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.
London College of Music’s suite of LCM Diplomas have just been revised for 2019, with certification beginning this Spring, and with a crossover during which candidates can continue to use the 2011 syllabus until the end of 2019.
Alongside the Diploma syllabus revision, a new anthology of solo piano repertoire has been published, called In Concert 2. This book is the sequel to last year’s In Concert, which I enthusiastically reviewed here.
In this review I will first consider the syllabus changes, link to the full syllabus for those interested, and then offer a more detailed review of In Concert 2.
The internationally acclaimed concert pianist Alice Sara Ott recently issued a heartfelt and brave statement concerning her health and recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, touching on the impact this has already had on her life, and on her hopes for her career.
Alice is without question one of the leading pianists of her generation.
Her recordings for Deutsche Grammophon have been consistently excellent and innovative; as an independently-minded creative artist she has already made a huge mark, even though she only recently turned 30.
Launching my Recording of the Month feature on Pianodao last autumn, her outstanding “Nightfall” disc of Debussy, Satie and Ravel was my immediate choice for the inaugural article, which you can read here (and please do).
For this week’s Sunday Sounds, I’ve picked the enchanting opening track from that album, courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon‘s YouTube channel:
Sunday Sounds showcases great keyboard music featuring players past and present, from classic recordings to great new music discoveries.
Steve Luck is a piano teacher from Newcastle Upon Tyne. This guest post originally appeared as a forum post within the Piano Network UK group, the leading Facebook community of piano players, teachers and enthusiasts living in the United Kingdom.
Steve’s post includes such useful information, aimed primarily at piano parents and students, that he has agreed to me giving it a public platform here on the Pianodao site, for which I am grateful, as I am sure many readers will be!
A couple of years ago I reviewed Rosamund Conrad’s Delightfully Easy Duet Books along with several other duet publications (read the review here), concluding,
“I would highly recommend having a look at the two books – I don’t think you will be disappointed!”
At the time I also received a copy of Rosa’s beginner piano book Fun Games and Party Pieces, which I was equally impressed with but didn’t manage to review. Now however, Rosa has brought out a “Second Edition” of Fun Games and Party Pieces, including 50% extra, new material!
It’s fair to say that in the last three years or so I have received more sheet music by Bartók for review than any other composer, the renaissance of interest in publishing his works no doubt a result of the fact that they are no longer in copyright. Bartók is without doubt one of my very favourite composers, so in my book, this commitment to producing excellent new editions of his music is a great thing.
Latest to arrive, Bärenreiter’s Bartók: Easy Piano Pieces and Dances, which brings together miscellaneous pieces of easy to moderate difficulty (including many familiar favourites), is ideal for teaching purposes.
The Easy Piano Pieces and Dances series is one of the many highlights in the Bärenreiter catalogue, with nearly a couple of dozen great composers already given dedicated volumes suitable for the intermediate pianist. I have already given glowing reviews to the collections dedicated to Debussy (read the review) and Martinů (read the review here).
So let’s find out how the new Bartók volume compares …
It’s time to relaunch this regular feature on Pianodao, and what better way to do it than to share the recent piano improvisations of my good friend Simon Reich, an award-winning composer who will be known to regular readers for his frequent guest posts on Pianodao, and in particular for their wonderfully encouraging tone.
It’s a reflection on this consummate musician’s gift that his solo improvisations are every bit as warm and encouraging as his words. I’ve had a listen to the latest tracks he has shared on SoundCloud, and compiled this playlist of a few favourites.
Many of these pieces showcase Simon’s studio nous, with gorgeous electronic treatments and delay effects beautifully enhancing his music. Enjoy!
Please note: “Bernice” is not the student’s real name. However, her story is told here with permission, and with my gratitude.
Bernice is a 76-year-old learner who took up the piano about 5 years ago. She has made steady progress, is now early intermediate level, and particularly enjoys playing traditional classical favourites.
Bernice’s Wrist Problem
Bernice has recently developed some physical problems in her wrist area. On the right wrist, she has a large ganglion close to the base of her thumb, which cases mild discomfort. The surgeon she has consulted is going to remove this soon.
On the left wrist she has a more chronic problem. Here there is a ganglion just below the fifth finger, not noticeable to the eye, and a scan has revealed that it is pressing against a nerve. There is possibly also minor swelling in the tendon. The medical specialist cannot operate, but has suggested that with care and anti-inflammatories the problem may dissipate.
The mention of tendons might be enough to convince some that piano playing should be avoided altogether. It is natural that we teachers don’t want our students to experience pain, and most of us will be aware of the real danger that tendonitis presents to pianists.
However, the medical advice here is that it is fine for Bernice to continue playing the piano, provided she is careful and exercises moderation. The hospital specialist has pointed out that such problems, as well as arthritis, might become an ongoing issue, but that these need not stop her from pursing her love for music (which is real and important to her).
Happily then, we can assume that Bernice’s medical problems are essential “minor” at present. But this doesn’t diminish the discomfort she reported when coming to her lesson, nor her fear that she might not be able to continue playing.
Now the series has grown to include Classical, and a fourth book snappily called Pop is scheduled to follow later in the year.
In my previous review I noted:
“There is always room on the music shelf for easy piano arrangements of well-known and popular songs – players of all ages naturally find it encouraging and enjoyable to tackle tunes that are familiar to them, their family and friends.”
The Classical book in the series follows a similar philosophy, offering 16 pieces with an emphasis on simplified arrangements of some of the best-loved melodies of all time, and with a few original versions of easy pieces thrown in for good measure.