Songs from Rainbow Hill

Sheet Music Review

Composer Ben Crosland will be known to many Pianodao readers for his popular Cool Beans series of books published by Editions Musica Ferrum, the most recent (and in my view best) of which, Magic Beans, I reviewed here.

Ben’s latest publication, also from Editions Musica Ferrum, is Songs from Rainbow Hill, a collection of “Lyric Pieces for Solo Piano” that ties in with his new album recording of the same name.

As such this is very different from his previous publications, taking us deeper into Ben’s own compositional world. So let’s enter …

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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…

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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…

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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 …

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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.

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Tim Richards’ Jazz, Latin & Modern Collection

Sheet Music Review

Tim Richards is rightly regarded as one of the UK’s leading jazz and blues pianists/educators.

As a pianist, Tim has been a presence on the international music scene since the early 1980s, touring with his long-running trio and leading larger groups Spirit Level and Great Spirit, appearing at festivals opposite names such as John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis and Horace Silver. He has released more than a dozen albums as a leader.

As an educator, Tim came to the attention of many through his stunning blues piano method, Improvising Blues Piano in 1997, and it’s follow-ups Exploring Jazz Piano (vols. 1 and 2) which won the prestigious MIA Award for “Best Pop Publication” in 2006. He has subsequently co-authored Exploring Latin Piano and the Brazilian Piano Collection.

As well as being a prolific writer, Tim has been an ABRSM Jazz Examiner since 1999, contributing to their jazz grade syllabus, and he leads jazz classes and workshops widely.

His most recent publication, Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection, received the following praise in my Pianodao review:

“Tim’s latest publication is an instant classic, earning an immediate place at the top table. These are deeply felt, expertly realised and above all authentic pieces that will not only hopefully open up the world of blues piano playing to a new wave of enthusiasts, but which are classics in their own right…
Tim Richards Blues, Boogie and Gospel Collection proves itself not simply as the best “jazz piano” publication of the year, but probably the best of the decade so far.

Following such tall praise, can his brand new book Tim Richards Jazz, Latin and Modern Collection possibly live up to expectations? Let’s find out …

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Big Phat Jazz Piano Solos

Sheet Music Review

Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band have, since forming in 1999, carved out a huge reputation for themselves as an 18-piece big band, playing traditional 1930/40s swing through to more recent fusion and funky jazz. They have recorded several albums and notched up multiple Grammy Awards.

Several publications have been issued over the years, including lead-sheets and backing tracks for popular Big Phat Band favourites.

But with Big Phat Jazz Piano Solos, his latest publication from Alfred Music, Goodwin has taken a different approach, offering stylish intermediate piano solo versions of some of the band’s most enduring tunes.

According to Gordon Goodwin in his introduction to the book:

“The pieces in this book are piano solo adaptations of the most popular Big Phat Band titles that I have written over the years, arranged at an intermediate to later intermediate level. Preparing music for less experienced musicians presents a challenge. I worked to capture the essence of the Big Phat Band versions of these songs, while making the music technically manageable yet interesting. The goal was to create arrangements that are musically challenging without being overwhelming.”

I’ll take a look at the book in a moment, and consider whether I feel Goodwin has succeeded in his goals, but first I should note that in addition to the book itself, Goodwin has recorded a series of performance and tutorial videos, available to watch freely on Alfred’s YouTube channel.

These videos promise to add enormously to the value of this project, so I will start by taking a look at them…

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All About Neefe

Sheet Music Review

I often remind pupils and friends that the piano repertoire is an extraordinary treasury, and one which after several lifetimes of exploration would still yield up new gems and discoveries.

As if to prove the point, when I returned from a recent break in Moniaive I was surprised and delighted to see – among the packages awaiting me back at home – a splendid hardbound volume of piano music by Christian Gottlob Neefe (1748-1798), submitted for possible review by distributer Universal Edition on behalf of publisher Edition Dohr Köln.

Neefe’s name might be recognised by some as the composer of a charming Menuetto featured in ABRSM Grade 1 piano a few years ago.

But those who search the more distant recesses of their memories may recall mentioning him in their school-day essays about Beethoven; Neefe was young Ludwig’s principal piano teacher in Bonn.

As such, Neefe’s own compositions surely played a significant role in the latter’s music education, and thus attract peculiar interest. To what extent does his music inform Beethoven’s – and stand as a precursor to it?

Furthermore, as Beethoven’s piano teacher, Neefe himself joins the pianist lineage of those many of us who have traced our teaching line back to Liszt, Beethoven and beyond. This again adds personal resonance, however vague, in discovering his music.

So join me, and let’s find out more …

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Wiener Urtext: ‘Primo’ Series

Sheet Music Review

“Easy” collections of the core classical piano repertoire abound, but few bring to the table the depth of scholarship, reliable editing, fingering and expert advice found in the recent (and ongoing) “Urtext Primo” series.

As the latest collection in the series – featuring the music of Clementi, Czerny and Cramer – hits the shelves of music stores worldwide, let’s take a look …

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Albéniz: Cantos de España

Sheet Music Review

As I write this, the UK is one of many countries in the grip of a historic heat-wave. Suffice to say that when the weather here turns Mediterranean in feel, I have a tendency to uncork a fine bottle of Rioja and reach for the Albéniz CDs.

The piano music of Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909), it seems to me, occupies a uniquely odd position in the classical piano repertoire.

On the one hand he would seem to be universally admired, his monumental series of 12 piece Iberia roundly hailed as one of the seminal masterpieces at the very pinnacle of the “core repertoire” (and yet rarely performed or recorded!). On the other hand, many pianists complete their lifetime journey at the piano without once opening one of his scores.

As well as the stunning Iberia cycle, don’t miss the gorgeous Suite Española Op.47, scenic Recuerdo de Viaje Op.71, accessible España Op.165 and the brilliant Cantos de España Op.232. All are easily available as sheet music scores.

A brand new edition of the last listed of these works has recently been issued in the Alfred Masterworks Edition library, so let’s take a closer look.

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