancies between autographs and first editions of many Mozart sonatas. It supports the assumption that the revision of the text for the first edition resulted from the change of target group from Mozart’s inner circle to an audience of connoisseurs and amateurs, but that this did not render the original autograph text obsolete; rather, both versions of the sonata represent historical realities.

According to the publishers,

“To achieve a truly faithful scholarly-critical performance edition of Mozart’s sonata, the editor, Mario Aschauer, has set new editorial standards and offers the most innovative methodological approach of our time by presenting the musical texts of the autograph and the original print separately without merging the sources editorially to a new text. On the basis of the newly discovered source, it is possible for the first time to reconstruct the autograph of this famous sonata and offer it to the performer as a self-contained playable version.”

Exciting stuff, so let’s take a closer look!

Continue reading Is this the definitive KV 331?

Kurt Schwertsik: Collected Piano Works

Sheet Music Review

When Austrian composer Kurt Schwertsik’s Albumblätter: collected piano works landed on my desk in 2018, I was intrigued, but like too many books it ended up buried in my review backlog.

Fast forward to Summer 2020, and the newly released recording of this music by pianist Aya Klebahn caught my attention on Apple Music.

Second time lucky, I was quickly hooked…

Publishers Boosey & Hawkes tell us:

“Kurt Schwertsik’s music is characterised by ever-changing moods and is idiosyncratic with a refreshing lightness of touch. Though a pupil of Stockhausen, the composer rejected serialism in favour of new forms of tonality. His search for an ‘alternative’ modern culture draws inspiration from Satie and the Dada movement.”

Intrigued? A little belatedly, here is the Pianodao review…

Continue reading Kurt Schwertsik: Collected Piano Works

Howard Smith: Note for Note

Building a Library

Any self-published autobiography could too quickly be written off as a vanity project; Howard Smith’s newly available Note for Note offers a strong rebuttal of any such inclination, delivering a rich banquet that could both inspire the “returning adults” of the amateur piano world and inform those of us who teach them.

We are told at the start of the book that,

“The events narrated in this book took place between Friday, February 14, 2014 and New Year’s Day 2018”.

With equal precision, Smith lays out the story of his piano journey, self-described as “climbing onto an escalator”, and in so doing achieves much more than a simple memoir. As we accompany the author on his journey, we learn a mix of theory and practice at his side, set in the context of his ‘late returning adult’ story.

Before I read the book, its author self-effacingly warned me,

“The text is as much a moral tale of how not to go about learning to play the piano, as it is a set of pointers to a more enlightened and effective approach.”

Having now read Smith’s “musical fable” from cover to cover, here are my personal thoughts on his success, together with some suggestions as to why I think the book is a truly essential read…

Continue reading Howard Smith: Note for Note

Active Repertoire: The 2021 Challenge

Active Repertoire Project

For piano players, like everyone else, 2020 has been a huge struggle.

We have needed to re-evaluate our goals and quickly change many of our plans. But in the midst of the turmoil, many of us have found a renewed enthusiasm for piano playing, while many more have returned to the piano or taken up playing for the first time.

We enter 2021 with growing numbers of pianists and teachers embracing a fresh direction and revitalised piano goals.

Whether disenchanted with a dull exam-driven formula or eager to disentangle from over-prescriptive methodology, many are now hungry for a more inspired musical approach.

We want to embrace a more motivated, positive version of ourselves at the piano!

Thankfully, there is an answer…

Continue reading Active Repertoire: The 2021 Challenge

Herbert Howells: Piano Music

Recording of the Month

The last months of any year always include several notable CD releases, and 2020 has been no exception. But for this month’s choice recording I am again eschewing the mainstream for something a little different, but truly exceptional and revelatory…

Herbert Howells  (1892-1983) was an English composer, organist and teacher who is chiefly remembered for his wondrous contribution to the Anglican choral tradition. Alongside these activities, he wrote a significant body of solo piano music, much of it unpublished, undiscovered and unloved until now.

Matthew Schellhorn is a leading performer who regularly appears at major venues and festivals throughout the UK, has recorded numerous critically acclaimed albums and given over a hundred premieres of new works, including several solo and chamber pieces he has himself commissioned.

Having previously performed music from Howells’ modest published output for the piano, Schellhorn was fascinated when presented with manuscripts of the composer’s unpublished music, and so began a journey of discovery that has led to the release of the first of two albums of this hitherto unknown music, brought to us on the Naxos label.


The alchemy between composer and pianist is tangible in these astonishing recordings, every work seemingly a masterpiece.

Here then is the Pianodao review…

Continue reading Herbert Howells: Piano Music

Sam Wedgwood’s ‘Next Level’

Sheet Music Review

Sam is the latest member of the Wedgwood clan to be making a big name for himself as a composer of well-crafted and catchy piano pieces suitable for intermediate students.

Following the popularity of the two Sam Wedgwood’s Project books from EVC Music, the publisher’s latest release is his new collection of solo and duet pieces, Next Level.

