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.

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Piano Junior – the Big Review

Sheet Music Review

The current decade is proving to be a significant one for beginner tutor books, with new publications appearing thick and fast. In many cases these are a breath of fresh air following on from several years in which ageing “favourites” have maintained market dominance.

Latest arrival, Piano Junior from Schott Music, is one of the most ambitious yet. The series progresses through four levels, with four books at each, totalling a projected 16 books. The series is written by the well-known German composer and author Hans-Günter Heumann, with support and advice from experts Carolyn True, Melanie Spanswick and Sally Cathcart.

The first two levels are now available. Levels 3 and 4 will follow later, and I look forward to reviewing them in due course.

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Ultimate Easy Piano Songlist

Sheet Music Review

Here’s a book that I suspect many will rush to buy – a bumper collection of easy piano arrangements of great popular tunes, from the contemporary to the classic.

With (according to the cover) over 90,000 units sold, the hits that make up this “Ultimate Songlist” plunder the charts across many decades, from Cilla Black to One Direction, from Nat King Cole to Elbow, and from Wham! to Radiohead. Movies are well represented too, with The Hanging Tree (from The Hunger Games series) and Let it Go! (from Frozen) standing out as welcome highlights.

In theory there should be something here for everyone, and in practice … there probably is!

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Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection

Sheet Music Review

tim-richards-bluesTim Richards will be known to many readers as the best-selling author of the seminal Improvising Blues Piano, which set a new standard in jazz education publishing upon its first release back in 1997.

His follow up books Exploring Jazz Piano volumes 1 and 2, and Exploring Latin Piano (co-written with John Crawford de Cominges) have consolidated his place as a leading authority in the field of blues and jazz piano playing and teaching. Before proceeding, let me say that if you don’t already own Tim’s previous books, you owe it to yourself to buy copies right away.

Tim’s latest publication (once again brought to us by the forward-thinking Schott Music) is called Tim Richards Blues, Boogie and Gospel Collection – hereafter BBGC for short.

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Capturing the Spirit of Christmas

Sheet Music Review

Hot off the press from Editions Musica Ferrum, Capturing the Spirit of Christmas features 12 Carols arranged for piano, six by Barbara Arens and six by Alison Mathews. Several of Barbara’s books have been featured here before, and Alison will be known to many readers as the composer of Piano Planets, a collection of original pieces previously published by EVC Music Publications.

As with all Editions Musica Ferrum publications, the book has a high quality presentation with a traditional vibe. I’m a fan of this approach, and rather feel the score is a work of art in its own right! But what of the content?

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