Rachmaninov: Second Sonata

Sheet Music Review

Rachmaninov’s Sonata No.2 in B flat minor Op.36 is one of those gargantuan masterpieces generally only attempted by those with a truly titanic technique.

But for anyone interested in playing, studying or getting to know the work, Dominik Rahmer’s brand new edition for Henle Verlag will be of profound interest.

As connoisseurs of the Sonata will probably know, there are two versions: the original 1913 version published in 1914, and the composer’s major revision published in 1931.

For this Henle publication, Rahmer has produced not one but two brand new urtext editions, printed one after the other for comparison.

Adding further enticement, fingering is provided by none other than the revered concert pianist Marc-André Hamelin. So let’s have a look…

Continue reading Rachmaninov: Second Sonata

Piano Playground 2

Sheet Music Review

Hans-Günter Heumann has been busy. Since I launched Pianodao three years ago I have reviewed his excellent Fantasy Piano and Mystery Piano collections, as well as the 16-book Piano Junior method series.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I reviewed Piano Playground 1, a fresh collection of original pieces, concluding:

“The best pieces here are genuinely great, and will surely enliven the musical development of young players!”

Hot on its heels comes the follow up, Piano Playground 2, so let’s investigate…

Continue reading Piano Playground 2

Ragtime by Scott Joplin

Sheet Music Review

In addition to this year marking the Debussy centenary, November 24th 2018 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of Scott Joplin, composer of some of the most popular piano pieces ever written.

In this review I will be looking at the recently published volume, Ragtime by Scott Joplin, by Jean Kleeb, appearing as part of Bärenreiter’s Ready to Play series.

But first, a few words about the importance of Joplin himself…

Continue reading Ragtime by Scott Joplin

No Words Necessary

Sheet Music Review

Lots of piano players enjoy the contemporary stylings of popular composers such as Ludovico Einaudi, Yirumi and David Lanz, but it’s not so easy to find really good arrangements of their music that are accessible to intermediate players, and which manage to be both concise and accurate distillations of the post-minimal piano style.

The search for an educationally sound and musically engaging alternative just got easier with the publication by Schott Music of No Words Necessary, an excellent collection of 12 new pieces composed by Melanie Spanswick.

These interesting and enjoyable pieces will certainly satisfy those looking for approachable contemporary piano solos, and they further confirm Melanie as an imaginative and engaging composer.

So let’s check it out …

Continue reading No Words Necessary

Journeys in self-publishing

Sheet Music Review

Back in the summer I interviewed Barbara Arens about a raft of publications she was self-publishing using Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing option.

At the time I wondered whether other composers might soon be tempted by the ease this route offers those who want to sell their latest music worldwide, quickly, and without the need for an established publisher.

And sure enough, since talking to Barbara I have received new self-published music from two more composers, William Minter and Jenny Walker. In this post I will review their books, while also considering the pros and cons of this burgeoning publishing option.

Continue reading Journeys in self-publishing

Bartók: Romanian Christmas Songs

Sheet Music Review

Few of the truly great or most popular classical piano composers have contributed much of substance to the ‘Christmas repertoire’, but Béla Bartók (along with Mendelssohn and Liszt) is one of those few.

Oddly, however, Bartók’s Rumänische Weihnachtslieder (or Romanian Christmas Songs) remain rather little known, even by those of us who are fans of the great 20th century pioneer’s work.

A new edition by leading scholar László Somfai, jointly published by Henle Verlag and Editio Musica Budapest, offers a timely reminder of this brilliant masterpiece, so let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading Bartók: Romanian Christmas Songs

Christmas Piano Anthology

Sheet Music Review

Faber Music have brought us some fabulous anthologies of late. Last Autumn, I reviewed their Faber Music Piano Anthology, and more recently the Faber Music Classical Film Collection.

And now they’ve brought out the Faber Music Christmas Piano Anthology, which proves to be a massive and hugely impressive collection of the best and most popular seasonal tunes, expertly arranged for piano solo at intermediate to advanced level.

There’s been a gap in the market for something like this – it’s never easy to recommend a collection for all ages that covers the most wanted classic and contemporary festive songs. So is this it? Let’s find out …

Continue reading Christmas Piano Anthology

The Music Books of Mozart & His Sister

Sheet Music Review

The Music Book for Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart (compiled by Leopold Mozart in 1759) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s London Sketchbook (1764) are surely established at the very pinnacle of the pedagogic keyboard repertoire, their status secure alongside Bach’s Anna Magdalena Notebook, Schumann’s Album for the Young and Bartók’s For Children.

And yet, honestly, how many piano teachers are truly familiar with the contents of these collections, beyond the few favourites that are regularly cherry-picked for exam syllabi and educational repertoire collections? I’m certainly willing, if hardly happy, to plead guilty to the charge of somewhat overlooking this music.

But it turns out that there is a good reason why most of us don’t know these pedagogic collections inside out: while many selections of pieces from these notebooks are available elsewhere, most collections limit themselves to those written by Wolfgang Amadeus and, remarkably there isn’t a full published edition on the market.

No – seriously!

Well thankfully Bärenreiter Urtext Edition are now rectifying this situation with a new complete publication based on the New Mozart Edition. According to the publishers,

“Until now the edition The Music Books of Mozart and his Sister has only been available as part of the boxed set of Mozart’s oeuvre for piano (BA 5749) which has gone out of print. Now for the first time, it can be purchased separately.

“Based on the New Mozart Edition, this is the only publication to contain all the pieces, sketches and fragments found in the notebooks. The Foreword by the great Mozart scholar Wolfgang Plath provides valuable information on the pieces themselves and on the question of their authorship; besides Mozart’s earliest juvenilia, some of which formed the basis of later compositions, the notebooks also contain works by Leopold Mozart and other composers.”

This sounds plausibly irresistible, but as always, we’ll take a closer look …

Continue reading The Music Books of Mozart & His Sister

Piano Music by British & American Composers

Sheet Music Review

Lurking in my reviews backlog for some time, here’s a book which has continued to beckon, so let me finally highlight it as the epitome of a great idea brilliantly brought to life.

The so-called “core repertoire” for classical piano has long been predominantly drawn from the great composers of the Central European Tradition (Germany, Austria and Hungary), France and Russia. Meanwhile, composers from the UK and USA have somewhat struggled to gain comparable recognition beyond their own borders.

This bumper anthology from publishers Boosey & Hawkes collates piano works from an even and well-matched spread of composers from both sides of the Atlantic, all of whom lived and worked in the 20th century.

As such it offers a rather wonderful introduction to some great music, much of it too-little performed, but all hugely worthy of the pianist’s attention.

Continue reading Piano Music by British & American Composers

A Halloween Treat

Guest Post by Alison Mathews

including Free Sheet Music and Lesson Activity downloads


With Halloween approaching, it is an excellent time to engage pupils in some creative work and explore the evocative and haunting sounds the piano can make. I’d like to share a short story and resources that may inspire you and your pupils to be creative!

Continue reading A Halloween Treat