Sibelius: Three Sonatinas Op.67

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Jean Sibelius (1865-1957) is best known for his seven Symphonies, ever-popular Tone Poems and brilliant Violin Concerto; many pianists are unaware that he also wrote prolifically for our instrument.

Although Finland’s greatest composer famously declared that he didn’t like the piano and only composed for the instrument to generate income, he wrote more than 150 solo works, predominantly miniatures, and in many cases works of tremendous musical value and appeal.

Among these many works, the Three Sonatinas Op.67 are later pieces which fully embody the compressed craftsmanship and musical language of the mature Sibelius.

Published by Breitkopf & Hārtel, the benchmark edition is the Complete Edition of Jean Sibelius Works, series V Works for Piano, edited by Karl Kilpeläinen and published in 2008. Happily, Breitkopf have now released the Three Sonatinas as an individual folio, the subject of this review…

Continue reading Sibelius: Three Sonatinas Op.67

Anna Robinson: Cats on the Keys

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Cats on the Keys is a new collection of sixteen character pieces for piano, designed to be appealing and relatable to the 21st century piano student.

Composed by Melbourne-based piano teacher Anna Robinson (whose Notes on a Neighbourhood I reviewed here) the book is vividly presented and would suit elementary players at around UK Grade 0-2 level.

Before turning to the publication, which is available in the UK from Forsyth Music, I am pleased to mention that the composer has generously provided a FREE piece for Pianodao readers to download and play; the score is here:


And now here’s my review of the whole collection…

Continue reading Anna Robinson: Cats on the Keys

Naoko Ikeda: Aya

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


The Willis Music Company have long been a leading name in the publishing of educational and accessible piano pieces, best known for the Dozen A Day series, the John Thompson Piano Method, and their extensive catalogue of great music by William Gillock.

I recently reviewed their Accent on William Gillock compendium and Jason Sifford’s Keybop series, and in this review I turn to another of their leading names, the Japanese composer Naoko Ikeda, whose music has met with considerable popularity in the States already, and is now gaining long-overdue attention here in the UK.

Ikeda’s extensive back catalogue includes many individually published pieces as well as several collections, a couple of which I picked up last year. I will be looking at her back catalogue in a future article, but for now I am turning to the recently published Aya, “10 Introspective Pieces for Piano Solo”.

The book is suitable for intermediate players (I would suggest around UK Grade 4-5 level), and is a superbly rewarding discovery…

Continue reading Naoko Ikeda: Aya

Alexis Ffrench: ‘Truth’

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Alexis Ffrench’s star has continued to rise since my review of Hal Leonard’s Alexis Ffrench: The Sheet Music Collection a couple of years ago.

Last year Ffrench became Composer in Residence with Scala Radio; readers will be still more interested in the recent announcement of his appointment as the new Artistic Director of ABRSM, the music examination board, a role of which he has enthusiastically said,

“I can’t wait to start working with ABRSM’s Chief Executive, Chris Cobb, and his wonderful team in service of teachers and learners all over the world!”

On the creative front, Ffrench recently released his latest album on Sony. Truth introduces thirteen brand new tracks, including collaborations with singer Leona Lewis, guitarist Jin Oki, and with the lush backing of a 70-piece orchestra.

According to the artist,

“In writing these pieces, as we were all locked down, I imagined what the world would look like if we all asked ourselves the question “who am I and what is my purpose in the world?” and what we, as a human race, could create and change together. Out of that intensely personal moment, and as a reaction to feelings I could barely fathom at the time, these songs were born – as an elegy to the audacity of hope.”


Hal Leonard have just published the official sheet music folio of all the tracks from the album in solo piano transcriptions, the subject of this review…

Continue reading Alexis Ffrench: ‘Truth’

Liszt’s Late Pieces 1880-1885

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was undoubtedly a towering giant among the pianist-composers of the nineteenth century, but the significance of his late piano pieces has been the subject of much debate.

On the one hand these works are considered heralds of the elderly Liszt’s waning inspiration; on the other, they are often praised as visionary pieces, stark in their radical simplicity, bold in their chromaticism and opaque relationship to the highly evolved tonal system of their time.

Dusting off some of these most remarkable compositions, a new edition by Michael Kube has recently been published by Bärenreiter, which deserves investigation by players, teachers and academics alike…

Continue reading Liszt’s Late Pieces 1880-1885

ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2023-24

images copyright © 2022 ABRSM, used with permission.

