Markus Schimpp: Yearning for Silence

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Markus Schimpp’s recording Yearning for Silence, which was released on the NEOS Music label in 2019, is one of the more interesting albums of original piano music from recent years, melding the post-minimal simplicity of Einaudi with the more advanced (and at times dissonant) harmonic language of the 20th century’s modernist classical composers.

Happily, his full transcriptions of these “33 Approximations of Silence” have recently also been published by the ever-wonderful Editions Musica Ferrum, their sheet music book the subject of this review.

Suitable for early advanced players (the easiest pieces here are around UK Grade 3, but most are closer to Grade 6), I believe this collection will be a superb discovery for many readers, and is certainly my pick of the recent bunch of inventive and evocative miniatures for players at this level.

Let’s take a look, and a listen…

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J.S. Bach: The Six Partitas

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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The Six Partitas BWV 825-30 of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) have long been regarded as one of the most important milestones of the Baroque keyboard repertoire, and exist in many editions.

The latest, edited by Ullrich Scheideler, with fingering added by concert pianist William Youn, and published by Henle (HN 518), replaces the same publisher’s 1979 Rudolf Steglich/Hans-Martin Theopold edition (HN 28), and aims to deliver the latest scholarship in a practical performing edition…

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Piano Music of Amy Beach

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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American composer Amy Beach’s significant contribution to the solo piano repertoire is finally beginning to receive the recognition and popularity it rightly deserves.

Beach (1867-1944) remained a hugely committed and prolific composer, even though much of her output received little attention in the first half of her career.

Her music is avowedly conservative, doing little to advance on the language of the early Romantic era composers, Schumann, Chopin and Liszt. And yet there is certainly a timelessness to its appeal that continues to speak to audiences and connect with players.

Hal Leonard’s 2013 publication Piano Music of Amy Beach offers an enticing introduction to this important composer’s work, and has recently been reprinted (in part because it is a core text for America’s National Federation of Music Clubs Junior Festivals programme for 2020-24).

The collection offers ten intermediate to advanced solo pieces selected from across Beach’s long career by Gail Smith. Let’s take a look…

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Nikki Iles and Friends

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Nikki Iles will be known to many readers for her Jazz on a Winter’s Night book and subsequent series for OUP, and her recent Tales for Alice and Tales for Peter Pan collections for EVC Music, all of which I have been hugely impressed by.

Over the years, Iles has also contributed to the ABRSM Jazz Piano Syllabus and composed several memorable pieces for the board’s standard piano grades, which are always popular choices. And now she’s back with two new books of jazz pieces for ABRSM, between them bringing 29 new piano solos to the intermediate and advanced repertoire, composed and arranged by Iles and a stellar array of luminaries of the contemporary jazz world.

With the drawing power of Iles and friends, and the marketing clout of ABRSM, these two books are sure to fly off the shelves, so let’s take a closer look while we can!

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The Faber Music Contemporary Piano Anthology

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Faber Music’s growing series of Piano Anthology books are a continuing source of joy, and have been enthusiastically received by several of my regular adult students.

I have reviewed the previous collections here:

Spoilers: in all cases I have been impressed both with the intelligence and value of the music selections and the quality of the publications themselves.

So it great to be welcoming a new addition to the family with the delivery of The Faber Music Contemporary Piano Anthology, which offers 52 “beautiful neoclassical pieces for solo piano”.

Let’s find out whether it lives up to the high standards set by the series…

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Martin Doepke: Piano Tales

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Born in Cologne in 1957, Martin Doepke has made a big name for himself in Germany as a collaborative keyboard player, recording musician and, since the late 1980’s, composing for theatre and TV productions. He has also taught popular music at the Rheinische Musikschule in Cologne since 1990.

Piano Tales is Doepke’s first published collection of solo piano music from Universal Edition. The book includes three pieces adapted from his hit German musical version of Beauty and the Beast (not to be confused with the Disney one!) as well as ten other original pieces about which the composer writes,

“The pieces in the present volume were written at different times over the years and in various places. They reflect my love of classical music and my passion for film music and musicals. Apart from the three taken from my musical Beauty and the Beast the pieces are not connected.
Each tells a short story. Some are playfully romantic, others are rather mystically melancholic or have a pulsing rhythm. Their styles span today’s music genres and call for a love of musical variety and diversity.”

This is certainly a good summary, but let’s take a closer look and listen…

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Alma Deutscher: From My Book of Melodies

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Having just reviewed a music collection written FOR a young girl, I now turn to an album written BY one!

Based on her SONY Classical recording of the same name, From My Book of Melodies brings together the original compositions of Alma Deutscher, and includes 11 pieces based on melodies that she composed from the age of four to fourteen, one for each of those years.

The music book is published by G.Schirmer / Hal Leonard, and the pieces would suit advanced players (UK Grade 6-8).

In case your initial thought is to wonder why you would purchase a collection of compositions written by so young a child, it is worth knowing that the great conductor Zubin Mehta has called Deutscher “one of the greatest musical talents today”, while Sir Simon Rattle has declared that “Alma is a force of nature”.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that Deutscher’s YouTube channel has approaching 14 million views, while her 2019 Carnegie Hall debut, performing her own music, was a sell-out.

Hadn’t we better find out what the fuss is about?

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Howard Skempton: 24 Preludes and Fugues

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Since the late 1960’s, when he become the doyen of the experimental music scene, Howard Skempton has carved a unique place for himself in British musical life.

Skempton’s influences include Eric Satie, Morton Feldman, John Cage and La Monte Young. His own music resists lazy categorisation, but is characterised by pared-back textures, focused economy of expression, clarity of melodic line, and the avoidance of dissonance even when most determinedly resisting the pull of tonality.

These qualities remain an integral hallmark of the latest entry in his significant solo piano catalogue, the 24 Preludes and Fugues recently published by OUP.

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Patrick Hamilton: Journey to the Unknown

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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According to Decca Publishing,

“Patrick Hamilton is a flag bearer for the next generation of producer, composer and arranger. A leading figure in classical crossover music, his ambitions include the verticals of artist production alongside film and TV score composition, which together bring his unique skill set to the adult contemporary classical space.”

Judging from Journey to the Unknown, Hamilton’s first solo piano CD, what this lofty statement actually means is that he is the latest to join the ever-growing pantheon of composers creating gentle, soothing piano music in the style popularised by Ludovico Einaudi.

Journey to the Unknown is also now available as a sheet music publication from Hal Leonard. I really like it, so let’s find out what makes it special…

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Schubert: The Late Sonatas

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES

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Back in June 2018 I reviewed Bärenreiter’s then new issue of Schubert’s G major Fantasy Sonata, concluding:

“I am grateful that this beautifully presented edition of the Fantasy Sonata has given me a fresh opportunity to explore such a magnificent work – and with this Bärenreiter edition to hand, it becomes still more enticing.
The Fantasy Sonata must surely be among Schubert’s greatest piano works, and one of the more accessible of the later Sonatas. And whether for studying or performing this masterpiece, this new edition from Bärenreiter is undoubtedly the one to own!”

Now that edition reappears as the opening work in Volume III of Bärenreiter’s complete Schubert Sonatas edition, in which is is joined by the great Sonatas in C minor, A major and B flat major, D 958, 959 and 960 respectively, surely three of the most hallowed pieces in the entire classical piano repertoire.

Read on for the Pianodao review…

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