Barbara Arens: One Hand Piano

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


The Pianodao Music Library includes several collections by educator and composer Barbara Arens, and regular readers will know I am a fan.

It has been a little while since she last brought us a new collection with a major publishing house, so I am delighted to be reviewing her latest from the world’s oldest music publisher Breitkopf and Hārtel, who are also the company with whom she has the longest history.

One Hand Piano 2 is the sequel to One Hand Piano, Arens’ only Breitkopf publication not previously reviewed on Pianodao, so I am going to make the most of the opportunity to review both books here. Each volume contains 40 pieces for Left or Right hand alone, and as she so often does, Arens has identified a niche and brilliantly filled it…

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The Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Reviewing Pam Wedgwood’s The Rusty Pianist when it appeared around this time last year, I concluded:

“Some of the publications which come my way are absolutely perfect for their intended niche, while others go far beyond their remit to become enduring classics with huge appeal. I am happy to say that this is one of those publications, and it belongs not only on the shelves of the rusty, but of piano lovers everywhere.”

• READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE

Wedgwood’s latest publication, the cannily titled Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces is a companion to that brilliant volume, and continues the ruse of appealing to the modesty of returning adult players.

The book delivers an enticing collection of 16 “easy-to-learn piano solos for the returning player”, pieces which can be enjoyed in their own right by piano returners at intermediate level, without any deadline or need to prove their progress in an exam room. Let’s once again lift the lid…

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Górecki: Piano Album

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (1933-2010) has come to be regarded as one of the most important composers of the second half of the twentieth century, significantly due to the astonishing commercial success of his Third Symphony, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (1976).

A leading figure in Poland’s avant-garde in the 1960’s to ’70’s, Górecki was inspired by (among others) Webern, Messiaen, Stockhausen, and his compatriot Krzysztof Penderecki (who was just two weeks his senior), although his later work transitioned toward a more tonal approach, the Third Symphony marking an important staging post in that musical metamorphosis.

Boosey & Hawkes, long at the forefront of bringing contemporary piano music to market, have recently issued a new collection of Górecki’s more modest pieces for the instrument. The Piano Album is edited by the composer’s daughter, concert pianist Anna Górecka, and offers a fascinating and approachable snapshot of his evolving art…

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Women Composers: A Graded Anthology

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Hot on the heels of Karen Marshall’s lovingly curated HerStory from Faber Music, which I recently reviewed here, Schott Music bring us three brilliantly compiled and vividly presented collections of music by neglected female composers past and present.

Melanie Spanswick’s Women Composers: A Graded Anthology is equally as groundbreaking, and being a larger series these books offer space to a wider and more diverse range of repertoire, particularly in their inclusion of playful jazz and 20th century piano works.

It is interesting to note that of the 30 works in Marshall’s book and the 52 more here, not only are there no actual duplicates, but few of the composers themselves appear twice, an extraordinary confirmation (were it needed) that the pool of neglected music by female composers is a deep one indeed.

So let’s cast an eye over Spanswick’s series…

Continue reading Women Composers: A Graded Anthology

Music from Minecraft

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


When I heard that Hal Leonard were bringing out a Music from Minecraft solo piano album, I was intrigued but unsure what to expect, not least because while interested in the concept of the game, I haven’t actually played it.

The music is composed by Daniel Rosenfeld, a German electronic composer and sound engineer who performs under the moniker C418. Rosenfeld began creating music on his computer as a teenager, and by the age of twenty had an established growing career.

Rosenfeld’s music for Minecraft was created when he was in his early twenties, and has been released on two albums in conjunction with the game itself: Minecraft Alpha (2011) and the longer, lusher Minecraft Beta (2013).

The present sheet music publication draws twenty pieces from across both those albums, presenting solo piano transcriptions suitable for intermediate to advanced players. The target audience will predominantly be teenagers and young adults who play the game, and that’s a huge target!

