No Words Necessary

Sheet Music Review

Lots of piano players enjoy the contemporary stylings of popular composers such as Ludovico Einaudi, Yirumi and David Lanz, but it’s not so easy to find really good arrangements of their music that are accessible to intermediate players, and which manage to be both concise and accurate distillations of the post-minimal piano style.

The search for an educationally sound and musically engaging alternative just got easier with the publication by Schott Music of No Words Necessary, an excellent collection of 12 new pieces composed by Melanie Spanswick.

These interesting and enjoyable pieces will certainly satisfy those looking for approachable contemporary piano solos, and they further confirm Melanie as an imaginative and engaging composer.

So let’s check it out …

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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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The Music Books of Mozart & His Sister

Sheet Music Review

The Music Book for Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart (compiled by Leopold Mozart in 1759) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s London Sketchbook (1764) are surely established at the very pinnacle of the pedagogic keyboard repertoire, their status secure alongside Bach’s Anna Magdalena Notebook, Schumann’s Album for the Young and Bartók’s For Children.

And yet, honestly, how many piano teachers are truly familiar with the contents of these collections, beyond the few favourites that are regularly cherry-picked for exam syllabi and educational repertoire collections? I’m certainly willing, if hardly happy, to plead guilty to the charge of somewhat overlooking this music.

But it turns out that there is a good reason why most of us don’t know these pedagogic collections inside out: while many selections of pieces from these notebooks are available elsewhere, most collections limit themselves to those written by Wolfgang Amadeus and, remarkably there isn’t a full published edition on the market.

No – seriously!

Well thankfully Bärenreiter Urtext Edition are now rectifying this situation with a new complete publication based on the New Mozart Edition. According to the publishers,

“Until now the edition The Music Books of Mozart and his Sister has only been available as part of the boxed set of Mozart’s oeuvre for piano (BA 5749) which has gone out of print. Now for the first time, it can be purchased separately.

“Based on the New Mozart Edition, this is the only publication to contain all the pieces, sketches and fragments found in the notebooks. The Foreword by the great Mozart scholar Wolfgang Plath provides valuable information on the pieces themselves and on the question of their authorship; besides Mozart’s earliest juvenilia, some of which formed the basis of later compositions, the notebooks also contain works by Leopold Mozart and other composers.”

This sounds plausibly irresistible, but as always, we’ll take a closer look …

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How to Play Jazz Piano

Sheet Music Review

It’s turned into a great Autumn for players and students of jazz piano!

Already this week I have reviewed  Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Jazz Piano Solos  (Alfred Music) and  Tim Richards’ Jazz, Latin and Modern Collection  (Schott Music) – both outstanding.

Now let’s see whether Pam Wedgwood’s How to Play Jazz Piano, published by Faber Music this week, can make it a hat-trick.

The book aims to provide a solid introduction to jazz playing and claims to be ideal for young players with a basic knowledge of how to play the piano (approximately Grade 2 standard)”.

As a standalone course suitable for players at this level, there is little competition – perhaps the nearest comparison would be with the (excellent) support materials for the ABRSM Jazz Piano syllabus.

So far, so interesting, so let’s take a closer look …


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Solo Xtreme Books 4-6

Sheet Music Review

Barely were the pixels dry on  my review of Solo Xtreme Books 1 – 3  when Books 4 – 6 landed on my door mat.

My favourable impression and comments about the first three books equally apply to all these – and indeed, the presentation, feel, quality and target audience for Books 4 – 6 is unchanged. The concept here, too, is a simple extension of the earlier collections.

Please therefore consider this review an addendum to the previous one, and be sure to read that first.

Like the previous books, each book includes a selection of new compositions which are billed as “X-traordinary and Challenging Piano Pieces”.

The levels covered by Books 4 – 6 are:

  • Book 4: Early Intermediate to Intermediate (ABRSM Grade 3)
  • Book 5: Intermediate to Late Intermediate (Grades 4-5)
  • Book 6: Late Intermediate to Early Advanced (around Grade 6)

Grade equivalents are necessarily vague, because as with the previous books they are not so much designed to fit snuggly into any particular assessment system, but rather to bust out the player beyond their current level.

What remains to be written, then, is an evaluation of the music in these new collections…

Continue reading Solo Xtreme Books 4-6

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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Mystery Piano

Sheet Music Review

Of the many new piano collections reviewed here on Pianodao over the last couple of years, one of the smaller number to make a particular impact within my own teaching studio has been Hans-Günter Heumann’s Fantasy Piano, reviewed here, which has become a firm favourite with early-intermediate players. Pieces such as Rainbow Fairy and The Sunken Island of Atlantis have started to appear in our regular student concerts, and clearly appeal to players and audiences alike.

Heumann has now produced a brand new collection – a sequel, again published by Schott Music, called Mystery Piano. So let’s see how it compares…

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The Graded Piano Player

Sheet Music Review

The Graded Piano Player is a series of three books from Faber Music, comprising arrangements of well-known tunes specially arranged by leading educationalists for pianists from around ABRSM Grade 1-5 level.

Published back in 2016, the books return to the spotlight as two of these arrangements – Close Every Door from Book 1 and Wouldn’t it be loverly from Book 2 – have been selected for ABRSM’s brilliant new 2019/20 syllabus (which Karen Marshall and I reviewed here).

When pieces are selected from the “alternatives lists”, there’s always a danger that a pupil might be expected to purchase a separate book from which they will only ever play a single piece – so teachers, parents and students will undoubtedly be interested to hear what the rest of the book is like, and in this instance the rest of the series.

With that in mind, let’s take a look …

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Garreth Brooke’s “Upright” Project

“Upright” is a piano project with a difference …

I spoke to project coordinator, Garreth Brooke to find out more…

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Christopher Norton’s “Connections for Piano”

Sheet Music Review

Connections for Piano is a series of eight books which between them offer a staggering 185 original compositions by wildly popular educational composer Christopher Norton.

Originally published for the North American market by Frederick Harris Music, the series has now been republished worldwide by Norton’s own in-house publishing company, 80 Days Publishing.

In this review I will offer an overview of the series, as well as explaining how the new product slightly differs from the original FJH incarnation.

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