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER
As previously announced here, ABRSM have selected my piece Fresh Air for inclusion in the Grade 1 Piano Pieces book for 2023-24.
I have however written the following review as a fully-independent agent, and as a teacher who has entered students for ABRSM exams for 30 years. Readers will note that my conclusions are entirely consistent with my other writings.

The arrival of a new piano syllabus from ABRSM has become etched in the calendar as a biennial event of important interest for piano teachers here in the UK and in those countries where the board has a significant presence.

The current 2021-22 syllabus, reviewed here, was launched at the height of the pandemic in Summer 2020 and met a mixed reaction, its broadly popular repertoire accompanied by a revision to the scales syllabus that divided opinion.

For this new syllabus, ABRSM tell us that they have refreshed the pieces lists to give a greater choice of repertoire than ever before, including “music by a more diverse range of composers”. Of particular interest:

  • There are now 39 pieces per grade, divided equally between Lists A, B and C.
  • 70% of the 2021 & 2022 repertoire has been retained.
  • The contents of Piano Exam Pieces books have been fully updated with nine new choices per grade.
  • A further nine “new” pieces have been added to the ‘other piece’ lists for each grade.

The 2023-4 syllabus is valid both for the “Practical Grades” (ABRSM’s face-to-face exams) and their recently introduced “Performance Grades” (which despite their name remain video recordings, made at the candidate’s leisure and submitted online).

From August 2022, the Performance Grades are available “on demand”, which should in my view add to their popularity. As with the Practical Grades however, those taking Performance Grades 6, 7 or 8 must first have passed ABRSM’s online-only Grade 5 theory exam or accepted alternative.

The 2023-24 syllabus comes into effect on 1 January 2023, and only then can candidates begin to present pieces from the new lists. There is a one year overlap up to 31 December 2023 but all three set pieces must be prepared from the same syllabus.

For Practical Grades, the scales and arpeggios, sight-reading and aural-test requirements remain exactly the same as for the 2021-22 syllabus.

As in previous syllabus reviews, I will consider the new publications, repertoire trends and content, select some of my favourite choices at each grade, and share some initial conclusions… read on to find out more!

Continue reading ABRSM Piano Syllabus 2023-24

Andrew Eales: Fresh Air

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


I am delighted to announce that my composition Fresh Air has been selected and licensed by ABRSM for inclusion in their 2023-24 Grade 1 Piano Exam Pieces book.

The piece was originally composed for and published in the 2018 Editions Musica Ferrum collection Mosaic 1.

The composition is a gentle tune which I wrote in my head while walking in the local park with my dog Bella one lovely spring morning. The chords I’ve used mostly lack their bass note, giving a sense of weightlessness, as if floating in calm blue skies.

Here’s my recording of the piece, followed by my practice tips…

Continue reading Andrew Eales: Fresh Air

The Piano Player: British Classics

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Faber Music have a well-earned reputation for producing outstanding series of music books. From their lush Faber Piano Anthology series to Paul Harris’s Improve Your Sight Reading and Pam Wedgwood’s Jazzin’ Around, their best series have become landmark publications.

With their latest publication, British Classics, Faber are launching a new series, with seven titles projected, simply called The Piano Player. So let’s take a look at the series debut…

Continue reading The Piano Player: British Classics

ABRSM’s Piano Star

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


ABRSM’s colourful Piano Star series of books for elementary players has been one of their most brilliant and popular successes of recent years, and I was happy to be a contributor, my original compositions featuring in all four core music books.

I have previously written independent reviews of two series extras in which I had no involvement, Piano Star Theory and Piano Star Duets, but have yet to introduce the core series.

As with the Mosaic Series, even though I cannot independently review these publications they clearly belong in the Pianodao Music Library. This article will therefore offer a basic series overview, personal insight into the music I contributed, and I hope, enough information for readers to decide whether to take a closer look for themselves…

Continue reading ABRSM’s Piano Star

The Mosaic Series

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Mosaic is a series currently comprising four music books, each showcasing fresh and varied repertoire newly commissioned and composed by piano educators from around the world.

The pieces are loosely graded, arranged in order of difficulty, compiled as books suitable for elementary, intermediate and advanced players, and published by Editions Musica Ferrum. A fifth book (reaching towards Grade 8 level) is currently planned.

I am honoured to be one of the composers featured in all four books, alongside such well-established names as Barbara Arens, Ben Crosland, June Armstrong and others.

