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…

Continue reading Pam Wedgwood: Piano Meditations

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.

So let’s see what went awry, and more positively, what this beautifully presented new series actually 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…

Continue reading James Welburn: Reflections in Waltz

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…

Continue reading Phillip Keveren’s ‘Piano Calm’

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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‘Ragtime Blues’ and more…

Sheet Music Review

The arrival of a new collection from the pen of composer and arranger Mike Cornick is always likely to be greeted with enthusiasm.

Cornick’s latest two publications are Ragtime Blues and more and Elgar Favourites (arranged for piano duet). The latter will be reviewed separately, while in this post I will be having a look at ‘Ragtime Blues and more’…

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The Faber Music “Soundtracks Piano Anthology”

Sheet Music Review

Faber Music have in recent years welcomed the onset of the Christmas shopping season with the publication of lavish anthologies, making perfect gifts for the pianist in your life (or indeed for yourself!).

First (in 2016) came the Faber Music Piano Anthology, a stunning hardback collection including 76 popular intermediate and advanced classics, which I reviewed here.

In 2018 they followed this with the lush Faber Music Christmas Piano Anthology, an essential seasonal purchase which I reviewed in more detail here.

New for 2019, the Faber Music Soundtracks Piano Anthology is a collection of 58 pieces which have appeared in movies or TV shows, including popular classics alongside recent film scores.

Let’s take a closer look….

Continue reading The Faber Music “Soundtracks Piano Anthology”

What Christmas Piano Music Books, 2019..?

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.

In this mega-review, I’ll be surveying the collections which have especially caught my eye as we enter the festive season in 2019…

Continue reading What Christmas Piano Music Books, 2019..?

Peaceful Christmas Piano Solos

Sheet Music Review

Peaceful Christmas Piano Solos from Hal Leonard offers a collection of 30 seasonal pieces arranged for solo piano.

Stick with me to find out what’s included…

Continue reading Peaceful Christmas Piano Solos

Christmas Carols with a Classical Flair

Sheet Music Review

Phillip Keveren has established a formidable reputation as an outstanding arranger with his Phillip Keveren Series, numbering nearly 100 titles published worldwide by Hal Leonard.

Ranging from Gospel music, hymns and worship songs to contemporary popular artists such as Coldplay, Queen and Billy Joel, and with plenty of music from films and stage thrown in, these beautifully presented “Piano Solo” collections offer arrangements suitable for the late intermediate player, while there’s also a selection of “Easy Piano” titles aimed at elementary players.

The Phillip Keveren Series already includes several Seasonal titles, such as A Celtic Christmas, Yuletide Jazz, and for “easy piano”, Santa Swings.

For 2019, Keveren brings us another seasonal newcomer to the series, Christmas Carols with a Classical Flair, so let’s see whether he has again struck gold…

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Capturing the Season

Sheet Music Review

As autumn nears its end, the thoughts of musicians everywhere are no doubt turning to the coming season, likely to be a musically rich one for many.

Piano players and teachers are always on the look out for fresh material, and I’m happy to remind you of two excellent collections co-written by composers Alison Mathews and Barbara Arens, Capturing the Joy of Winter, and Capturing the Spirit of Christmas.

Both were positively reviewed here when they appeared in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and it’s high time to consolidate my thoughts into a single review. So here goes…

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Hauschka: A Different Forest

Sheet Music Review

Known professionally as Hauschka, composer Volker Bertelmann has catapulted himself into the top tier of composers. Perhaps best known for his compositions for prepared piano, Haushka has also excelled as a film composer, receiving an Oscar nomination for his soundtrack to the 2016 film “Lion”.

Hauschka’s latest album A Different Forest, a solo piano recording (with some electronic elements and treatments), was released back in February on the Sony Classical label.

There is now also a supporting sheet music publication from Bosworth Edition, distributed by Hal Leonard, the subject of this review…

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Contemporary Piano Masters

Sheet Music Review

You’ve surely spotted the rise-and-rise in popularity of so-called ‘new classical’ music, as championed by Ludovico Einaudi, Max Richter, Yiruma and others.

Their music seems to travel from TV shows to school concerts, and from adult piano clubs to the studios where those of us who teach students of all ages are routinely asked to help them learn River Flows in You, The Heart Asks Pleasure First, Nuvole Bianche and more.

And why not? These are expressive, melodic and reflective pieces that seem to have struck the perfect chord in our otherwise often turbulent times.

How happy, then, to find a single collection that includes so many of the genre’s top titles in one tastefully presented bumper compendium!

