Anna Robinson: Notes on a Neighbourhood

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Back in January of this year I received, out of the blue, a music book produced by Melbourne, Australia-based composer and teacher Anna Robinson, together with a charming letter of introduction. Notes on a Neighbourhood features seven late-intermediate character pieces.

It isn’t unusual for me to receive unexpected material from those who have enjoyed reading my reviews here and are naturally keen to see their work featured, but to be honest I often find that self-published music falls short of making a significant impression on me. As a published composer myself, I have learnt the value that a good editor can bring into the equation, and it is usually obvious when that added-value is missing.

Not so in the case of Notes on a Neighbourhood, which has been burning a hole on my music stand ever since it arrived, the pieces within continuing to impress with their musical and pedagogic content.


With a little encouragement from me, and a lot of work from Anna, Robinson’s book is now available as a physical publication here in the UK, printed by Halstan, and stocked for mail order purchase by Forsyth’s in Manchester here.

So what’s the story?

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Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne: French Duets

RECORDING OF THE MONTH • Review by ANDREW EALES
Showcasing an inspirational recent piano recording.


When global concert and recording artists Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne teamed up a couple of years ago to record an album of piano duo music by Schubert, it seemed they might become the new dream team in this repertoire. Now they are back with a second helping.

French Duets delivers exactly what it says on the tin, with music by Fauré, Poulenc, Debussy, Stravinsky and Ravel: some of the brightest gems in the piano duo treasury. And to my taste at least, this recording surpasses the last, becoming an immediate favourite.

No surprise, then, that French Duets is my May 2021 Recording of the Month

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Janina Garścia: Ikebana

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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In my 2020 series Music from Chopin’s Land I highlighted several publications by leading 20th century music educator and composer Janina Garścia. You can read my review here and watch PWM’s educational videos, filmed to support piano teachers as part of a project in which I was myself also a presenter.

I’m happy to let you know that PWM Edition have more recently reissued another Garścia classic…

Ikebana Op.70 is a series of eleven intermediate piano solos which the composer dedicated ‘to the children and youngsters of the distant land of Japan’, the music itself inspired by Japanese culture.

Let’s go exploring…

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Markus Schimpp: Yearning for Silence

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Markus Schimpp’s recording Yearning for Silence, which was released on the NEOS Music label in 2019, is one of the more interesting albums of original piano music from recent years, melding the post-minimal simplicity of Einaudi with the more advanced (and at times dissonant) harmonic language of the 20th century’s modernist classical composers.

Happily, his full transcriptions of these “33 Approximations of Silence” have recently also been published by the ever-wonderful Editions Musica Ferrum, their sheet music book the subject of this review.

Suitable for early advanced players (the easiest pieces here are around UK Grade 3, but most are closer to Grade 6), I believe this collection will be a superb discovery for many readers, and is certainly my pick of the recent bunch of inventive and evocative miniatures for players at this level.

Let’s take a look, and a listen…

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Disney Goes Classical

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Disney Goes Classical is the latest hit album from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, comprising 15 favourite songs from Disney movies. You can stream it on all the usual platforms, and now you can also play the arrangements from the recently published 72-page accompanying music book…

The “Classical” of the title presumably refers to the fact that the album was recorded by seasoned classical artists (including cameo appearances from guitarist Kaori Muraji and singers Renée Fleming and Matteo Bocelli) rather than a studio orchestra; most of the songs seem to me little changed from the originals.

As such the new music book serves not only as a companion to the RPO recording but as a potentially useful and inspiring collection of some of the most iconic Disney songs.

There’s no shortage of Disney songbooks on the market of course, but this one has special appeal, so let me sprinkle you with fairy dust and we’ll take a tour of this magical publication….

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Variations on a Waltz: The Diabelli Project

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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In early 1819, the well-known composer and music publisher Anton Diabelli (1781-1858), sent a 32-bar waltz to the most reputable composers of the Austrian Empire, together with an invitation to submit their variations for publication as a collaborative collection.

