Hey Presto!

Interview with Marcel Zidani

Marcel Zidani’s Hey Presto! is billed as a “first piano lessons” book for older beginners aged 11 and upwards.

The subtitle – pedal your way to piano perfection– reveals something of the book’s unique approach, and like many I was intrigued when it first appeared a couple of summers ago.

Reviewing Hey Presto! at the time, I found much to love about Marcel’s method and music, while noting a few minor concerns. Since then, Marcel has responded to the feedback received from teachers and is now back with a thorough reworking of the concept and a brand-new edition of Hey Presto!

So what better time to catch up with Marcel for a chat, find out what motivates Hey Presto! and ask how he has improved on the original publication…

Continue reading Hey Presto!

Barbara Arens in Conversation

Barbara Arens will be known to most Pianodao readers as an excellent and prolific educational composer – I have previously reviewed several collections of her music, and most recently the Piano Exotico and Piano Tranquillo/Vivace collections published by Breitkopf & Härtel.

Around the time I was writing that review, I heard from Barbara that she was publishing a further five books via her own Editions Rensakov publishing on Amazon.

I decided it was about time I caught up with Barbara for a chat about all this fresh activity!…

Continue reading Barbara Arens in Conversation

Exploring “Mosaic” with Nikolas Sideris

Editions Musica Ferrum have recently brought out two volumes of pieces in a new series called Mosaic, featuring original music by a dozen or so composers, organised by difficulty level and suitable for beginner to early intermediate players.

I have enjoyed the privilege of contributing to the project, with two of my own compositions included in each book so far, and more to come!

Karen Marshall will be writing an independent review of the first two books, which will be published here on the Pianodao site soon. In the meantime, I decided to catch up with Editions Musica Ferrum founder Nikolas Sideris and ask him more about the project…

Continue reading Exploring “Mosaic” with Nikolas Sideris

The Rise of Dorico

Interview with Daniel Spreadbury

Until fairly recently, two big names dominated the world of music notation software: Make Music’s Finale and Avid’s Sibelius.

Other software – such as Presonus’ Notion and the free-to-use MuseScore have continued to challenge their supremacy, but with the October 2016 release of Dorico it was clear that a significant professional alternative had arrived on the scene, causing quite a stir.

The backstory has been repeated many times elsewhere – how Avid decided to close their London office in 2012, leaving their existing Sibelius development team – headed by Daniel Spreadbury – without their jobs.

By the start of 2013, music software giants Steinberg Media Technologies – a wholly owned subsidiary of Yamaha, and the creators of the VST standard, Cubase, Nuendo and Wavelab – had snapped up the team and tasted them with creating a brand new notation package from the ground up. Enter Dorico 

In this interview, I will be chatting with Daniel about his career in the music software world, the development of Dorico, and the birth of version 2.0.

But first …  Continue reading The Rise of Dorico

Garreth Brooke’s “Upright” Project

“Upright” is a piano project with a difference …

I spoke to project coordinator, Garreth Brooke to find out more…

Continue reading Garreth Brooke’s “Upright” Project

Another 20 Great Jazz Pianists

When I published a blog post sharing clips of 20 Great Jazz Pianists – with the disclaimer that, “these aren’t necessarily the 20 greatest jazz pianists of all time” – I was hopeful that by exploring the included clips readers would get a glimpse of the length and breadth of the wonderful world of jazz piano.

But no sooner had I posted than I began musing over those many brilliant pianists who I hadn’t included, and in a jiffy the idea came to me – publish a follow-up post with another 20 pianists!

In the event this list was far more difficult to collate – and here I must thank my good friend Mark Polishook for pointing me in the direction of a few players I might otherwise have overlooked. And having covered some of the most obvious seminal players in my first list of 20 great jazz players, this post has offered a chance to explore some less predictable paths!

In the event, including everyone we both thought deserved a moment in the spotlight wasn’t possible. On the plus side the 20 I have selected include something for everyone, and once again show how immersive and varied the world of jazz playing is, from the stride of James P. Johnson to the beautiful and experimental introspection of Tord Gustavsen, and from the sophistication of George Shearing to the explosive force of nature that is Hiromi Uehara – it’s all here.

Or at least some if it is! Because there’s a whole world of amazing music out there waiting to explored.

So without further ado or comment, Welcome back to the world of the jazz pianist. Here are the clips – I hope that you enjoy them!

Continue reading Another 20 Great Jazz Pianists

20 Great Jazz Pianists

Jazz is caught, not taught!

So goes the cliché (although I believe this also applies to classical and other styles too). So much of the nuance, the energy, the essence and the inflection of piano music cannot be expressed away from the instrument, whether in words or using notation.

As I write this I am about to deliver a workshop entitled Introducing Jazz Piano for the Piano Teachers’ Course UK, where I am a guest tutor. And as I consider the point that listening to jazz piano playing must be our starting point, this raises the question, “where do we start?

So to that end I’ve compiled this list of 20 seminal jazz pianists, with clips of their playing and a suggestion that you go on to more fully explore their recorded legacy.