Contemporary Piano Masters may just offer a one-stop-solution to your ‘new classical’ needs, bringing together 40 pieces from 20 of “the world’s leading piano composers”.

Let’s take a loser look…

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Nikolas Sideris: Personalities

Sheet Music Review

While the best composers often write brilliant music in response to a commission or request, the creative impetus for composing will often arise from a specific moment of inspiration, musical or conceptual.

So it is with the latest scores from Nikolas Sideris, known to many not just for his own music, which includes Fairyland in Treble and Dusk of Day, Dawn of Night, but also for his Editions Musica Ferrum independent publishing house.

Due to a change in personal circumstance, Nikolas finds himself semi-moving from London to Amsterdam, and among other things this will mean that he will no longer be teaching his 18 students in one particular school. Having grown attached to them, Nikolas decided it a fitting gift to compose a piece dedicated to each of the students.

These personal gifts were no doubt enthusiastically welcomed by their dedicatees, but I think that they deserve a far wider appeal and use. Which brings us to “Personalities, the two new solo piano collections containing these 18 pieces, now available from Musica Ferrum.

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My First Haydn

Sheet Music Review

Few would argue with the statement that Haydn composed some of the most important and brilliant music in the Western classical canon. And the older I get, the more I am finding that his compositions (in a similar way to Bach’s) have the power to restore balance when I feel off-key, and enrich my days.

But Haydn’s music isn’t just for miserable old fogeys; I consistently find that even the youngest of my students quickly learn to enjoy his music more than most, its appealing melodies and jaunty, humorous spirit never far away.

Of course, children (and older beginners) can only make this discovery if teachers make a point of introducing Haydn’s oeuvre to their students. And Schott Music’s latest publications My First Haydn may be just the ticket for ensuring this happens.

The book joins Schott’s imaginative “My First…” series of music books, each featuring a major keyboard composer. I have previously reviewed My First Schumann and My First Beethoven and My First Haydn follows the same format to a tee, so do check those earlier reviews.

But for now let’s dig into this latest in the series…

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Blues in Two and more…

Sheet Music Review

Mike Cornick has long been respected as one of the pioneers of catchy, jazz-based music which is as ideal for adults playing the piano for relaxed enjoyment as it is for educational use.

In this review I will look at his two latest publications, starting with the recently published intermediate collection Blues in Two and more…

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Jakub Metelka: Modern Piano Studies

Sheet Music Review

Jakub Metelka’s Modern Piano Studies is an educationally useful and thoughtfully produced collection of 30 miniature pieces which address aspects both of technique and notation-reading at upper intermediate level. The book is certainly novel, and may have what it takes to establish itself as a contemporary classic in the pedagogy literature…

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Karl Jenkins: Piano

Sheet Music Review

Knighted by the Queen in 2015, Sir Karl Jenkins is established as one of the most performed living composers in the world, his music instantly recognised by anyone who takes even a casual interest in contemporary culture.

In this, his 75th birthday year, Jenkins celebrates his astonishing career with Karl Jenkins: Piano, a new recording from Decca Records with an accompanying sheet music collection published by Boosey & Hawkes, which is the subject of this review.

According to the publishers, Karl Jenkins: Piano offers,

“Intimate and spiritually uplifting classics reimagined for solo piano, including Adiemus, Cantilena, Benedictus, Palladio, Ave verum, And the Moster did Weep and In paradisum. Also included are original piano solos Quirky Blue and Canción plateada, plus White Water, specially composed for the album. Recreate for yourself the mystery, pathos and enchantment of these iconic sounds.”

But to what extent can the mystery, pathos and enchantment of Jenkins’ music actually be realised in simple piano arrangements? Let’s find out…

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The Peaceful Piano Playlist

Sheet Music Review

Faber Music’s numerous piano anthologies have established themselves not only as enticing collections of sought-after pieces, but as a barometer of trends in the piano world.

The newly issued Peaceful Piano Playlist exemplifies this perfectly, offering a selection of relaxing classics and “new classical” pieces that will no doubt have huge appeal to teenagers and adults who play for pleasure and to relax.

If the title (and image above) already appeal, there’s a good chance that you will enjoy this publication immensely. So let’s take a closer look (and listen)…

Continue reading The Peaceful Piano Playlist

Pam Wedgwood’s “Piano Seascapes”

Sheet Music Review

Pam Wedgwood has long been one of the UK’s bestselling educational and contemporary piano composers, with several hugely successful series of books in her back catalogue.