So let’s take a look…

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Mirosław Gąsieniec: Album for Children

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES

MUSIC FROM CHOPIN’S LAND
In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing Polish piano music. I was captivated by new musical discoveries, asked to see a wider selection, and have subsequently continued to independently review and introduce this repertoire to Pianodao readers…


Of the many beautifully presented piano collections suitable for intermediate players in the PWM Edition catalogue, the Album for Children by Mirosław Gąsieniec deserves special attention. Published in 2020, the book includes twelve superbly crafted, varied and original, melodic pieces.

In this review I will also consider the same composer’s earlier Collection of Dances for Piano (2013) which delivers another, similarly enticing set of ten Gąsieniec originals composed in a neo-classical manner, and again suited to players at upper intermediate level (around UK Grade 4-6).

Continue reading Mirosław Gąsieniec: Album for Children

“HerStory”: The Piano Collection

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Best-selling author Karen Marshall has been a driving force behind some of the most popular and useful piano education titles of recent years, including the Piano Star and Encore series (both ABRSM), Get Set! Piano method books (Collins Music) and Piano Trainer series (Faber Music).

To get the measure of this achievement, you can browse and read all of my previous reviews of Marshall’s work by clicking on this tag.

Marshall’s latest project is HerStory from Faber Music, and will appeal to a wider catchment of piano players beyond the education market, being a compilation of 30 works by female composers who thus far have not received the recognition they have deserved. But HerStory is so much more than simply another repertoire collection, as I will explain in this review.

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Ludovico Einaudi: Underwater

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Ludovico Einaudi’s early solo piano albums, which included Le Onde (1996), I Giorni (2001), and Una Matina (2004), established him as the most well-known contemporary piano composer, his most classic pieces appearing ubiquitously from soundtracks to school concerts.

Over the years, he has consolidated his phenomenal success with a string of albums that have expanded his sound. Eden Rock (1999) introduced this wider instrumentation, and string parts have continued to take a particularly important role on albums such as In a Time Lapse (2013) and Elements (2015). Electronic elements and treatments have featured too, notably on Divenire (2006) and Nightbook (2009).

Underwater is Einaudi’s first full album of new solo piano music for two decades. The music was composed while the composer was isolated at his home in Italy. Working without any distractions or the usual commitments that come with his busy schedule, we are told that it is his manifesto for life, and a statement on a period during which the world around him was quiet and silent.

“I felt a sense of freedom to abandon myself and to let the music flow in a different way. I didn’t have a filter between me and what came out of the piano, it felt very pure.”

As a sometime fan of Einaudi’s work, I found Underwater strikingly different to listen to (as have others), and have been looking forward to considering the sheet music folio, which has recently been published by Chester Music / Hal Leonard, and is the subject of this review…

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The New, Improved Microjazz

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


It has been four decades since Christopher Norton’s remarkable Microjazz series practically reinvented piano education in this country and beyond with its infectious cocktail of classical technique and popular contemporary stylings.

Microjazz quickly won recognition the world over as a landmark series, sold over a million copies, and spawned a plethora of spin offs that included More Microjazz, Microstyles, Improvise Microjazz, Microjazz Duets and collections for a wider range of instruments.

The repackaging of the piano solo materials as the Microjazz Collections in 1997 simplified the brand, and made the progression through levels more obvious. Those Collections were again rebranded in 2011, and are receiving another facelift from this year. This time, the Microjazz Collections are also joined by two wholly new, more advanced music books.

In this review I will introduce these new stars in the Microjazz galaxy, and consider the latest updates to the existing books.

But first, let’s celebrate this incredible publishing phenomenon by recapping its extraordinary history…

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Ballads without words

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Heather Hammond is one of the UK’s most widely respected and published educational composers, responsible for a string of popular titles that notably include the Cool Piano, Cool Clarinet, Funky Flute and Super Sax series from Kevin Mayhew. She is also much admired for her work with writing partner Karen Marshall; together they created the Get Set! Piano method series (Collins Music) and Intermediate Pianist (Faber Music).

