Debussy: Préludes pour piano

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

The two books of Préludes by Claude Debussy (1862 -1918) are undoubtedly among the most important and popular piano compositions of the early twentieth century, and have exercised a truly seminal influence on the piano music of subsequent generations.

Published in 1910 and 1913 respectively, each book contains 12 pieces, each one of them an invitation to another unique, fully imagined world. In many ways a summation of Debussy’s extraordinarily vivid piano writing, these miniatures are self-contained miracles of sonority, impressionistic and colourific effect; they are equally a lesson in taut compositional clarity and structural genius.

Originally published by Durand, the Préludes are now available in various combinations and editions from most of the major publishing houses, including Henle Verlag, Wiener Urtext, Edition Peters, Schirmer, Alfred and Dover.

In this review I am looking at the new urtext edition by Thomas Kabisch, published by Bärenreiter in two volumes; both volumes are exemplary in their scholarship, also including helpful editorial fingering supplied by the pianist Martin Widmaier.

Continue reading Debussy: Préludes pour piano

Discovering the piano music of Leoš Janáček

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

Leoš Janáček (1854-1928) lived a life of music, but it was in his mature phase that he created the most enduring of his masterpieces.

Works such as The Cunning Little Vixen, the orchestral Sinfonietta and Taras Bulba, the Glagolitic Mass, and two popular string quartets have ensured that Janáček’s reputation is now immortalised as one of the greatest ever Czech composers, and a leading figure in the narrative of European music in the early twentieth century.

Janáček composed for the piano throughout his career, from his younger days as a student in Leipzig through to Vzpomínka [Reminiscence], composed in his final year. However, his major published works date from between 1900-1912:

  • On an Overgrown Path (1900, 1908, 1911)
  • Sonata I. X. 1905 (1905) and
  • In the Mists (1912).

In this survey I will take a look at each of these works, followed by a recent compilation of Janáček’s less well-known solo piano music.


In all cases, I will be turning to the benchmark editions from Bärenreiter, which can be regarded as the authoritative performing versions.

Continue reading Discovering the piano music of Leoš Janáček

Liszt’s Late Pieces 1880-1885

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

Franz Liszt (1811-1886) was undoubtedly a towering giant among the pianist-composers of the nineteenth century, but the significance of his late piano pieces has been the subject of much debate.

On the one hand these works are considered heralds of the elderly Liszt’s waning inspiration; on the other, they are often praised as visionary pieces, stark in their radical simplicity, bold in their chromaticism and opaque relationship to the highly evolved tonal system of their time.

Dusting off some of these most remarkable compositions, a new edition by Michael Kube has recently been published by Bärenreiter, which deserves investigation by players, teachers and academics alike…

Continue reading Liszt’s Late Pieces 1880-1885

Couperin’s Troisième Livre

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

Reviewing the new Denis Herlin edition of the Second Livre of Pièces de Clavecin by François Couperin ‘le grand’ (1668-1733) when it was published by Bärenreiter back in 2019, I concluded:

Occasionally I receive for review a volume that is, quite simply, above any reproach. This is one such edition. For any harpsichord player, this must surely be an essential and immediate purchase; for pianists keen to explore this too-little-known keyboard repertoire, this new edition must also be the one to seek out and highly prize.

READ THE FULL REVIEW HERE

Three years later, and the next volume of this incomparable benchmark edition has appeared, and once again I have no hesitation in lavishing it with praise…

Continue reading Couperin’s Troisième Livre

An Expedition into Czech Piano Music

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

Here’s an interesting idea – and a superb collection of music!

German music publisher Bärenreiter have had offices in Prague since 1991, and have done more than any other publisher to champion Czech music.

For their new Expedition into Czech Piano Music collection they have worked with leading Czech pianist and educator Ivo Kahánek to produce a collection of 21 solo piano pieces composed from the 18th to 20th centuries, including representative music by 15 composers.

Though rather ambitiously billed as being for “early intermediate pianists” (and such definitions are always loose), I would suggest the pieces here would suit later intermediate to advanced players, from around UK Grades 4-8, several pieces having appeared in the higher grades.