The collections are a natural addition to the Pianodao Music Library, and while I obviously cannot ‘review’ them in quite the usual way, this article will introduce the series with an overview of the concept, several recordings, and hopefully sufficient information for readers to decide whether to take a closer look.

Continue reading The Mosaic Series

Stanisław Prószyński: Easy Pieces for Piano

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES

MUSIC FROM CHOPIN’S LAND
In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing Polish piano music. I was captivated by new musical discoveries, asked to see a wider selection, and have subsequently continued to independently review and introduce this repertoire to Pianodao readers…


Stanisław Prószyński’s name will be new to many readers, as it was to me when I found a copy of his Easy Pieces for piano on the shelf at the PWM headquarters during my visit to the publisher in Kraków in 2020.

Then freshly reprinted with a lovely new cover design by Joanna Rusinek, the book includes 15 pieces suitable for elementary players (UK Grades 1-2), and I brought a copy home (along with the many other books which I have been introducing here over the months).

Let’s find out a little more about the composer and these pieces…

Continue reading Stanisław Prószyński: Easy Pieces for Piano

Barbara Arens: One Hand Piano

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


The Pianodao Music Library includes several collections by educator and composer Barbara Arens, and regular readers will know I am a fan.

It has been a little while since she last brought us a new collection with a major publishing house, so I am delighted to be reviewing her latest from the world’s oldest music publisher Breitkopf and Hārtel, who are also the company with whom she has the longest history.

One Hand Piano 2 is the sequel to One Hand Piano, Arens’ only Breitkopf publication not previously reviewed on Pianodao, so I am going to make the most of the opportunity to review both books here. Each volume contains 40 pieces for Left or Right hand alone, and as she so often does, Arens has identified a niche and brilliantly filled it…

Continue reading Barbara Arens: One Hand Piano

Piano Grades Are Go!

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Compared to the large quantity of music reviewed here for intermediate and advanced players, relatively few publications for elementary players make an appearance. This is perhaps in part because so much of the music written for beginning players is swallowed whole into lucrative method book series and exam resources. But there’s also no denying that it’s particularly difficult to write standout, imaginative music at this level.

Pianodao features reviews for relatively few of the publications received, in the hope of offering the clearest, well-informed and most helpful recommendations, thus saving readers time. Nothing makes it onto the site unless I would very happily use in my own teaching studio.

How wonderful, then, to introduce a brand new collection of “20 Characterful Solos” by Victoria Proudler. Piano Grades Are Go! has just appeared from EVC Music and is that rarest of beasts: a genuinely stunning music book for elementary players. I will be adopting it with my students, and believe other teachers should consider doing so too. Let’s find out why…

Continue reading Piano Grades Are Go!

Joachim Raff: Heralds of Spring

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Back in 2019 I published this review of Joachim Raff’s Piano Sonatas Op.14 and Op.168, newly edited by Ulrich Mahlert and published by Breitkopf & Hārtel, concluding:

“Had history told a different story, these three Sonatas could comfortably and confidently sit astride the peak of the Romantic piano repertoire; they more than deserve rediscovery, and I can recommend an exploration of these great works with genuine enthusiasm…
I hope that the publisher’s stated aims are fulfilled: that this new edition helps to overcome the cycle of ignorance of Raff’s music. Ulrich Mahlert and Edition Breitkopf are to be highly commended for so enterprising, important and rewarding a publication.”

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE

The team are now back with Mahlert’s new edition of another major find in the Raff catalogue, his Frühlingsboten (Heralds of Spring) Op.55, a cycle of 12 piano pieces which are simply brilliant, and again surely deserve a far more prominent place in the modern pianist’s repertoire…

Continue reading Joachim Raff: Heralds of Spring

A Common Approach 2022

PATHWAYS FOR TEACHING • by ANDREW EALES
Lessons & Advice • BOOK A CONSULTATION


Originally published in 2002, A Common Approach is perhaps the ultimate instrumental music teaching manual, offering a complete curriculum and extensive lesson activities for most instruments, including separate schemes of work for piano and electronic keyboard.

Now it has just been fully revamped and made available as an updated, free online resource to support instrumental teachers everywhere. Whether working privately or in a school, all piano and keyboard teachers would do well to have a look at this extensive and superb material.

According to its publishers Music Mark,

“A Common Approach is an online resource to support music educators in their teaching practice and help develop a holistic approach to music education. Relevant to all vocal and instrumental teaching, including individual, small-group, large-group and whole-class lessons, music educators at all stages of their career can use the support and shared learning found in A Common Approach.”