Though now in her 70’s, she remains prolific; since starting to review music on Pianodao I have already written about her outstanding Jazzin’ About the Year (which has subsequently become one of the most popular collections with my own younger students), How to play jazz piano, and her 2017 collection Piano Gallery, about which I concluded:

“Pam’s knack for writing engaging idiomatic piano music and for creating satisfying character pieces with ongoing value seems to me perfectly distilled in Piano Gallery, making this a collection to truly cherish.”

Pam’s latest, Piano Seascapes, is the sequel to Piano Gallery, bringing players 12 new original piano pieces inspired by the sea…

Continue reading Pam Wedgwood’s “Piano Seascapes”

Einaudi’s Seven Days Walking

Sheet Music Review

Ludovico Einaudi’s legion of fans worldwide are no doubt already enjoying his latest release; Seven Days Walking: Day One was released in mid-March, and is to be followed by six further albums, each offering fresh variants on the first, culminating in a boxed set later in the year.

Hot on its heels comes the sheet music publication of the album, brought to us by publishers Chester Music and distributed by Hal Leonard.

For more information read on…

Continue reading Einaudi’s Seven Days Walking

Lang Lang’s Piano Book

Sheet Music Review

SUMPTUOUS!

That’s the first word that came to me as I unpacked the advance review copy of Lang Lang’s Piano Book when it arrived back in February, and it is rightly the first word of this review.

Because Lang Lang’s Piano Book is without question one of the most lush sheet music publications I have ever seen. So, right away a huge round of applause goes to Faber Music for a job magnificently done.

But beyond the opulent presentation, what actually is Lang Lang’s Piano Book? Let’s take a look…

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Small Hand Piano

Sheet Music Review

Small Hand Piano is the latest in Barbara Arens’ series of publications from Edition Breitkopf, following on from the successful One Hand Piano, 21 Amazingly Easy Pieces (read my review here), Piano Misterioso (reviewed here), Piano Vivace – Piano Tranquillo and Piano Exotico (all reviewed here).

Small Hand Piano is also (ironically) the largest of these collections, providing 40 Pieces “without octaves”, half of which are original compositions, the rest selected from the existing literature.

I often hear players mention online that their stretch is too small for a lot of the repertoire they would prefer to play, so this publication certainly has the potential to be something of a crowd-pleaser.

Let’s take a look and see how well it succeeds in fulfilling this useful aim…

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James Welburn’s ‘Musical Escapades’

Sheet Music Review

The latest publication from Editions Musica Ferrum is a collection of “Animated pieces for the intermediate pianist” called Musical Escapades and composed by EMF newcomer James Welburn.

Let’s dive straight in…

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Bartók: Easy Pieces and Dances

Sheet Music Review

It’s fair to say that in the last three years or so I have received more sheet music by Bartók for review than any other composer, the renaissance of interest in publishing his works no doubt a result of the fact that they are no longer in copyright. Bartók is without doubt one of my very favourite composers, so in my book, this commitment to producing excellent new editions of his music is a great thing.

Latest to arrive, Bärenreiter’s Bartók: Easy Piano Pieces and Dances, which brings together miscellaneous pieces of easy to moderate difficulty (including many familiar favourites), is ideal for teaching purposes.

The Easy Piano Pieces and Dances series is one of the many highlights in the Bärenreiter catalogue, with nearly a couple of dozen great composers already given dedicated volumes suitable for the intermediate pianist. I have already given glowing reviews to the collections dedicated to Debussy (read the review) and Martinů (read the review here).

So let’s find out how the new Bartók volume compares …

Continue reading Bartók: Easy Pieces and Dances

Easy Piano Series: Classical

Sheet Music Review

Last year, I praised the first two books in Faber Music’s glossy new set, the Easy Piano Series – covering Shows and Film music.

Now the series has grown to include Classical, and a fourth book snappily called Pop is scheduled to follow later in the year.

In my previous review I noted:

“There is always room on the music shelf for easy piano arrangements of well-known and popular songs – players of all ages naturally find it encouraging and enjoyable to tackle tunes that are familiar to them, their family and friends.”

The Classical book in the series follows a similar philosophy, offering 16 pieces with an emphasis on simplified arrangements of some of the best-loved melodies of all time, and with a few original versions of easy pieces thrown in for good measure.

Let’s explore the collection …

Continue reading Easy Piano Series: Classical

Melanie Spanswick: 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 …

Continue reading Melanie Spanswick: No Words Necessary

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…

Continue reading Bartók: Romanian Christmas Songs

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 …

Continue reading The Music Books of Mozart & His Sister

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 …


Continue reading How to Play Jazz Piano