Hammond’s most recent music, published with vision and panache by EVC Music, has further consolidated her growing international reputation, and EVC now brings us the combined Ballads Without Words, a compilation of two previous best-selling titles (suitable for upper intermediate players around UK Grades 4-5), joined by two brand new pieces…

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Beethoven: Klavierstücke

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Beethoven’s 35 Piano Sonatas and 22 Variations sets are at the very summit not only of his own creative output for the instrument, but are a climax of the classical keyboard repertoire. They are not, however, the sum total of the great composer’s output for solo piano…

With their latest volume, Wiener Urtext Edition UT 50295 amass his other works in one essential 260-page reference compendium, including 31 pieces with opus numbers (all but one published in the composer’s lifetime) and 36 without, one of which was newly rediscovered in 2020.

All works included are edited from the sources by Jochen Reutter, whose recent edition of the complete Sonatas for Wiener Urtext I reviewed here, with fingerings and notes on interpretation by Sheila Arnold.

Wiener Urtext has further issued three shorter folio editions of individual works, and in this review I will also detail those for your interest.

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West Side Story

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


With Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed new movie version of West Side Story arriving at multiplexes around the world, you surely won’t have missed the buzz once again surrounding the great Bernstein/Sondheim masterpiece.

Looking for an accessible piano score, I found that there are more than 300 search results on Musicroom, narrowing down to several piano solo and duet publications. I’ve selected the “intermediate piano solo selections” version for review here, which has been around for a few years, and is linked (via Musicroom) at the end of the short review which follows…

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Greater in Major, Finer in Minor

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Early in my piano teaching career I discovered The Keyboard Crocodile, a colourful publication from Breitkopf & Hārtel offering a delicious collection of 37 Easy Piano Pieces for Children.

Suitable for elementary players, The Keyboard Crocodile fast-tracks young players from around UK Prep Test to post Grade 2 seemingly in a few blinks of the eye, presenting rapidly more difficult pieces as though they are easy, and inspiring a level of practice that is uncommon at that level. It’s quite simply a classic of the pedagogy repertoire.

Over subsequent decades, Breitkopf have steadily grown their Pädagogik imprint to include a delightful range of other characters and collections, often with an emphasis on creative education. And now the editors of The Keyboard Crocodile have delved into music history’s treasure chest of piano literature and come up with 33 gems in minor keys, Toll in Moll (Finer in Minor) and another 33 in major keys, Toll in Dur (Greater in Major).

These two collections are quite simply stunning, perhaps the most superbly presented intermediate collections I have ever seen, and suitable for all ages.

They are available separately, or as the discounted pack of both together, shown above and reviewed here. The wide range of music included (all listed below) is suitable for intermediate players from around UK Grades 3-6. And there’s enough consistently good repertoire here to keep players going for quite some time!

It must be noted however that these are luxury publications which come with a premium price tag; I will explain later in the review why I think many should and will still be very tempted…

Continue reading Greater in Major, Finer in Minor

Notebook for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Reviewing Christoph Wolff’s critical edition of the famous Anna Magdalena Bach Notebooks of 1722 and 1725 for Edition Peters a few months ago, I described the publication as a “landmark” treasure and noted:

“It hardly needs saying that every piano student and player with any interest in classical music needs to have a copy of the Anna Magdalena Notebook on their music stand at some point, nor that this edition is now the one to buy.”

The publication is now joined by a companion volume: a new edition of the less celebrated Wilhelm Friedemann Bach notebook of 1720.

While the Anna Magdalena Bach Notebooks appeared both in linen-bound Premium Scholarly Edition and more economical Practical Student Edition, this new publication appears (to my knowledge) in Premium Scholarly Edition only.

A similarly lavish linen-bound score, this volume is the perfect partner to its recent predecessor, and surely belongs beside it on every music shelf.


Let’s explore this latest wonder…

Continue reading Notebook for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach

ABBA: Voyage

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


The story of Abba’s 2021 reunion album, their final studio outing but also their first for some 40 years, hardly needs further comment such has been the media interest and saturation already.

Voyage may have divided both critical and fan opinion (doesn’t everything these days?) but the arrival of the official sheet music book from Hal Leonard offers an opportunity to consider the merits of the songs in their own right, stripped of their production.

Resistance is probably futile, so we had best take a look…

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