Among those who responded to the call were Czerny, Hummel, Moscheles, Schubert, and the eleven-year-old Franz Liszt, and from their contributions Diabelli was able to assemble a set of 50 Variations on his theme.

We only know for sure of one composer who explicitly declined Diabelli’s invitation to collaborate: Beethoven. It remains unclear why he did not want to participate directly, but he nevertheless composed his own monumental set of 33 Variations, not directly for Diabelli but exploring alternative avenues of publication.

Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz Op.120 quickly established itself not only as one of his most important keyboard works, but one of the pinnacle summits of the entire classical piano repertoire, entirely overshadowing the rest of the project.

Delivered for the recent Beethoven 250 anniversary year, Mario Aschauer’s landmark new scholarly performing edition of the Beethoven Diabelli Variations is an essential score for serious students of the work, published by Bärenreiter, BA 9657.

Perhaps even more interestingly however, Bärenreiter have also brought us their edition BA 9656, which includes Beethoven’s masterpiece together with Aschauer’s new edition of the 50 Variations on a Waltz composed by his contemporaries in response to Diabelli’s call.

Let’s take a closer look at this ambitious and exciting publication…

Continue reading Variations on a Waltz: The Diabelli Project

The Rusty Pianist

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Pam Wedgwood has an uncanny knack for spotting a niche; time and again, with publications such as the best-selling Jazzin’ About, After Hours, It’s Never Too Late and Up-Grade series, Wedgwood has delivered neatly-positioned and engagingly crafted material that has exactly met the need of the hour.

And with The Rusty Pianist she’s undoubtedly done it again.

Appearing after a year in which many former players who previously gave up playing have returned to their hobby with renewed enthusiasm, this handsomely presented 40-page book offers an opportunity for them to, as the publishers put it,

“Rediscover the piano with this exciting collection of easy-to-learn piano solos.”

So let’s investigate further …

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J.S. Bach: The Six Partitas

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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The Six Partitas BWV 825-30 of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) have long been regarded as one of the most important milestones of the Baroque keyboard repertoire, and exist in many editions.

The latest, edited by Ullrich Scheideler, with fingering added by concert pianist William Youn, and published by Henle (HN 518), replaces the same publisher’s 1979 Rudolf Steglich/Hans-Martin Theopold edition (HN 28), and aims to deliver the latest scholarship in a practical performing edition…

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Piano Music of Amy Beach

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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American composer Amy Beach’s significant contribution to the solo piano repertoire is finally beginning to receive the recognition and popularity it rightly deserves.

Beach (1867-1944) remained a hugely committed and prolific composer, even though much of her output received little attention in the first half of her career.

Her music is avowedly conservative, doing little to advance on the language of the early Romantic era composers, Schumann, Chopin and Liszt. And yet there is certainly a timelessness to its appeal that continues to speak to audiences and connect with players.

Hal Leonard’s 2013 publication Piano Music of Amy Beach offers an enticing introduction to this important composer’s work, and has recently been reprinted (in part because it is a core text for America’s National Federation of Music Clubs Junior Festivals programme for 2020-24).

The collection offers ten intermediate to advanced solo pieces selected from across Beach’s long career by Gail Smith. Let’s take a look…

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People Get Ready!

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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People Get Ready is a new collection of 13 solo piano arrangements of popular songs by Black musicians, suitable for late intermediate to early advanced players.

Brought to us by Faber Music, the publication presents itself as a “celebration of black songwriters”, offering a selection of iconic works that certainly fulfil that aim, while also tapping into the zeitgeist of the present moment.

People Get Ready is in my view an important and excellent publication, so in this review I will consider each of the 13 songs, include YouTube clips of the originals, as well as adding insights about these new piano arrangements, which have been produced by Faber regular Oliver Weeks.

Continue reading People Get Ready!