The Pam Wedgwood Christmas Collection

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Earlier this year, Faber Music released a brilliant compilation of jazzy pieces selected by Pam Wedgwood from her back catalogue of bestsellers.

In my review of the Jazzin’ About Anthology, I described it as,

Now Faber have followed it up with The Pam Wedgwood Christmas Collection, and the same high praise is due.

Producing this book is certainly a smart and welcome move. Wedgwood has an impressive archive of Christmas-themed music to mine, having produced several books of traditional, jazzy and contemporary seasonal music in the After Hours, Jazzin’ About, and Up Grade! series, not forgetting the excellent It’s Never Too Late to Play… Christmas collection.

With such a wealth of material to choose from, let’s find out what Wedgwood and Faber Music have picked…

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Piano Music of Black Composers

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So writes Leah Claiborne in the compelling introduction to her two new music collections, Expanding the Repertoire: Piano Music of Black Composers, published worldwide by Hal Leonard.

Leah Claiborne

Let’s take a look…

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Paul Harris’s Purple Piano House

Featured publications are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

Paul Harris is known worldwide as one of today’s foremost music educators and I have reviewed numerous publications bearing his name on Pianodao before.

Harris’s latest is unusual indeed, which perhaps need not surprise us given his incredibly fertile mind and innovative creativity.

The Purple Piano House, published by his own Queen’s Temple Publications and subtitled “A Musical Adventure for Pianists” is a delightful story-with-music book which is sure to charm younger players, and offers several intriguing pedagogic possibilities.

The story itself is written by Sam Edenborough, and the book includes illustrations by Jasper Pye. Let’s join them on an adventure…

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Krystyna Gowik: Fives for Piano

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In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing educational piano music by Polish composers. Captivated by my new musical discoveries, I have continued to independently explore and review the music of Chopin’s land…

Since visiting the Kraków headquarters of Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne (PWM Edition) to make a series of educational films back in 2020, I have been continuing my deeper dive into the educational piano music of Poland, discovering some fascinating and often enchanting gems along the way.

When reviewing PWM’s many excellent publications on Pianodao, I have of course been aware that they are rather “niche” in terms of the UK market, most of the composers being relatively unknown outside their homeland. There are exceptions: Feliks Rybicki and Janina Garścia being obvious examples of Polish educational composers whose music has circulated widely.

Krystyna Gowik deserves a spot on that list. When I discovered My Little World and My Favourites, both collections reviewed here (including my film introducing them), I was immediately struck by the appeal and pedagogic quality of her music.

Gowik’s latest collection is called Piątki na fortepiano, in English, Fives for Piano. The book is aimed at relative beginners, and contains 25 new compositions which are all written in five-note positions, but in a surprising range of keys and modes…

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Naoko Ikeda Graded Collection

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Following the success of my series of three Graded Gillock collections published by Willis Music last year, I was delighted to be asked to compile a companion collection showcasing the wonderful music of Japanese composer Naoko Ikeda. The collection, now available from Willis Music, can be purchased from the Musicroom website here.

Naoko Ikeda: The Graded Collection includes 24 of Ikeda’s best solo piano pieces, organised in approximate order of difficulty and appropriately grouped according to the UK Grade system from Grade 2 to Grade 5 level.

These stunning pieces would make wonderful selections as “own choices” in Performance Grades, and with six pieces for each of the four grades covered, they provide a rich feast to enhance the player’s development throughout their intermediate playing years.

The pieces have been chosen to offer a flavour of the musical range of this fine composer, ranging from jazz and pop ballads to emotive pieces infused with the musical language and imagery of Japanese culture.

In the introduction that follows I will offer background to the collection in greater depth, as well as including my own piano recordings of 8 of the 24 pieces, which give a varied, representative preview of the collection.

You will also hear from Naoko Ikeda herself, as she shares about her creative journey in her own words…

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The Jazzin’ About Anthology

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When I began teaching in the 1990’s, Pam Wedgwood’s Jazzin’ About books were very much the rage, the latest thing that every student wanted to play. The series (as it then was) comprised just a handful of books, but over the years it has burgeoned and in the process clocked up more than half a million sales. Wedgwood’s pieces have become perennial favourites.

Latest addition, The Jazzin’ About Piano Anthology, brings together 41 of Pam’s favourite pieces from across the series, presented progressively in one volume from early elementary to intermediate level (UK Initial to Grade 5). Publishers Faber Music tell us that the book includes six new pieces specially composed for this edition, plus duets and online demonstration audio performed by the composer.

“So take a break from the classics and get into the groove as you cruise from blues, to rock, to jazz!”

Let’s dig in…

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Petits Morceaux pour piano

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France has a rich heritage of keyboard music and a proud tradition of piano pedagogy, and yet for many players in the English-speaking world a first encounter with this superb legacy only occurs at early advanced level, with the introduction of favourite classics by Satie and Debussy.

Two rather wonderful new publications from Durand Edition present us with a fine opportunity to acquaint ourselves with the rewarding seam of music that elementary and intermediate players in France are no doubt already familiar with.

The books are introduced by their publisher as,

“A journey through the most iconic pieces found in the prestigious catalogues of Max Eschig, Durand and Salabert. The pieces are organised in order of playing difficulty. An indispensable edition for a voyage through the world of the piano through its didactic repertoire from the last century.”

The music within is predominantly but not exclusively composed by French composers, and includes a mixture of names that will be familiar to teachers in the English-speaking community alongside some who will be less recognised, but certainly no less deserving of discovery.

In this review I will be delving into each of these two fascinating volumes…

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Journey Through the Classics

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Amidst the understandable and deserved popularity of new contemporary music collections, I am happy to find that there is still a demand for more traditional pedagogic piano music.

Players and teachers often ask me for recommendations of piano collections devoted to the core classical and pedagogic repertoire, and there are many strong choices.

Here in the UK, these include the various graded collections produced by ABRSM, Faber Music and others. Meanwhile, publishers based in countries less influenced by our exam system have produced alternatives which can be rather freer in their content, looser in their boundaries and framework, a point which will particularly appeal to the growing number of teachers keen to eschew a curriculum that is essentially dictated by exam boards.

Among the best repertoire resources I have come across, take a look at Journey Through the Classics, a superb series compiled, edited (and with recordings) by the eminent American educator Jennifer Linn, published worldwide by Hal Leonard.

As I dig into (and colloquially “dig”) the series, why not come and join me for the Journey… I promise it’s a good one!

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Easy Christmas Piano Books

Featured publications are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

The Christmas season is accompanied by a uniquely popular and significant body of music spanning multiple genres, and it’s no wonder that there are so many varied piano collections to choose from, whatever your level.

Many of the best Christmas music books of recent years have been reviewed on Pianodao, and you can dive in to explore the most recent publications for elementary and intermediate players here:

But of course there are many other great Christmas books which predate the reviews on this site, or which I have otherwise overlooked. In this post I will collect together a few of my favourite collections suitable for beginner, elementary and early intermediate players…

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June Armstrong: Music Box

Featured publications are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

June Armstrong is a quite simply a marvel. Respected worldwide as one of our most musically distinctive and rewarding educational composers, and for the understated quality of her publications (which she brings to the world via her own business Pianissimo Publishing), Armstrong has both made a huge impact and succeeded on her own terms.

The Pianodao Music Library already includes reviews of several of June Armstrong’s previous collections. Now her latest collection, the superb Music Box, has arrived.

With this new publication, Armstrong brings us 27 new compositions for elementary players (around UK Grades 1-3), with each piece celebrating a different musical instrument from around the world. Let’s lift the lid…

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