Music Mark Chief Executive Bridget Whyte tells us,

“Twenty years after the original version of A Common Approach was published, Music Mark has worked with a skilled team of music tutors from across the UK to update and enhance this valuable teaching tool. Containing both universal guidance and instrument-specific content, this online resource not only provides a great starting point for trainee and early-career tutors, but also gives those who are more experienced the opportunity to reflect on their practice.”

This has particular interest to me because back in 2002, I was a member of the national steering group who put together the original version of A Common Approach which provides the ongoing foundation of this update.

It’s therefore time both to take a short stroll down memory lane, and to consider how the updated version of this milestone resource can help piano teachers today…

Continue reading A Common Approach 2022

The Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Reviewing Pam Wedgwood’s The Rusty Pianist when it appeared around this time last year, I concluded:

“Some of the publications which come my way are absolutely perfect for their intended niche, while others go far beyond their remit to become enduring classics with huge appeal. I am happy to say that this is one of those publications, and it belongs not only on the shelves of the rusty, but of piano lovers everywhere.”

• READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE

Wedgwood’s latest publication, the cannily titled Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces is a companion to that brilliant volume, and continues the ruse of appealing to the modesty of returning adult players.

The book delivers an enticing collection of 16 “easy-to-learn piano solos for the returning player”, pieces which can be enjoyed in their own right by piano returners at intermediate level, without any deadline or need to prove their progress in an exam room. Let’s once again lift the lid…

Continue reading The Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces

Phillip Keveren’s Three-Minute Encores

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


“As the last note hangs in the air, there is a magical moment when an audience will, once in a while, decide they want to hear more! Not a lot more, mind you. The clock is ticking and the babysitter can only stay until 10 pm. But, can we make this evening last just a little longer?”

So enthuses ace arranger Phillip Keveren in the preface to his latest collection from Hal Leonard, the cunningly conceived Three-Minute Encores.

Keveren will be known to regular Pianodao readers from my reviews of his superb Piano Calm (reviewed here) and Circles (reviewed here), both of which have become absolute studio essentials here, favourites with multiple students, and are among the most-used collections I have ever reviewed.

One of America’s leading arrangers, Keveren has also delivered literally dozens of other books for Hal Leonard, collectively The Phillip Keveren Series, to which this new issue belongs. And it’s another corker, so let’s investigate…

Continue reading Phillip Keveren’s Three-Minute Encores

Górecki: Piano Album

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (1933-2010) has come to be regarded as one of the most important composers of the second half of the twentieth century, significantly due to the astonishing commercial success of his Third Symphony, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (1976).

A leading figure in Poland’s avant-garde in the 1960’s to ’70’s, Górecki was inspired by (among others) Webern, Messiaen, Stockhausen, and his compatriot Krzysztof Penderecki (who was just two weeks his senior), although his later work transitioned toward a more tonal approach, the Third Symphony marking an important staging post in that musical metamorphosis.

Boosey & Hawkes, long at the forefront of bringing contemporary piano music to market, have recently issued a new collection of Górecki’s more modest pieces for the instrument. The Piano Album is edited by the composer’s daughter, concert pianist Anna Górecka, and offers a fascinating and approachable snapshot of his evolving art…

Continue reading Górecki: Piano Album

Couperin’s Troisième Livre

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Reviewing the new Denis Herlin edition of the Second Livre of Pièces de Clavecin by François Couperin ‘le grand’ (1668-1733) when it was published by Bärenreiter back in 2019, I concluded:

Occasionally I receive for review a volume that is, quite simply, above any reproach. This is one such edition. For any harpsichord player, this must surely be an essential and immediate purchase; for pianists keen to explore this too-little-known keyboard repertoire, this new edition must also be the one to seek out and highly prize.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE

Three years later, and the next volume of this incomparable benchmark edition has appeared, and once again I have no hesitation in lavishing it with praise…

Continue reading Couperin’s Troisième Livre

Ludovico Einaudi: Cinema

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Ludovico Einaudi’s music continues to divide opinion, often derided by those whose preferred music is less accessible, while fêted by fans and adored by enthusiastic pianists, students and audiences around the world. And along the way, his music has perhaps nowhere found a wider (or more lucrative) embrace that in the movie theatre…

Cinema appeared as a CD album about a year ago, and features 28 of Einaudi’s memorable works from film and television, including tracks from the Oscar-winning ‘Nomadland’ and ‘The Father’. The sheet music folio from publishers Chester Music is now with us, the subject of this review, in which I will also consider a separate publication of the music from the Nomadland soundtrack…

Continue reading Ludovico Einaudi: Cinema

Women Composers: A Graded Anthology

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Hot on the heels of Karen Marshall’s lovingly curated HerStory from Faber Music, which I recently reviewed here, Schott Music bring us three brilliantly compiled and vividly presented collections of music by neglected female composers past and present.

