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 …

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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…

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Which Mikrokosmos?

Sheet Music Review

Bartók’s monumental cycle of 153 educational piano pieces and 33 exercises, published in six volumes as the Mikrokosmos in 1940, is rightly regarded as a  seminal work within the pedagogic literature. But it often strikes me that it is more important than it is popular.

Even in my own studio (and I am a self-confessed Bartók fanatic!) it emerges from the music cupboard far less frequently than the more obviously popular For Children, First Term at the Piano, Rumanian Folk Dances and Ten Easy Pieces.

For those wanting to explore this musical smorgasbord there has never been more opportunity to do so, however, with three excellent editions to choose from. Which, though, is the best?

In this review I will be looking at classic New Definitive Version from Boosey & Hawkes, and comparing the more recent Urtext editions from Henle Verlag and Wiener Urtext Edition. I should note in passing that there is also a budget all-in-one-volume edition from Chester Music, not submitted for review or included in this survey.

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Bartók: For Children

Sheet Music Review

Bartók’s seminal collection For Children is, in my view, one of the few absolute essential classics of the piano pedagogy repertoire: a work which has in equal measure both charmed and challenged generations of young pianists, and seems as popular with my students today as ever.

Two new versions of this milestone have appeared in recent months: a single-volume complete edition from Boosey & Hawkes, and a brand new urtext edition from Henle Verlag in partnership with Editio Musica Budapest.

In this review I’m going to present each, with some concluding thoughts on their relative merits, and recommendations of which edition will suit whom.

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New Editions from G. Henle Verlag

Sheet Music Review

Here’s a quick roundup of the latest benchmark urtext editions from revered published Henle Verlag…


Brahms: Piano Sonata in F minor, Op.5

Brahms’ mammoth F minor Sonata, composed when he was just 20, is symphonic in scope.

This new edition by Katrin Eich, and with ingenious fingerings supplied by Andreas Boyde, comes from the New Brahms Complete Edition of 2014, and will be welcomed by all who wish to tackle this masterpiece!

publisher’s website

Brahms: Waltz in A flat, Op.39 No.15

How wonderful to see this stand-alone edition of Brahms’ well-loved classic, offering both the original and the slightly simplified version in A major, side-by-side!

Whether you are a teacher or player working on this piece, an academic or composition student, it’s fascinating to compare the two!

publisher’s website

Schumann • Liszt: Liebeslied (Widmung)

Liszt’s stunning virtuoso transcription of Schumann’s gorgeous love son “Dedication” from Myrthen, Op.25, has returned as a popular show-stopper in recent years, with recordings by Evgeny Kissin, Daniil Trifonov, Lang Lang, Yundi Li, and others giving the piece a wide audience.

Annette Oppermann’s new edition is a most welcome addition to the Henle catalogue.

publisher’s website

Dvorák: Humoresques Op.101

There’s no better place to begin an exploration of Dvorak’s solo piano music than these eight highly attractive pieces, and hopefully this brilliant new edition from Henle will help to bring these lovely works into wider circulation.

publisher’s website

Grieg: Norwegian Dances Op.35 for piano, four-hands

Grieg’s Norwegian Dances Op.35 for piano duet will be known to many from the popular orchestral version.

The original piano duet version is a brilliant concert work for advanced performers, and Ernst-Günter Heinemann’s new edition for Henle – co-edited and with fingering by the great Grieg performer Einar Steen-Nøkleberg – combines scholarship, clarity of presentation and helpfully organised page turns.

publisher’s website

Bartók: Suite Op.14

László Somfai’s authoritative new edition of the Suite Op.14, one of Bartók’s most important solo piano concert works, now supersedes the older Universal Edition version in several regards.

Of particular interest, it includes as an appendix the Andante movement that formed part of the original five-movement design of Bartók in 1916, but which was removed by the composer shortly before the work’s publication in 1918.

publisher’s website

Bartók: 15 Hungarian Peasant Songs

Also edited by László Somfai and excerpted from the new Bartók Complete Edition, published by Henle in collaboration with Editio Musica Budapest, this is a welcome performing version of a rather neglected work.

In his fascinating Preface, Somfai explores the work’s complex background. The music itself is nicely organised on the page, and although the early pieces seem to me just a little more cramped than the old UE edition, the later movements (and particularly the dense Finale) are certainly more spacious, and overall this new version is without doubt the one to go for!

publisher’s website

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Boosey’s Bartók Bonanza

Sheet Music Review

Along with their outstanding new version of The First Term at the Piano – which I recently reviewed here – Bossey & Hawkes (in conjunction with Hal Leonard) have also just released the Bartók Piano Anthology.

Here’s a look at this interesting addition to the Bartók catalogue…

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First Term at the Piano

Sheet Music Review

Bartók’s Mikrokosmos has – since the first half of the 20th century – been a potent force in the pianist’s repertoire, hugely impacting pedagogy worldwide, while his charming collections of pieces For Children have delighted elementary to intermediate players of all ages. But what of his other little collection, The First Term at the Piano?

Largely overlooked, except as a curiosity for completists to consider, this seemingly innocuous sequence of 18 short pieces has passed under the radar of most piano teachers, and even though some of the pieces are brilliantly inventive and melodic, they have too rarely surfaced in other collections, exam syllabi or student performances.

Now the US-based pianist, teacher, lecturer and editor Immanuela Gruenberg is looking to turn the tables, resurrecting this work for a new century, and for a new audience.

Her stunning new edition of the pieces – which comes with complete commentary, imaginative lesson plans, and a series of online videos – has recently been published by Hal Leonard in association with Boosey & Hawkes. And as we shall see in this review, it is a genuine must-have purchase for anyone who teaches beginners.

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