Jevdet Hajiyev: Piano Collection 1

Sheet Music Review

Ahmad Jevdet Ismail oglu Hajiyev (June 18, 1917 – January 18, 2002) was one of the major Azerbaijani composers of the Soviet period.

with-shostakovitch
Hajiyev with Shostakovitch

A student of Shostakovich, Hajiyev composed eight symphonies, three poems, the opera Veten (“Motherland”) (in collaboration with Gara Garayev), string quartets, solo piano music, choral and vocal works. He also taught at the Azerbaijan State Conservatory for more than four decades, while serving as a Rector from 1957-1969, and as Professor of Composition.

In 1997, the President of Azerbaijan bestowed upon Hajiyev the country’s highest accolade, the Azerbaijan Order of Glory, on the occasion of his 80th Jubilee, commemorating ‘60 long years of fruitful work which is highly appreciated by the nation and the State’.

To celebrate the centenary of his birth, the Muradov Family Archive has released Piano Collection book 1, with a series of concerts to be held in some of the finest concert halls around the world.

Piano Collection book 1 is brought to us via the ever-enterprising EVC Music Publications in the UK, and can be purchased from the EVC Music website here, where you can also listen to audio samples of most of the pieces (these are MIDI versions rather than performances).

Continue reading Jevdet Hajiyev: Piano Collection 1

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.

Continue reading Jan Freidlin: Four Stories

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.

Continue reading Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection

Sheet Music: November 2016

There’s been a bumper number of great new music publications arriving for review in recent weeks, from which I have selected four of the very best to write about:

  • The Faber Music Piano Anthology (Faber)
  • Barbara Arens: Piano Tranquillo / Vivace (Edition Breitkopf)
  • The Piano Playlist (Schott Music)
  • My First Chopin (Schott Music)

Continue reading Sheet Music: November 2016

ABRSM: Spectrum 5

Sheet Music Review

Spectrum launched in 1996 with the aim of commissioning serious solo contemporary works by distiguished composers, to be playable by talented amateur, student and professional pianists. Since its inception, the series has produced six compilations for piano (including Spectrum for Piano Duet) and additional anthologies for cello, clarinet and violin, containing a total of 225 new works.

spectrum-5

Once again compiled by aclaimed pianist Thalia Myers, Spectrum 5 includes 15 specially commissioned works by leading composers Victoria Borisova-Ollas, Philip Cashian, Chen Yi, Michael Finnissy, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Graham Fitkin, Helen Grime, Gavin Higgins, Gabriel Jackson, Harold Meltzer, Poul Ruders, Timothy Salter, Howard Skempton, Karen Tanaka and Huw Watkins.

The pieces range in length from 2-5 pages, with most being 3 pages long. According to ABRSM they range in difficulty from Grade 6 to Diploma (and they should know!) but I would qualify this by assuring readers that the majority here are squarely Grade 7-8 in my view, meaning that you should not be put off by the thought that the pieces will mostly be at the top end of the difficulty level.

In her introduction to the collection Thalia Myers writes:

“Although the pieces in Spectrum 5 are generally rather harder to play than many of those in earlier piano volumes, the purpose of Spectrum has remained unchanged since the first anthology was the mere glimmer of an idea twenty-odd years ago: to commission some of the world’s finest composers to write non-virtuosic miniatures that capture the essence of their concert music style, and to provide pieces that will appeal equally to student, amateur and professional performers and their audiences.”

The presentation is outstanding, in keeping with the whole series. The cover follows the style established by the first Spectrum book 20 years ago, yet seems remarkably fresh and up-to-date. The inside of the book is reassuringly familiar too, with short biographies of the 15 composers whose works are included, followed by the pieces themselves, all beautifully engraved and with brief footnotes by the composers.

While many of the pieces themselves are (as with the series as a whole) atonal, the collection is full of accessible musical and imaginative character, and never austere. I expect that many of these pieces will be hugely popular with players, and will no doubt be regular exam choices in future years too.

In short, here’s the best collection of new “contemporary classical” miniatures for piano that I have seen in years.

While there is great consistency of quality across the 15 pieces, my personal favourites are Gabriel Jackson’s ’Imaginary Birds, Karen Tanaka’s highly catchy ’Masquerade, Howard Skempton’s ’Aside (with its hints of Prokofiev) and Philip Caspian’s beautifully evocative ’Swale.

Supporting the publication, there is a full recording of the 15 pieces by Thalia Myers herself, available as a digital download from Amazon here.

I would recommend the recording as an essential purchase if you plan to play or teach these pieces. I assume it is a digital download because, at just over 30 minutes it doesn’t justify CD release. The quality is superb however, with a beautifully warm but clean recording of the piano, revealing every detail of these exquisite pieces.

ABRSM Publishing, £10.25
ISBN 978-1-84849-683-5

Christine Brown’s Printed Legacy

Following on from Karen Marshall’s moving tribute to the late Christine Brown, I have pleasure in providing an overview of Christine’s publications, which are available from Faber Music.

The ten books I will be looking at collectively add up to a huge addition to any piano student or teacher’s library, and teachers may well find that some of these titles become standard resources they return to regularly.

These books were published in addition to Christine’s well-known edition of Czerny’s 101 Exercises Op.261, also published by Faber Music, which Karen has already recommended in her tribute.

Continue reading Christine Brown’s Printed Legacy