At the time of writing, most of us are feeling uneasy. We are, after all, in the midst of a global pandemic, concerned for ourselves, our loved ones, our finances, and fearful of what our world might be like in a few months time.
But as we spend more time away from our usual routines, we might also discover a deeper unease. A rock has plunged into the pool of our lives. The ripples are still clearing, and a lot of mud has been churned up. As the waters settle again, we are coming to see things that were perhaps unclear to us before.
As pianists we might hope to see glimpses of answers to life’s most profound questions sat before our piano, absorbed in our playing. And certainly, as I’ve written here before, piano playing can provide a sanctuary from all else that is unfolding around us.
But while some presently find they can use their piano playing as an escape from grim news, many others are experiencing frustration at their lack of motivation, focus and inspiration.
In this entry to The Pianist’s Reflections Series I will consider some basic elements of self-care from a Daoist (Taoist) perspective in the hope that readers will find some helpful suggestions, and that each of us can enjoy a piano journey that reflects an easier, more connected and settled experience of life.
Without question, Penelope Roskell’s The Complete Pianist is the most monumental publication yet to arrive for review, and with 560 large format pages, 250 newly-devised exercises and more than 300 supporting online videos, I can well believe that it’s the most comprehensive book ever written on piano playing, as well as the most superbly presented.
Striking among the claims made for the book, we are told that Roskell’s approach is based not only on a lifetime’s experience of teaching and performing, but also on “ground-breaking research into healthy piano playing” …
The Complete Pianist thus offers the reader an…
“… innovative approach to piano technique based on the use of natural, ergonomic movement which achieves a rich range of sounds, allows greater artistic freedom, and helps to prevent injury.”
Once in a while a music book comes my way which quite simply “blows me away”, and such a book is Little Stories, a new collection of 16 late elementary pieces by Polish composer Agnieszka Lasko, published by Euterpe and distributed by Universal Edition.
With it’s truly lush illustrations and presentation of Lasko’s highly original and attractive compositions, the book is a natural winner. The inclusion in several pieces of opportunities for children to improvise and compose takes the book to another level again, making it a truly essential addition to the childrens’ pedagogic literature.
Over the last three years, Faber Music seemed to establish a pattern of releasing deluxe Piano Anthologies in the run up to the Christmas season. For 2020, they have ‘upped the ante’ by bringing forward the next title in this stunning series to the Spring, with further anthologies (Contemporary and Easy) already in preparation.
The Faber Music Jazz Piano Anthology builds on the quality of its predecessors to deliver a sumptuous and brilliantly conceived book of jazz standards, newly arranged as piano solos for more advanced students and adult piano enthusiasts everywhere.
As he did for many piano-lovers, Federico Colli first came to my attention when he appeared as a finalist at the Leeds International Piano Competition, which he went on to win in 2012. Since then he has established a successful performing career and has an exclusive recording deal with the Chandos label.
I have to confess that in 2012, Colli was not my favourite to win; nor was I enamoured with his Bach recording when I caught up with it last year.
However, seeing glowing reviews for his second CD of Scarlatti Sonatas elsewhere I took the plunge. And how glad I am, because it is stunning! I am finally a belated convert to Colli’s cause!
So what makes this recording special? Let’s find out…
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…
Listening through the lens is the recently published memoir of BAFTA-award winning documentary-maker Christopher Nupen, who has made more than 70 productions on classical music and musicians.
Nupen’s pioneering portrait-films count among their subjects Daniel Barenboim, Jacqueline du Pré, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Itzhak Perlman, Andrés Segovia, Alice Herz-Sommer, Yevgeny Kissin and Daniil Trifonov, many of whom have become lifelong friends.
His 1969 film The Trout, featuring Barenboim, Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Jacqueline du Pré and Zubin Mehta performing the beloved Schubert quintet, is legendary; while We Want the Light has won some of the most prized awards in documentary making.
In his book, Nupen tells the story of his varied and often astonishing life…
Edition HH is one of the few independent boutique publishers whose releases consistently impress, with an enterprising and eclectic catalogue that ranges from Baroque and Classical rediscoveries to contemporary compositions.
Among the latter, Edition HH publishes the work of Italian composer Adriano Cirillo, born in 1951 in Bari. Cirillo studied with acclaimed composer Nino Rota, who is perhaps best known for his scores to movies such as The Glass Mountain and The Godfather, but who also composed ten operas and a significant body of concert works.
Rota’s influence is palpable in Cirillo’s hugely enjoyable Duex Valses, freshly published by Edition HH and the subject of this short 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…
Switching to video lessons at short notice is stressful!
I live in Frankfurt, Germany, where all the schools are now closed and I made the switch on Thursday afternoon. I’ve taught 6 lessons so far and overall it has gone pretty well. Here are some things I learnt that you might find useful…