Six Little Preludes & Fugues

Sheet Music Review

June Armstrong (see Your Story: June Armstrong) has proven not only to be one of our more imaginative contemporary educational composers, but also to have a keen eye for gaps in the existing pedagogic repertoire.

Her many excellent and innovative publications via her business Pianissimo Publishing (see my reviews of Safari, Stars and Rayan’s Duet Book) fill a wide range of such gaps, and between them comprise a genuinely important body of work. Every collection, too, is a joy to explore and a delight to own.

June’s latest collection is Six Little Preludes and Fugues, and looks set to continue this trend, living up to the high standards of previous publications.

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Pam Wedgwood’s ‘Piano Gallery’

Sheet Music Review

The simple ideas – so they say – are often the best.

And with her latest publication – Piano Gallery – best-selling composer Pam Wedgwood has taken the seemingly simple idea of composing a collection of pieces inspired by great artworks, and with the visionary support of Faber Music, produced one of the finest, most imaginative and inspiring collections of original intermediate repertoire that I have yet had the pleasure of reviewing here.

So what is it about this publication that makes it such an essential purchase?

Continue reading Pam Wedgwood’s ‘Piano Gallery’

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.

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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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Martinů: Easy Piano Pieces & Dances

Sheet Music Review

The composer Bohuslav Martinů’s name will be known to many readers, but perhaps fewer will be familiar with his piano music – other than the gorgeous miniature Colombine Dances, which was such a popular choice when it was set for ABRSM Grade 6 a few years ago, subsequently appearing in the third Encore book.

Born in 1890, Martinů is rightly regarded as one of the great Czech composers of the early 20th century. He was impressively prolific, leaving 15 operas, 14 ballet scores, 6 Symphonies, and a very large body of instrumental and choral music. His musical influences were eclectic – embracing modernism, neo-classicism, jazz and Latin American dance music.

All of which are evident in a new collection of previously unknown piano works, brought to us by Bärenreiter.

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The Intermediate Pianist

Sheet Music Review

The Intermediate Pianist series is a fresh and ground-breaking approach which is full of brilliant musical ideas. It’s sure to enable pianists to play with greater understanding and engagement, and comes very highly recommended.

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Easy Concert Pieces: Book 3

Sheet Music Review

Reviewing the first two books in this series last year, I concluded:

No need to beat around the bush: I really like this series!

Put simply, the two books so far both include a really appealing range of pieces in varied styles, beautifully presented and well-edited, and with a well recorded CD as a bonus. The first book contains 50 pieces, the second 48, and each has a recommended retail price of just £11.99, which represents excellent value for what’s included.

I would certainly want to use these books alongside some more contemporary repertoire, but overall I think they are likely to become standard collections used in my own teaching practice in the coming months. And I can’t wait to see Volume 3 when it comes out!

Since writing that, both books have indeed become resources that I use in my own teaching practice, particularly with older beginner/elementary players, and the students using them have been uniformly enthusiastic.

And now Book 3 is with us, completing the series. So let’s take a look!

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Play it Again: Piano

Sheet Music Review

As Pianodao has become more widely regarded for its independent reviews, I find myself with a mounting pile of material sent for me to look at, most of which is really very good indeed.

That said, some products genuinely stand out from the crowd, because they are innovative, unusual, speak to my particular interests, or are just excellently done.

Melanie Spanswick’s Play it again: Piano books 1 and 2 are all of the above, and easily stand out in the crowd. In this review I will do my best to explain why I think that is.

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A Scottish Collection

Sheet Music Review

Avid newsreaders may have seen that earlier this week it was announced that Scotland has been voted The Most Beautiful Country in the World, and those of us who have enjoyed the privilege of a visit there will know why!

But what about Scotland’s musical heritage? Well again, those in the know can quickly advise that it is one to treasure and to preserve with a passion.

As it happens, the ever-prolific Barbara Arens is one of those in the know…

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At the Piano: Mozart

Sheet Music Review

Ask any classical performer to name which edition of the core repertoire they most highly regard both for daily use and as an authoritative Urtext Edition, and the name G. Henle Verlag will be at or close to the top of their list.

In their own words:

“Musicians need to be able to rely on their sheet music. This should be undistorted, free of errors, practical and durable. This is exactly what we provide. We call it Henle Urtext. Musicians around the world, both amateurs and professionals, know us.

Unlike the other music publishers, we have concentrated almost exclusively on producing Urtext editions of the great “classical” compositions ever since Günter Henle founded our company in 1948. As the world’s undisputed leader in this premium class, we have the most know-how about Urtext as well as the most comprehensive Urtext catalogue, comprising 1.000 titles to date.”

To this extensive catagloue, Henle recently added a new series of publications specifically aimed at those “returning to the piano”. That series, ‘At the Piano’ is happily now available in English.

According to the publisher:

  • Each volume includes original pieces by one composer.
  • The works are arranged in progressive order of difficulty (from easy to medium level).
  • The works complement one another conceptually.
  • The length of the pieces ranges from one to eight pages.
  • The works contain fingerings and practical tips on technique and
    interpretation.

There’s even this promotional video:

There are 12 volumes in the series, each focussing on the music of one core composer, and for this review I will be focussing on the Mozart volume in the series.

Details of the rest, including the lists of pieces they include, are on the Henle Verlag website here.

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Martha Mier: “Jazz Suite in Color”

Sheet Music Review

Martha Mier is undoubtedly one of America’s finest educational composers.

Best-known in the UK for her Jazz, Rags & Blues and Romantic Impressions series, she is also a co-writer of the Alfred Premier Piano course (the new Express version of which I plan to review here soon) and composer of several other collections and stand-alone works.

Hot off the press, Jazz Suite in Color (don’t blame me for the spelling here!) joins Alfred Music’s growing Recital Suite Series aimed at intermediate players – in terms of the UK grades, these pieces are around Grade 4 level.

Let’s take a look…

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