Juliusz Łuciuk: Children’s Improvisations for piano

Music from Chopin’s Land.
In 2020 I was commissioned to record five short films showcasing piano music from PWM Edition. Captivated by the music, I asked to see a wider selection. This series was written independently to introduce this wonderful Polish repertoire to a wider audience…

Of the many excellent educational books in the PWM Edition “cat” range for young learners, Julius Łuciuk’s Children’s Improvisations for Piano is one of the most striking in every sense, from the stunning cover to the extraordinary music within.

In this article I will introduce the book, as well as including the PWM tutorial video featuring my French colleague and friend Ernestine Bluteau (with English subtitles).

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Bob Chilcott: A Little Jazz Piano

Sheet Music Review

Bob Chilcott will be known to many readers for his lifelong association with choral music, first as a chorister and choral scholar in the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, and for 12 years as a member of the King’s Singers.

Chilcott became a full-time composer in 1997, and has produced a large catalogue of music for all types of choirs which is published by Oxford University Press. His most often performed pieces include A Little Jazz MassRequiem, and Can you hear me?

In common with John Rutter, whose Piano Collection and Christmas Piano Album I have recently reviewed, Chilcott has lately turned his hand to creating a collection of piano pieces. Nattily titled A Little Jazz Piano in reference to his popular Mass, this newly published collection from OUP contains three short pieces suitable for intermediate players.

Let’s take a little look…

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Gareth Malone: Music for Healing

Sheet Music Review

Gareth Malone became a household name with his TV series The Choir, and subsequent ratings juggernaut The Choir: Military Wives, which led to a Christmas Number 1 chart topper.

Malone’s many colourful and inspiring efforts to get the nation singing are surely one of the heartening success stories of British cultural life in recent years, and in 2012 he was awarded an OBE for his services to music.

Now Malone has turned back to the piano for a brand new recording entitled Music for Healing, with a supporting sheet music publication from Hal Leonard which is the subject of this review.

Let’s ascend the stairwell and take a look…

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The Best Christmas Piano Music 2020

Sheet Music Review

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.

Once again this year, Pianodao has a round up of favourite choices…

Continue reading The Best Christmas Piano Music 2020

Piano Calm Christmas

Sheet Music Review

Philip Keveren is one of my favourite arrangers and composers whose music has a contemporary popular vibe. He is also clearly industrious: this year alone has seen the release of his clever Circles: Character Etudes in 24 keys (reviewed here) and the hugely appealing Piano Calm (reviewed here), both of which are quickly establishing themselves as firm favourites with my students.

Now Keveren brings us the sequel to the latter collection, Piano Calm Christmas. And if it lives up to its recent predecessors, we can look forward to something very special indeed.

So let’s find out…

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Play Piano for Well-being

Sheet Music Review

Faber Music have established a reputation for producing interesting and beautifully presented piano collections in recent years, ranging from their standard-setting Faber Music Anthologies series to less imposing but equally attractive compilations.

Their latest is called Play Piano for Well-being, which offers a typically diverse assortment of popular and easily accessible pieces.

In common with last year’s Peaceful Piano Playlist, this new addition similarly compiles a wide range of music in the manner of a Spotify playlist, the hope being that the “31 uplifting piano solos” contained within will bring delight to players and listeners alike.

Let’s hit the play button…

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Bacewicz: Children’s Suite

Sheet Music Review

Grażyna Bacewicz (1909-1969) is at last gaining the recognition she deserves as one of the great composers of the mid-twentieth century, her towering Second Sonata rightly applauded as one of the significant piano masterpieces of the last century.

Among the composer’s many smaller-scale piano works the Suita dziecięca or Children’s Suite is a delightful highlight, its eight charming miniatures for the late-intermediate pianist a fascinating progression from the educational piano music of Bartók, Kabalevsky and Prokofiev (whose popular Musiques d’enfants appeared just one year after Bacewicz’s Suite).

Poland’s major publishing house Polskie Wydawnictwo Muzyczne, PWM Edition, have recently delivered a delightful new edition of the work, edited by Monika Dziurawiec and with a gorgeous cover design by Joanna Rusinek.


Over the coming months I am going to be publishing a major series looking at an impressive swathe of lovely publications from PWM Edition: Music from Chopin’s Land.

In the meantime it’s a pleasure to look at this new publication and delve into the imaginative pianism of Bacewicz, not least because this important work surely deserves a place within the core pedagogic repertoire that every piano teacher should try to be aware of…

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Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora

Sheet Music Review

One of the many positive developments within the piano teaching and performing community in 2020 has been a re-evaluation of the contribution of musicians of African descent to the repertoire.