Understand, these aren’t necessarily the 20 greatest jazz pianists of all time (and it isn’t, in any case, a competition!). However, they are all genuine greats, and between them they represent a wide range of styles and approaches within the very broad world of jazz music.

Dip in now, and keep coming back, because ongoing exposure to the genius of these players is the key to developing as a player and teacher of jazz music…

Continue reading 20 Great Jazz Pianists

My Journey towards the End of Time

I am delighted to host this wonderfully reflective post by the brilliant young pianist Iyad Sughayer, which touches on the nature of musical engagement:

Guest post by Iyad Sughayer

Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time is perhaps one of his most celebrated works. Written during his time as a war prisoner at the Nazi Stalag VIII-A camp after the German invasion of France, it is the most intense religiously inspired work I have ever come across.

Despite coming from a Muslim background, having grown up in Jordan, I was still able to understand the strong Catholic Liturgy behind the work. Indeed Messiaen’s Catholic beliefs are clearly and beautifully portrayed throughout the work.

Continue reading My Journey towards the End of Time

Interview with “Totally Mad” composer Chris Dann

“100 Totally Mad Really Easy Piano Songs for Kids” is an exciting collection of songs written especially for the young pianist. Wacky and original material makes learning fun, while progressively building skills in piano technique and music reading, providing a wide range of content suitable for use from the first lesson up until around Grade 1.

The use of songs – and hence singing – makes this an ideal resource for helping children developing their musicianship and aural engagement. And the quirky sense of humour that pervades the songs is sure to have huge appeal, hooking children into a lifetime of musical enjoyment.

It is without doubt one of the most innovative and imaginative alternatives to the conventional Tutor Book approach that I’ve come across. So it was a delight to catch up with the book’s author/composer, Chris Dann, and ask him all about the book – and the other resources he has produced.

But first, I wanted to find about more about Chris’s own musical journey…

Continue reading Interview with “Totally Mad” composer Chris Dann

Lipatti: Remembering a Legend

Book Review

“Music is a serious matter”
Dinu Lipatti (1917-1950)

Dinu Lipatti was born in Bucharest on 19th March 1917. His life and career shone with a brightness that helped illuminate the piano’s “golden age”, leaving an indelible hue on our cultural heritage. That blazing light was tragically extinguished on 2nd December 1950, when Lipatti died of Hodgkin’s Disease.

But Lipatti’s legacy lives on, and such was the precision, luminosity and spirituality of his playing that, these many decades later, many of his recordings (mostly from the 1940s) are still regarded as milestones in the history of music.

Continue reading Lipatti: Remembering a Legend

Emanuel Rimoldi on Qigong

World Exclusive Interview

Born in Milan, pianist Emanuel Rimoldi first studied in the Conservatory of his home city with Vincenzo Balzani , and then studied at the Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Moscow with Elissò Virsaladze from 2009-2015. He is presently continuing his doctorate specialisation at the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien in Hannover with Arie Vardi. In addition to his official studies, he has completed a series of master- classes with famous pianists such as Dina Yoffe, Boris Petrushansky and Vladimir Askenazy.

Emanuel has won several international competitions in Italy including the ‘Ettore Pozzoli’ in Seregno and the ‘Città di Cantù’. In 2013, he won the 1st prize at the “Top of the World” international piano competition held in Tromso (Norway), and in 2016 he won the Grand Prix and the ‘Ivo Pogorelich Prize’ at the first Manhattan International Music Competition.

Emanuel’s performances have lit up stages from the Carnegie Hall in New York to London’s Wigmore Hall, and from the Tel Aviv Museum of Art to the Great Hall of the Tchaikovsky State Conservatory in Moscow.

Emanuel Rimoldi 8

Prior to his last performing trip to the UK, Emanuel very kindly wrote an insightful guest post for Pianodao, following on from which we got chatting and I found that he is a keen practitioner of taichi, an interest which coincides with my own interest in ‘piano qigong’.

I am delighted that Emanuel agreed to talk about the impact his taichi practice has had on his development as a pianist in this world exclusive interview for Pianodao.

Continue reading Emanuel Rimoldi on Qigong

An Interview with Koen Janssen

Regular readers will know that for several years I have been sharing my recordings on the SoundCloud website, as well as enjoying the music that others share there.

10859623_10205637512122610_416762303_nOne musician whose tracks have regularly impressed me is young Belgian composer Koen Janssen. Like many whose music I admire on SoundCloud, Koen does not come from a traditional background in music education – following piano lessons as a child he has largely taught himself, and his musical adventures have included stints as a DJ and playing in bands.

Having returned to more classical roots, his first EP of epic soundtrack and piano music is now available on iTunes. I was delighted to have a chance to discuss his musical journey with him …

As you read on, enjoy listening to this example of Koen’s music, ’Touch’:

Continue reading An Interview with Koen Janssen

Christine Brown Remembered

Guest Post by Karen Marshall

In memory of Christine Brown –  Died in September, 2009

christine-brownMy first meeting of Christine Brown was in my early teens.  I was playing at a concert for EPTA students in Ilkely.  And she at that time, I believe, organised the events.  I remember her smiling face and also rather big round glasses, with a large number of other teachers surrounding her.

