Beethoven’s Revised Für Elise

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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“It’s Für Elise, Jim, but not as we know it!”

Bärenreiter’s new urtext edition of Beethoven’s beloved Bagatelle is one of the most unexpectedly fascinating publications to arrive in a while, offering as it does a radically different version of the piece alongside the one we know so well.

Believed to have been composed between 1808-10, the autograph manuscript of Für Elise remained in private hands until 1865, at which point one Ludwig Nohl discovered it in the possession of a local piano teacher in Munich. Nohl published this version (we’ll call it “Version 1”) in 1867, and it’s the one we all play to this day. It’s really not bad.

How surprising to learn, then, that in 1822/3 Beethoven went back and revisited his earlier sketch, substantially revising it for publication within a planned (but unrealised) collection of 12 Bagatelles. Version 2.0.

Those sketches survive, and for Bärenreiter’s new edition Mario Aschauer presents not only the most authoritative text of Version 1, but also includes his fully performable completion of Version 2.

The review below includes Aschauer’s own recording of Version 2, so you can hear it for yourself and make up your own mind.

Be prepared for a bit of a shock, though; right from the start, Beethoven’s revised version is very different to that which we know…

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The Pianist’s Limits

PATHWAYS FOR PLAYING • by ANDREW EALES
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Some years ago, a highly successful man from the world of finance approached me for lessons. Essentially a beginner, he had previously tried a few lessons with another teacher locally, and I asked him why it hadn’t worked out.

His explanation amounted to a cautionary tale:

“I told her that I was only interested in learning Beethoven’s Tempest Sonata, but she insisted on trying to teach me dull Grade 1 pieces. I had no interest in learning them, felt unmotivated and annoyed, and made no progress.”

Naturally I tried to explain (as undoubtedly the previous teacher had) that the Tempest is an incredibly difficult work, requiring a range of highly advanced musical and technical skills. It is possible to admire and be inspired by the achievements of the world’s greatest players while enjoying working at our own level.

Alas, he was not for turning, and within a short time the lessons stopped, my name presumably added to the list of stubborn failures who had been unable to teleport him directly into the Tempest without his needing to follow in the footsteps of those pianists who have previously made the journey with success.

Teaching with a sense of structured progression and an underlying curriculum is not a matter of professional hubris or a money-spinning scam; it is the means by which learners can progress towards their goals, realising their potential. It is an act of generosity.

Nor is it negative, lacking in faith or discouraging to recognise that as players we all have our limitations. On the contrary: it is foolish, arrogant and self-defeating to think otherwise. For a start, we don’t know what we don’t know.

Deng Ming-Dao reminds us,

“Every river has its banks,
Every ocean has its shores.”

Deng Ming-Dao, 365 Tao Daily Meditations, Harper Collins

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Musicians Who Teach

THE PIANODAO BOOKSHELF
books for piano players, teachers, students and music enthusiasts


Faber Music’s latest publication is a slim book called The Essential Handbook for Musicians Who Teach.

Written by singing teacher, researcher and lecturer Dr. Kerry Boyle and Diane Widdison, formerly National Organiser for Education and Training at the MU, the book is aimed at any musician teaching in the UK, whatever the context, and offers a wealth of generic advice covering the many practical aspects of earning money from instrumental/singing teaching.

I’ll look at the content in detail, and let’s find out whether this new handbook is indeed “essential”….

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UK Exam Boards: The Pianodao 2021 Survey

Later this year, Pianodao hopes to publish a major feature, Which Grade Exam Board 2021-2.

The aim of the article will be to support and inform those readers who are considering taking a formal piano playing assessment, and looking for a simple comparative summary of what is available to them from the UK-based international examination boards.

To that end, I have invited the five accredited exam boards to contribute their own content, and am now also asking you to provide user feedback if you have it.

The review form is included later in this article, so if you would like to contribute, then please read on…

Continue reading UK Exam Boards: The Pianodao 2021 Survey

The Impeccable Piano Music of Francesco Cilea

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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The impeccable piano music of Italian composer Francesco Cilea (1866-1950), though little-known, surely represents one of the unsullied treasures of the “salon music” repertoire.

Happily, this music of supreme taste and charm has been given a fresh opportunity to shine, Cilea’s complete piano oeuvre newly edited by Giuseppe Filianoti and published in a single-volume edition by Ricordi.


The sumptuous 272-page volume has completely enchanted me… let’s take a look!

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Peaceful Piano Solos: The Series

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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Hal Leonard’s Peaceful Piano Solos series began life in 2018 with an initial title and matching easy piano version, offering the same 30 popular relaxing piano solos.

Peaceful Christmas Piano Solos (which I have already reviewed here) and Peaceful Piano Solos Soundtracks followed the next year.

With the recent release of Peaceful Classical Piano Solos, this seems like a good moment to catch up with the series as a whole.

First, I will introduce each of the books in turn, including their track lists and particular points to note. For information about the Christmas edition, please refer back to my previous review.

Later in the review, I will then offer some generic observations about the publications and series as a whole…

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Simon Hester: Scenes from the Movies

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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When I reviewed a batch of Editions Musica Ferrum publications a couple of years back, I was immensely impressed with the music of Simon Hester, concluding that his Megabytes:

“…is an absolutely brilliant and hugely creative collection: strongly recommended!”

Hester has a new collection available, again published by Musica Ferrum.

Scenes from the Movies delivers 8 new pieces suitable for advanced players (UK Grades 6-8), inspired by classic cinema.


Let’s find out whether it has “box office hit” written all over it…

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Rybicki: Young Modernist

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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Introducing Polish composer Feliks Rybicki’s educational piano books as part of my Music from Chopin’s Land series, I noted:

“The piano educational music of Feliks Rybicki is one of the great treasures of the pedagogic repertoire, and deserves to be known by teachers and students everywhere…”

In that review I considered his trilogy I Begin to Play, I Am Already Playing and I Can Play Everything for piano, published worldwide by PWM Edition, who have now reissued another of Rybicki’s early intermediate collections, Young Modernist.

This edition once again appears in the “CAT” series aimed at children, in landscape format, and with superb colour illustrations within…

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Lise de la Salle: When Do We Dance?

RECORDING OF THE MONTH • review by ANDREW EALES
showcasing an inspirational recent piano recording.


The French pianist Lise de la Salle is one of those rare prodigies who seem to arrive, fully formed, on the international concert scene at an improbably young age.

Signed by the Naïve Classique label when she was just 14 years old, de la Salle has performed internationally full time since she was 18, and by the time she was 20 she had already recorded three recital discs (featuring Rachmaninov, Ravel, Bach, Liszt, Mozart and Prokofiev) and a concerto disc (Shostakovich/Liszt/Prokofiev) under the baton of Lawrence Foster.

A further six discs later, and having recently turned 33, de la Salle is now back with a concept album of music for dance written by composers from three continents between 1850-1950, which she describes thus:

“An immersion in a variety of different worlds, juxtaposed without transition, linked together by the main thread of rhythm, movement. It’s a journey that explores the different ways in which dance takes possession of the body: with an amazing swing in North America, developing a strong, erotic sensuality, in South America and Spain, with reserve, elegance and sophistication in France, or through the expression of a late sentimental romanticism in eastern Europe and Russia.”

And it’s a stunning journey: all of the above and more…

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