A primary sourcebook for this music, Oxford University Press published Piano Music of Africa and the Afrian Diaspora in five volumes, compiled and edited by William H. Chapman Nyaho, between 2007-8. Between them, the books offer 60 pieces by 36 separate composers of African descent, organised by difficulty level as follows:

  1. Volume 1: Early Intermediate
  2. Volume 2: Intermediate
  3. Volume 3: Early Advanced
  4. Volume 4: Advanced
  5. Volume 5: Advanced

More than a decade has passed since the publication of these books, and it is odd that so little of this music has made its way onto concert platforms or found regular use in teaching studios, exams, and homes.

Quite why more haven’t picked up this music is a mystery, because anyone with a fair mind and musical imagination will discover as soon as they explore these OUP volumes that the music of these neglected composers is consistently superb.

So let’s explore the series…

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Igudesman’s ‘Insectopedia’

Sheet Music Review

Aleksey Igudesman is perhaps best known as one half of inventive and irreverent clas­si­cal duo Igudes­man and Joo, who have taken the world by storm with their unique and hilar­i­ous the­atri­cal shows, com­bining com­edy with clas­si­cal music and pop­u­lar cul­ture.

Igudesman and Joo’s YouTube clips have to date gath­ered over 35 mil­lion hits, and the duo has appeared live and on tele­vi­sion in numer­ous coun­tries.

But there’s a lot more to St Petersburg-born Igudesman, who describes himself variously as “The World’s Most Ambiguously Inglorious Composer”, “Most Accidentally Immoral Producer” and “Most Attractively Intense Violininst”.

Insectopedia is one of Igudesman’s latest projects, a collection of ten insect-inspired solo piano pieces for the intermediate pianist which aim to be as educational as they are entertaining.

From the rear cover of the beautifully presented Universal Edition publication, global superstar pianist Yuja Wang tell us:

“Reminiscent of Bartók’s Mikrokosmos, you will have a lot of fun with this little album. In fact, the more you are involved, the more fun you will have with it. The music in Insectopedia is so vivid that you feel like you are becoming one of the insects. Well, perhaps not the cockroach, but try not to fly away after playing it!”

Well that got my attention!

Intrigued? Let’s check it out…

Continue reading Igudesman’s ‘Insectopedia’

Ola Gjeilo: Night

Sheet Music Review

“I love nighttime. I love the mood of night, and feeling all of New York City light up from endless skyscrapers. There’s something very inspiring and even reassuring and calming about that to me. New York at night is very romantic, I think”

So writes Ola Gjeilo in the introduction to his new album Night, available on CD from Decca (purchase from Amazon UK here) and sheet music from Chester Music/Hal Leonard (the subject of this review).

Those who’ve not yet had the joy of discovering Gjeilo’s music are in for a treat with this album and will hopefully also explore his previous work, including the earlier piano albums Stone Rose (2007), Piano Improvisations (2012) and his immensely popular choral music.

So let’s take our time and journey towards the dizzying and inviting lights of Gjeilo’s Night

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Faber’s Easy Piano Anthology

Sheet Music Review

Faber Music’s growing series of high-quality Piano Anthologies have been establishing a reputation for offering generous and well-presented collections compiled for intermediate to advanced players.

I have previously reviewed:

Hot on their heels, Faber bring us their Easy Piano Anthology, a new book in the series that is aimed at less advanced players, including an enticing selection of arrangements suitable for the elementary to early intermediate player (around Grades 1-4).

Let’s take a look at this new collection…

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Piano Tales for Peter Pan

Sheet Music Review

In the few years that I have been reviewing music publications on Pianodao, there have been a few standout releases which have gone on to become real favourites with my own students.

An obvious winner in this sense is the brilliant Piano Tales for Alice, composed by Nikki Iles and published by EVC Music, which I reviewed here in 2018.

Hot off the press, the much anticipated sequel Piano Tales for Peter Pan is out now, and for those who have been keen for its arrival I have good news:

Nikki Iles has done it again! Piano Tales for Peter Pan delivers another equally delicious mix of wit, imagination, and jazz-tinged brilliance.

So let’s take a look…

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Relax with Meditative Piano

Sheet Music Review

When Schott Music delivered their gorgeously presented Relax with Beautiful Piano Music series of five books back in 2016, I concluded my review:

“What excites me is that these books so brilliantly meet the demand expressed by so many of my teenage and adult students for beautiful music that can be enjoyed for enjoyment’s sake.”

Is it really four years? Well, I am happy to report that during that time several of my adult students have been using these marvellous collections, and without exception absolutely loving the selections of music they contain.

