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…

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“La La Land” Music Books

Sheet Music Review

Damien Chapelle’s La La Land has proved to be one of the most talked-about movies of 2017, garnering 14 Oscar nominations and picking up six, including Best Original Score by Justin Hurwitz, and Best Original Song for City of Stars, composed by Hurwitz with lyricists Benj Hasek & Justin Paul.

One talking point which will particularly interest readers of Pianodao is that lead actor Ryan Gosling learnt to play the piano music for his role (wholly by rote) in just three months before filming, performing it with no stunt double. It’s a remarkable achievement both for Gosling, and for the teacher who worked with him.

Learn more in this short radio interview from the BBC4 Today programme – it’s fascinating and thought provoking, although we must bear in mind that Gosling was working at the piano for several hours a day, with two-hour-long daily lessons five days a week.

The results are certainly inspiring – as a student of mine put it, the piano playing is one of the best parts of the film!

And now – for those who can’t copy Ryan Gosling by setting aside the time and cost of learning daily by rote – Faber Music bring us the sheet music for the film’s great songs and key moments.

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Jevdet Hajiyev: Piano Collection 1

Sheet Music Review

Ahmad Jevdet Ismail oglu Hajiyev (June 18, 1917 – January 18, 2002) was one of the major Azerbaijani composers of the Soviet period.

with-shostakovitch
Hajiyev with Shostakovitch

A student of Shostakovich, Hajiyev composed eight symphonies, three poems, the opera Veten (“Motherland”) (in collaboration with Gara Garayev), string quartets, solo piano music, choral and vocal works. He also taught at the Azerbaijan State Conservatory for more than four decades, while serving as a Rector from 1957-1969, and as Professor of Composition.

In 1997, the President of Azerbaijan bestowed upon Hajiyev the country’s highest accolade, the Azerbaijan Order of Glory, on the occasion of his 80th Jubilee, commemorating ‘60 long years of fruitful work which is highly appreciated by the nation and the State’.

To celebrate the centenary of his birth, the Muradov Family Archive has released Piano Collection book 1, with a series of concerts to be held in some of the finest concert halls around the world.

Piano Collection book 1 is brought to us via the ever-enterprising EVC Music Publications in the UK, and can be purchased from the EVC Music website here, where you can also listen to audio samples of most of the pieces (these are MIDI versions rather than performances).

Continue reading Jevdet Hajiyev: Piano Collection 1

Four Musical Treasures

Sheet Music Review

Regular readers will know that I have huge admiration for the independent up-coming publisher Editions Musica Ferrum, whose publications consistently bring high-end quality and creative originality.

In recent months EMF have been adding to their range of publications suitable for intermediate, and younger players, building on the success of their best-selling Cool Beans series by Ben Crosland, and EMF founder Nikolas Sideris’s outstanding Fairyland in Treble. Among the most recent releases, I’m going to take a look at four real gems:

  • Alison Mathews:  Treasure Trove
  • Simon Hester:  Megabytes I: The Private Life of Bugs
  • Barbara Arens All Beautiful & Splendid Things
  • Bonislava Taneva:  Sound Stories

These are all available for immediate purchase worldwide, directly from the publisher’s website here.

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Jan Freidlin: Four Stories

Sheet Music Review

The ability to write an effective miniature for solo piano – one which is personal but idiomatic, original but accessible – remains one of the true challenges for any composer, and one that many “big names” in classical music have seemingly avoided.

Not so for composer Jan Freidlin, who succeeds not just once but four times in quick succession in his latest publication from Edition Dohr, Four Stories.

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Christian Hartmann: Two Pieces

Sheet Music ReviewNew Recording

Per Hartmann’s independent publishing house Edition HH have produced many fine scores, and brought into the spotlight some fine classical pieces which were unjustly overlooked elsewhere.

I have been uniformly impressed with the quality of Edition HH publications, such as Barbara Snow’s brilliant Animal Jazz which I reviewed last year, and many others (more reviews of Edition HH publications coming soon!)

In the meantime I was delighted to receive a small score containing two solo piano pieces composed by Per’s own father, Norwegian composer Christian Hartmann (1910-1985). Hartmann senior is apparently well known to Norwegian children for his song settings for Ole Brumm (Winnie-the-Pooh), as well as having success with his works for stage and screen.

According to Per:

“I thought it would be good to have something composed by him in our catalogue, so I decided upon these two short piano pieces, which I love to play myself.”

I was naturally touched by the affection of the publisher for his father, but as I sat down to play these pieces I was equally impressed by the charm of the pieces themselves. Finding no recordings of them elsewhere, I agreed with Per to record them myself, sharing them here, and on my SoundCloud page.

Continue reading Christian Hartmann: Two Pieces