Let’s go exploring…

Continue reading An Expedition into Czech Piano Music

Fauré: The 5 Impromptus

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

Addressing the piano music of the great French master Fauré in my recent review of Louis Lortie’s superb recordings, I noted,

“Of all the truly seminal composers in the evolution of the piano repertoire, Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) remains one of the less performed, his significance little understood, his extraordinary music too easily overlooked.”

How joyous, then, to see Jean-Pierre Bartoli’s new scholarly-critical performing edition of the 5 Impromptus from leading publisher Bärenreiter, based on the musical text from the corresponding volume of their Oeuvres complètes de Gabriel Fauré of 2020.

These ravishing treasures are suitable for the advanced performer at diploma level and above (the second Impromptu, and best known of the five, is presently included on ARSM, DipABRSM, ATCL and ALCM syllabi).

Let’s take a look at this new edition…

Continue reading Fauré: The 5 Impromptus

Pianodao Music Library: Top Highlights of 2021

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

By my tally, I have reviewed 152 sheet music and educational publications on Pianodao in 2021, including all those appearing individually or in sets. No wonder it’s time to sort out my music cupboard again!

But which were my absolute favourites? And which will I continue using in 2022 and beyond?

Here, without further ado, are my top three choices from each category within the ever-growing Pianodao Music Library.

To read my in-depth evaluations of each publication selected, simply click on the titles to open the full reviews.

Continue reading Pianodao Music Library: Top Highlights of 2021

Koželuch: Six Easy Sonatas

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

“By 1790, ‘without question the living composer most loved by young and old’ was not Haydn or Mozart but Leopold Koželuch.”

So writes Christopher Hogwood (quoting from Ernst Ludwig Gerber’s Historisch-Biographisches Lexicon der Tonkünstler, Leipzig, 1790) in his deftly compelling introduction to Bärenreiter’s new score Koželuch: Six Easy Sonatas, BA 11565.

This opening claim is not the only surprise in this excellent new publication, which is surely an essential purchase for anyone teaching intermediate pianists, and for players of all ages at this level. So let’s find out more…

Continue reading Koželuch: Six Easy Sonatas

Jakub Metelka: Little Virtuoso

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

Reviewing Modern Piano Studies by the acclaimed Czech pianist, teacher and composer Jakub Metelka back in 2019 I concluded:

“Above all, Jakub Metelka’s Modern Piano Studies offers a set of fun little pieces which marry the benefits of piano studies to the delights of musically engaging bonbons suitable for informal performance and student recitals…
I suspect that teachers who try this book with a single student will soon find themselves returning to it with others, and that it will quietly establish itself as an essential studio favourite.”

It is no surprise that Modern Piano Studies has become an international bestseller, and as a follow-up Bärenreiter have now also published his collection Little Virtuoso, which earlier received the Bronze Medal at the Global Music Awards in 2017.

Continue reading Jakub Metelka: Little Virtuoso

Beethoven’s Revised Für Elise

  • Products featured on Pianodao are selected for review by Andrew Eales.
  • Andrew offers playing advice online through his Video Feedback Service.
  • When you purchase using the site’s retail links, Pianodao may earn a small commission, but this does not affect the price you pay.

“It’s Für Elise, Jim, but not as we know it!”

Bärenreiter’s new urtext edition of Beethoven’s beloved Bagatelle is one of the most unexpectedly fascinating publications to arrive in a while, offering as it does a radically different version of the piece alongside the one we know so well.

Believed to have been composed between 1808-10, the autograph manuscript of Für Elise remained in private hands until 1865, at which point one Ludwig Nohl discovered it in the possession of a local piano teacher in Munich. Nohl published this version (we’ll call it “Version 1”) in 1867, and it’s the one we all play to this day. It’s really not bad.

How surprising to learn, then, that in 1822/3 Beethoven went back and revisited his earlier sketch, substantially revising it for publication within a planned (but unrealised) collection of 12 Bagatelles. Version 2.0.

Those sketches survive, and for Bärenreiter’s new edition Mario Aschauer presents not only the most authoritative text of Version 1, but also includes his fully performable completion of Version 2.

The review below includes Aschauer’s own recording of Version 2, so you can hear it for yourself and make up your own mind. Be prepared for a bit of a shock, though; right from the start, Beethoven’s revised version is very different to that which we know…

Continue reading Beethoven’s Revised Für Elise