Schumann’s Three Romances

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Schumann’s Romanze in F sharp Op.28 No.2 is one of my absolute favourite pieces to play, and with its inclusion on the ABRSM Grade 8 syllabus over the last couple of years it has also featured more prominently in my teaching. This truly beautiful paean to love is surely one of the highlights of the nineteenth century repertoire, and is understandably cherished the world over.

That said, many struggle to read the score accurately, which in most editions is compressed to two pages, dense with accidentals, counterpoint and three-stave passages.

A welcome solution has arrived with a new edition from Wiener Urtext Edition, who have generously afforded the piece four pages (including one page turn). Playing the piece using this version has proved for me a boon, the notation a model of clarity.

The other two Romances also appear more inviting here, freshly edited by Michael Beiche and with fingerings and notes on interpretation by Tobias Koch. So let’s take a closer look…

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Phillip Keveren’s Latest Hat Trick

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American composer and ace arranger Phillip Keveren has been a busy chap this year, and among several publications he has just brought us three new anthologies for more advanced players in the immensely popular Phillip Keveren Series from Hal Leonard.

For those not familiar with this series, it’s certainly worth catching up. Keveren has a gift for creating pianistically satisfying arrangements of music from chart hits to Christmas songs, from hymns to music hall classics and film themes.

Keveren also has an astute understanding of the pianist’s progress; the large and growing number of publications in his series include many titles aimed at the less advanced player, as well as titles such as the three latest reviewed here, which would be ideal for any advanced player (around UK Grades 6-8):


I have reviewed several titles in this series before, uniformly praising them for their musical and presentational quality. The three new additions to the series confidently measure up to the high standards previously set, and are an easy recommendation for those keen to discover superb piano arrangements of the titles included.

Here’s a simple introduction to the musical content of each…

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Jazz Piano Solos: Classical Jazz

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In the last year I have reviewed a couple of titles from Hal Leonard’s popular Jazz Piano Solos series, featuring arrangements suitable for advanced players from the pen of the indefatigable Brent Edstrom:

Proving you can’t keep a good arranger down, the unstoppable Edstrom is back with Jazz Piano Solos Vol. 63, and this time he brings a classical spin to the party…

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Discovering the piano music of Leoš Janáček

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Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) lived a life of music, but it was in his mature phase that he created the most enduring of his masterpieces.

Works such as The Cunning Little Vixen, the orchestral Sinfonietta and Taras Bulba, the Glagolitic Mass, and two popular string quartets have ensured that Janáček’s reputation is now immortalised as one of the greatest ever Czech composers, and a leading figure in the narrative of European music in the early twentieth century.

Janáček composed for the piano throughout his career, from his younger days as a student in Leipzig through to Vzpomínka [Reminiscence], composed in his final year. However, his major published works date from between 1900-1912:

  • On an Overgrown Path (1900, 1908, 1911)
  • Sonata I. X. 1905 (1905) and
  • In the Mists (1912).

In this survey I will take a look at each of these works, followed by a recent compilation of Janáček’s less well-known solo piano music.


In all cases, I will be turning to the benchmark editions from Bärenreiter, which can be regarded as the authoritative performing versions.

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Sibelius: Three Sonatinas Op.67

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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…

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Alexis Ffrench: ‘Truth’

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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…

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Liszt’s Late Pieces 1880-1885

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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…

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The Mosaic Series

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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.

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Barbara Arens: One Hand Piano

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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…

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Phillip Keveren’s Three-Minute Encores

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“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