Alison Mathews’ “Doodles”

Sheet Music Review

Alison Mathews’ excellent collection Treasure Trove has proved a big hit with my students who have been working through it, and I’m delighted that publishers Editions Musica Ferrum have now brought out another collection composed by her: Doodles.

It is very clear straight away that this publication explores very different terrain to Treasure Trove however.

So what is the concept here, and do I think it works?
Let’s find out…

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ABRSM “Piano Star”: The Review

Sheet Music Review

ABRSM’s three Piano Star books (published Autumn 2016) have been a huge and well-deserved success, appealing to children and their teachers alike.

So I was thrilled to hear that there would be two more additions to the series (which have just been published) – Piano Star: Five-Finger Tunes, and Piano Star Grade 1.

According to ABRSM:

The new books, Piano Star: Five-Finger Tunes and Piano Star: Grade 1, are packed with a wealth of useful teaching material which children will love to play.

The Piano Star series is part of ABRSM’s commitment to producing a wider range of early years resources and aims to inspire young pianists and help them to develop their musical skills. The five Piano Star books are designed to take young pianists from the end of their first tutor book to Grade 1 standard.

The series now offers over 120 new compositions and arrangements from leading educational composers and are brought to life with imaginative titles, eye-catching full colour illustrations and fun activities.

Let’s take a look at each of the two books, and see what they add to this popular series.

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Bartók: For Children

Sheet Music Review

Bartók’s seminal collection For Children is, in my view, one of the few absolute essential classics of the piano pedagogy repertoire – a work which has in equal measure both charmed and challenged generations of young pianists, and seems as popular with my students today as ever.

Two new versions of this milestone have appeared in recent months: a single-volume complete edition from Boosey & Hawkes, and a brand new urtext edition from Henle Verlag in partnership with Editio Musica Budapest.

In this review I’m going to present each, with some concluding thoughts on their relative merits, and recommendations of which edition will suit whom.

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It’s a Piano Thing

Sheet Music Review

It’s a piano thing is a new publication from Boosey & Hawkes comprising two books of fresh original repertoire by Irish composer Ailbhe McDonagh.

ailbhe_mcdonagh_profile_picture_2017

Ailbhe is well known in her home country as an educational composer whose works have included commissioned pieces for school ensembles as well as educational piano pieces. She is also well known as a professional cellist who performs internationally and teaches at the Royal Irish Academy of Music.

Her piece Anastasia, which is included in the second of these books, was first published while Alibhe was still at school, appearing as a Grade 4 piece in the RIAM Local Centre Examinations (the Irish National Grade Examination System).

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First Term at the Piano

Sheet Music Review

Bartók’s Mikrokosmos has – since the first half of the 20th century – been a potent force in the pianist’s repertoire, hugely impacting pedagogy worldwide, while his charming collections of pieces For Children have delighted elementary to intermediate players of all ages. But what of his other little collection, The First Term at the Piano?

Largely overlooked, except as a curiosity for completists to consider, this seemingly innocuous sequence of 18 short pieces has passed under the radar of most piano teachers, and even though some of the pieces are brilliantly inventive and melodic, they have too rarely surfaced in other collections, exam syllabi or student performances.

Now the US-based pianist, teacher, lecturer and editor Immanuela Gruenberg is looking to turn the tables, resurrecting this work for a new century, and for a new audience.

Her stunning new edition of the pieces – which comes with complete commentary, imaginative lesson plans, and a series of online videos – has recently been published by Hal Leonard in association with Boosey & Hawkes. And as we shall see in this review, it is a genuine must-have purchase for anyone who teaches beginners.

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Easy Concert Pieces 1 & 2

Sheet Music review

Easy Concert Pieces is a brand new series of three piano collections edited by Monika Twelsiek and Rainer Mohrs, and published worldwide by Schott Music. The first book came out last year, while Book 2 has just been published. I will look at both, and let’s see how the series is shaping up!

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Introducing ABRSM Piano Star!

I am delighted to inform readers that ABRSM commissioned me to compose a number of pieces for their new Piano Star series of pre-Grade 1 books, which they formally unveil today. I feel honoured to have been involved with these fabulous new books…

As a direct contributor, of course I am unable to offer a full independent review of the publications here for ethical reasons. Instead, I have reproduced today’s Media Release from ABRSM, which gives full details of the publications below.

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Safari: Adventures for Piano (June Armstrong)

Sheet Music Review

Composer June Armstrong has now published more than a dozen collections of original solo piano music through her business Pianissimo Publishing, and I have previously published favourable reviews of her book Stars: 14 Constellations for Piano and her easy duet collection Rayan’s Duet Book‘.

June is well known to many piano teachers for ‘Toy Box’ (aimed at beginner to pre-grade 1 standard) and its sequel ‘Paint Box’ (pre-grade 1 to grade 1), the most popular of her previous collections.

‘Safari: Adventures for Piano  is June’s latest publication, released September 2016. Aimed at “Beginner to pre-grade 1 standard”, the book revisits the level of ‘Toy Box’.

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Fantasy Piano: 20 Enchanting Easy Pieces

Sheet Music Review

With the new term getting underway at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, now is surely a good time to mention Hans-Günter Heumann‘s magical collection ‘Fantasy Piano’, published by Schott Music last year.

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8 Great Piano Duet Books

Sheet Music Review

The Piano Duet is a musical genre that I have explored too little with my students in the past, so a few years ago I decided to stock up on a few duet books. Finding excellent material for more advanced students was easy enough, given the wonderful works for “One Piano Four Hands” by such classical greats as Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Debussy, Poulenc et al. But finding good material for beginners and intermediate players proved far more difficult.

Fast forward to 2016 and that gap in the market has been addressed by a succession of simply great publications over the last few years.

Here is my selection of some of the best, which I hope you will go ahead and explore for yourselves!

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