It would be many years later that I had a lesson with Christine.  At 15 years I started having piano lessons with Christine’s best friend, Enid Oughtibridge, who would regularly mention Christine in our lessons – so there was still a link even then.

Continue reading Christine Brown Remembered

Tobin Mueller and the Influence of Illness on his Music

Guest Author Frances Wilson interviews pianist Tobin Mueller

Composer and pianist Tobin Mueller has recently completed a trilogy of recordings in which he explored three eras of Western music through adaptive arrangements, reinvention and original composition. Each album took one year to develop. The Masterworks Trilogy included jazz interpretations and new works based on:

  1. the Impressionists (Debussy, Ravel, Satie, Fauré, Carpenter)
  2. the Baroque period (J.S. Bach), and most recently
  3. the Romantic movement (Frederic Chopin).

The albums by title are :

  1. Impressions of Water and Light
  2. Flow: The Music of J.S. Bach and Tobin Mueller”, and
  3. Of Two Minds: The Music of Frederic Chopin and Tobin Mueller”.)

Not only have these double-CD albums highlighted the elements of modernity found in these forebears, they have allowed Mueller to discover a personal kinship with each composer.

Tobin’s personal journey has also been colored by the challenges of dealing with a compromising illness. This relationship between the composer and his illness is what we wanted to discuss…

Continue reading Tobin Mueller and the Influence of Illness on his Music

Piazzolla: finding his unique voice

Nadia_Boulanger_1925Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979) was a French composer, conductor and teacher who is notable for having taught many of the most distinguished musicians of the 20th century – including Aaron Copland, Roy Harris, Quincy Jones, John Eliot Gardiner, Elliott Carter, Dinu Lipatti, Igor Markevitch, Virgil Thomson, Daniel Barenboim, Philip Glass and Astor Piazzolla.

Recalling his first meeting with Boulanger in his autobiography,  Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) wrote:

Continue reading Piazzolla: finding his unique voice

The “8 Pianos” Project

Interview with pianist and composer Dirk Maassen

With a huge following on sites including SoundCloud, Spotify and YouTube, Dirk Maassen is surely one of Germany’s most listened-to contemporary piano composers.

Continue reading The “8 Pianos” Project

Recovery from Injury: Alicja Fiderkiewicz

Following on from the recent interview with Evelina de Lain in which she talked about her recovery from a serious piano playing injury, I am delighted to talk to Alicja Fiderkiewicz, an internationally renowned  classical concert pianist who has experienced her own trauma with injury, which you can read about in this article from The Telegraph.

To provide more background before exploring Alicja’s recovery from injury, I wanted to find out more about her piano journey, starting with her lessons as a child growing up in Poland and Soviet Russia:

Continue reading Recovery from Injury: Alicja Fiderkiewicz

Overcoming Injury – A Personal Story

Guest Post by Evelina de Lain

Evelina de Lain writes of her background growing up in the former USSR, the serious injury that stopped her piano playing career in its tracks, her discovery of jazz, and how she finally overcame her injury to become a successful professional pianist with a growing international career… 

Continue reading Overcoming Injury – A Personal Story

Arvo Pärt at 80

“I have discovered that it is enough if a single note is played beautifully. This single note, the sense of peace or silence have a calming effect on me.”

So says Arvo Pärt, the Estonian composer born 80 years ago on 11th September 1935.

Pärt has become one of the world’s most recorded and best loved composers, his works bringing calm reflection, and touching audiences around the world.

Here is his piece Tabula Rasa, one of the first of his compositions that I encountered as a music student many years ago, which remains a favourite (Part 2 also follows below, and is very special) :

The timeless and inclusive spirituality of Pärt’s music acts as an antidote to the pressures and stress of life in the modern age. The composer explains:

“The more we are thrown into chaos, the more we have to hold onto order. This is the only thing that helps us to restore our sense of balance, even if only a little, and allows us to see things in perspective and to be aware of the value of these things.
The greater the sense of order and the greater our ability to stand back and feel the wing-beat of time, the more powerful will be the impact of the work of art.”

Reflecting on his process as a composer, Pärt says:

“My music was always written after I had been silent in the most literal sense of the word. When I speak of silence, I mean the nothingness out of which God created the world. That is why, ideally, musical silence is sacred. Silence is not simply given to us, but in order that we may draw sustenance from it. This sustenance is no less valuable to me than the air I breathe.

“If you approach silence with love, music may result.”

Pärt’s music brings an eternity that will stay with us. Long may he stay among us too, gracing our lives with his beautiful music.

Happy 80th Birthday to Arvo Pärt.

Recovery from Abuse: Interview with Fiona Whelpton

The relationship between music teachers and their students is a particularly important one. At best it can nurture young people’s development both as a person and bring out the best of their talents as a musician. But what happens when boundaries are crossed and rules get broken?

Continue reading Recovery from Abuse: Interview with Fiona Whelpton