In most cases, having bought one book they have rushed to buy others in the series without prompting, an obvious indication of enthusiasm, and interestingly the Baroque and Classical books have proven particularly popular.

Happily for all, Schott Music are back with an encore, a sixth book again selected by British concert pianist Samantha Ward. With the title Relax with Meditative Piano, it promises to be another winning selection of great music. So come on, let’s see what’s in it…

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Phillip Keveren’s Circles

Sheet Music Review

American composer and arranger Phillip Keveren’s books have become increasingly popular staples in my studio, his recent collection Piano Calm (reviewed here) establishing itself as a particular favourite.

Keveren’s latest publication, brought to us as ever by Hal Leonard, is Circles: Character Etudes in 24 Keys, once again a collection of brand new original pieces aimed at intermediate pianists.

And it’s another triumph…

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Schott Music’s Mini Maestros

Sheet Music Review

Those looking for good anthologies of easy piano music are fairly spoilt for choice these days.

Latest to arrive (on the same day as ABRSM’s rather disappointing Core Classics series reviewed here), a set of three new books from Schott Music, compiled by the ever-prolific Hans-Günter Heumann, and collectively titled: Mini Maestro.

With each of the three books containing 50 solo pieces and 3 bonus duets, Mini Maestro certainly offers great value and plenty to dig into, so let’s take a look…

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Pam Wedgwood: Piano Meditations

Sheet Music Review

Following on from her previous collections of original pieces inspired by works of art Piano Gallery (reviewed here) and Piano Seascapes (reviewed here), Piano Meditations is the latest from best-selling composer Pam Wedgwood, brought to us as ever by publishers Faber Music.

Here we have 12 brand new compositions which are, according to their composer, “inspired by contemplative works of art, and once again the publication includes a gorgeous full colour pull-out poster featuring images of all the paintings which served as Pam’s muse.

Intermediate players who enjoyed the previous collections, along with Wedgwood’s many fans, will undoubtedly already be rushing to their music supplier for a copy; for the benefit of those wanting more information, let’s take a quick look…

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ABRSM “Core Classics” – The Review

Sheet Music Review

Once in a while, a publication arrives for review which is based on a great concept and is itself essentially a very good product, but where the mismatch between the original intention and its actual delivery is a glaring one, as though at some point in the developmental process there was a communication breakdown.

Core Classics: Essential Repertoire for Piano, a set of seven progressively “graded” solo repertoire books published worldwide today by ABRSM, is a striking example of this phenomenon.

That is a particular disappointment, given that this is actually a beautifully presented and musically interesting series. So let’s find out exactly what Core Classics has to offer…

Continue reading ABRSM “Core Classics” – The Review

James Welburn: Reflections in Waltz

Sheet Music Review

Around this time last year I reviewed James Welburn’s Musical Escapades (you can read that review here), and was very positive about his original piano music, concluding:

“What impresses me most of all is the infectious good humour and the compelling imagination that runs throughout the whole collection…
James Welburn has with this collection made a stunning Editions Musica Ferrum debut; he is clearly a composer to watch, and among this publisher’s rich and growing catalogue, Musical Escapades becomes one of their best publications yet.”

Now Welburn is back with a new collection, once more published by Musica Ferrum. Reflections in Waltz offers seven new original pieces, again suited to players at late-intermediate level…

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Phillip Keveren’s ‘Piano Calm’

Sheet Music Review

Phillip Keveren’s name will be known to many readers for The Phillip Keveren Series of music books published by Hal Leonard, numbering nearly 100 volumes published in the US, with many now also available here in the UK.

Keveren, described by his publishers as “a multi-talented keyboard artist and composer”, is a superb arranger. His publications, suitable for intermediate to more advanced players, include collections of music from rock, pop, gospel, folk and jazz favourites, as well as several volumes dedicated to the music of stage, screen, worship service and Disney hits.

Those I’ve seen are uniformly excellent, combining musical authenticity with pianistic intelligence, and are rapidly becoming an indispensable resource within my teaching studio.

For his latest addition to the series, Piano Calm, Keveren has turned his hand to composing 15 original pieces, suitable for intermediate players, which he describes as ‘reflective solos. And I think they are excellent.

So let’s take a look…

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My First Tchaikovsky

Wilhelm Ohmen’s My First Composers collections from Schott Music are proving to be a series which keeps on giving…

It only seems yesterday that I reviewed My First Haydn, having previously taken a look at My First Schumann and My First Beethoven. The series also includes collections of music by J.S. Bach, Mozart and Chopin.

The latest collection to join the series is My First Tchaikovsky

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