Here’s the Pianodao review…

Continue reading Sam Wedgwood’s ‘Next Level’

Alexis Ffrench: The Sheet Music Collection

Sheet Music Review

Chances are readers will have encountered the music of Alexis Ffrench; his albums Evolution and Dreamland have both topped the classical charts making him the UK’s biggest selling pianist of 2020, and his music has amassed over 200 million streams online.

Now, in conjunction with Universal Music and SONY, Hal Leonard bring us the official music book of Ffrench’s biggest piano hits to date, Alexis Ffrench: The Sheet Music Collection.

Here’s the Pianodao review….

Continue reading Alexis Ffrench: The Sheet Music Collection

Sonny Chua’s ‘Cool Keys’

Sheet Music Review

“Sonny Chua was an Australian composer, educator and pianist, known for his characterful and energetic musical style, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Today, on what would have been his 53rd birthday, we are honoured to announced that we will be publishing his ‘Cool Keys’ books for solo piano later this month.”

With these words Faber Music last month announced the imminent arrival of Cool Keys, two books of pieces suitable for Elementary and Intermediate players respectively, while also drawing attention to the sad circumstances of their publication.

Happily, the books offer a superb testament to the talent and imagination of Chua: one which will undoubtedly be welcomed warmly by those who knew him, while introducing his best educational music to a wider global audience.

So let’s take a closer look at these very special publications, which are now available to purchase…

Continue reading Sonny Chua’s ‘Cool Keys’

June Armstrong’s ‘Dreams and Dragons’

Sheet Music Review

June Armstrong continues to consolidate her status as one of our most interesting, characterful and imaginative composers. Her latest publication, Dreams and Dragons, is suitable for early advanced players around UK Grade 6 level and has just arrived…

For a recap of June’s previous publications, check out these reviews from the growing Pianodao archive:

The new book is subtitled Twelve Reveries for Piano and is once again published by her own Pianissimo Publishing business. Let’s jump into Armstrong’s latest magical creation…

Continue reading June Armstrong’s ‘Dreams and Dragons’

Wojciech Kilar: Film Music for Piano

Music from Chopin’s Land.
In 2020 I was commissioned to record five short films showcasing piano music from PWM Edition. Captivated by the music, I asked to see a wider selection. This series was written independently to introduce this wonderful Polish repertoire to a wider audience…

Wojciech Kilar (1932-2012) was surely the best known and most respected Polish movie composer, his music not only enriching the films of Polish and international directors but in many cases also finding a second life in the concert hall.

To celebrate this popular music, PWM have produced two books of accessible piano transcriptions arranged by Michał Jakub Papara…

Continue reading Wojciech Kilar: Film Music for Piano

250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven

Sheet Music Review

Just in time for the 250th anniversary of the birth Beethoven (1770-1827), Editions Musica Ferrum have published the tenth and final volume in their series 250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven, surely one of the most ambitious musical projects of recent years.

In this article I will offer an overview and brief review of the ten volumes before including a short interview with Musica Ferrum founder Nikolas Sideris…

Continue reading 250 Piano Pieces for Beethoven

Mindfulness in Sound

Building a Library

Mark Tanner’s little book Mindfulness in Music, which I reviewed here, is one of those super-quotable books that has proven not just a wonderful read from cover to cover, but also great for dipping into for inspiration whenever the urge arises.

Now Tanner returns with another book in Leaping Hare Press’s superb series of hardback mindfulness books, Mindfulness in Sound, in which he invites us to Tune in to the world around us.

While this book isn’t directly about music the subject inevitably crops up, and this is another lovely book which I’m sure many Pianodao readers will enjoy immensely…

Continue reading Mindfulness in Sound

Happy Birthday Schott Music!

Sheet Music Review

Schott Music have celebrated their 250th Anniversary Year in style, with a number of special publications to commemorate their history.

I have already reviewed the brilliant Joy of Music collection for piano (and you can read my review here) and I’m equally excited about Happy Birthday Schott Music, a new collection of 10 ‘piano-bar’ arrangements of well-known Schott melodies by the indefatigable Carsten Gerlitz.


Gerlitz’s arrangements for piano and choral music have been published in more than 250 books, including dozens in Schott Music’s Schott Piano Lounge series, which this collection joins…

Continue reading Happy Birthday Schott Music!

Schott’s ‘Joy of Music’

Sheet Music Review

Schott Music is one of the world’s oldest and most revered music publishers, with a back catalogue that includes first editions of some of the greatest compositions in the history of Western Music.

Founded in 1770 by Bernhard Schott in Mainz, the distinguished publishing house celebrates its 250th anniversary in 2020, and Pianodao joins the music-loving community in congratulating them on this brilliant milestone.

Schott have themselves released a few new publications in which they celebrate their heritage, two of which I am now reviewing. Carsten Gerlitz’s Happy Birthday Schott Music will be reviewed separately, and in this article I will be looking at The Joy of Music: Discoveries from the Schott Archives, a collection of virtuoso and entertaining pieces of piano music for advanced players.

As Schott explain:

“To mark this anniversary, the Schott publishing house has dug up and reedited treasures from its historical publishing archives.”

Let’s lift the lid and see what’s inside this treasure chest….

Continue reading Schott’s ‘Joy of Music’