Melanie Spanswick’s Women Composers: A Graded Anthology is equally as groundbreaking, and being a larger series these books offer space to a wider and more diverse range of repertoire, particularly in their inclusion of playful jazz and 20th century piano works.

It is interesting to note that of the 30 works in Marshall’s book and the 52 more here, not only are there no actual duplicates, but few of the composers themselves appear twice, an extraordinary confirmation (were it needed) that the pool of neglected music by female composers is a deep one indeed.

So let’s cast an eye over Spanswick’s series…

Continue reading Women Composers: A Graded Anthology

How to Practise Music: Reviews

THE PIANODAO BOOKSHELF
Books For Musicians, Educators & Enthusiasts

All products featured on Pianodao are independently selected by Andrew Eales.
However, when you buy something through the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, without affecting the price you pay.


It has been a couple of months since the release of my first book for Hal Leonard in the UK, and it is now available in a US english version, and in digital format from the Amazon Kindle and Apple Books stores.

I have been thrilled and touched by the many wonderful comments I have received and reviews that have appeared.

Here is a selection…

Continue reading How to Practise Music: Reviews

Boogie Woogie Piano Solos

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Of all the jazz styles, boogie woogie surely sits at the “unabashed fun” end of the spectrum, with a musical appeal, approachable good-nature and lack of pretensions that invites classical players as well as jazz-devotees to get down and have a go.

Intermediate players who want to boogie are well catered for by the likes of William Gillock, Martha Meir and Mike Cornick, while for the advancing player Tim Richards’ Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection (reviewed here) is a great resource.

Meanwhile, those who want to master the style at the highest level and play transcriptions of the classics will welcome the latest addition to Hal Leonard’s Jazz Piano Solos series (volume 60, and you can explore previous highlights here). Simply titled Boogie Woogie, this new collection is terrific, and more advanced players will absolutely love it.

Continue reading Boogie Woogie Piano Solos

Discovering Schönberg’s Piano Works

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Image: Portrait of Arnold Schoenberg by Richard Gerstl, c.June 1905

When music publisher Universal Edition was founded in Vienna in 1901, its goal was to provide core classical and educational works to an enthusiastic Austrian market, but the company soon became associated with some of the most radical modernist composers of the age.

Within ten years, UE had signed contracts to publish new music by Mahler, Bartók, Schönberg, Webern, Zemlinsky, and in subsequent decades the company became the publishers of Kurtág, Ligetti, Stockhausen, Berio and Boulez among many others.

Austrian copyright ownership lasts for 70 years after a composer’s death, and when Bartók’s music came out of copyright in 2015, G. Henle Verlag were quick to produce new urtext editions which significantly improved on the scores that were previously available.

Now they are repeating the trick with the key piano works of Arnold Schönberg (later Schoenberg, 1874-1951), delivering fresh urtext editions of the Drei Klaveristücke (Three Piano Pieces) Opus 11, Sechs kleine Klavierstücke (Six Little Piano Pieces) Opus 19 and Suite Opus 25…

Continue reading Discovering Schönberg’s Piano Works

Music from Minecraft

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


When I heard that Hal Leonard were bringing out a Music from Minecraft solo piano album, I was intrigued but unsure what to expect, not least because while interested in the concept of the game, I haven’t actually played it.

The music is composed by Daniel Rosenfeld, a German electronic composer and sound engineer who performs under the moniker C418. Rosenfeld began creating music on his computer as a teenager, and by the age of twenty had an established growing career.

Rosenfeld’s music for Minecraft was created when he was in his early twenties, and has been released on two albums in conjunction with the game itself: Minecraft Alpha (2011) and the longer, lusher Minecraft Beta (2013).

The present sheet music publication draws twenty pieces from across both those albums, presenting solo piano transcriptions suitable for intermediate to advanced players. The target audience will predominantly be teenagers and young adults who play the game, and that’s a huge target!

So let’s take a look…

Continue reading Music from Minecraft