Górecki: Piano Album

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Henryk Mikołaj Górecki (1933-2010) has come to be regarded as one of the most important composers of the second half of the twentieth century, significantly due to the astonishing commercial success of his Third Symphony, the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs (1976).

A leading figure in Poland’s avant-garde in the 1960’s to ’70’s, Górecki was inspired by (among others) Webern, Messiaen, Stockhausen, and his compatriot Krzysztof Penderecki (who was just two weeks his senior), although his later work transitioned toward a more tonal approach, the Third Symphony marking an important staging post in that musical metamorphosis.

Boosey & Hawkes, long at the forefront of bringing contemporary piano music to market, have recently issued a new collection of Górecki’s more modest pieces for the instrument. The Piano Album is edited by the composer’s daughter, concert pianist Anna Górecka, and offers a fascinating and approachable snapshot of his evolving art…

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The New, Improved Microjazz

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It has been four decades since Christopher Norton’s remarkable Microjazz series practically reinvented piano education in this country and beyond with its infectious cocktail of classical technique and popular contemporary stylings.

Microjazz quickly won recognition the world over as a landmark series, sold over a million copies, and spawned a plethora of spin offs that included More Microjazz, Microstyles, Improvise Microjazz, Microjazz Duets and collections for a wider range of instruments.

The repackaging of the piano solo materials as the Microjazz Collections in 1997 simplified the brand, and made the progression through levels more obvious. Those Collections were again rebranded in 2011, and are receiving another facelift from this year. This time, the Microjazz Collections are also joined by two wholly new, more advanced music books.

In this review I will introduce these new stars in the Microjazz galaxy, and consider the latest updates to the existing books.

But first, let’s celebrate this incredible publishing phenomenon by recapping its extraordinary history…

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Kashperova: In the Midst of Nature

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If you haven’t previously encountered the music of Russian composer Leokadiya Kashperova (1872-1940), be kind to yourself: until recently, her name was known only as Stravinsky’s piano teacher (whom he highly regarded), her own rich musical output entirely forgotten.

Happily the situation is changing, thanks to the work of Dr. Graham Griffiths, whose research has led to a Kashperova Edition now being published by Boosey & Hawkes. Recently added, Griffiths now brings us her delightful solo piano suite, In the Midst of Nature

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West Side Story

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With Steven Spielberg’s acclaimed new movie version of West Side Story arriving at multiplexes around the world, you surely won’t have missed the buzz once again surrounding the great Bernstein/Sondheim masterpiece.

Looking for an accessible piano score, I found that there are more than 300 search results on Musicroom, narrowing down to several piano solo and duet publications. I’ve selected the “intermediate piano solo selections” version for review here, which has been around for a few years, and is linked (via Musicroom) at the end of the short review which follows…

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Kurt Schwertsik: Collected Piano Works

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When Austrian composer Kurt Schwertsik’s Albumblätter: collected piano works landed on my desk in 2018, I was intrigued, but like too many books it ended up buried in my review backlog.

Fast forward to Summer 2020, and the newly released recording of this music by pianist Aya Klebahn caught my attention on Apple Music. Second time lucky, I was quickly hooked…

Publishers Boosey & Hawkes tell us:

“Kurt Schwertsik’s music is characterised by ever-changing moods and is idiosyncratic with a refreshing lightness of touch. Though a pupil of Stockhausen, the composer rejected serialism in favour of new forms of tonality. His search for an ‘alternative’ modern culture draws inspiration from Satie and the Dada movement.”

Intrigued? A little belatedly, here is the Pianodao review…

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Karl Jenkins: Piano

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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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Leonard Bernstein’s Anniversaries

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Among 2018’s musical anniversaries, the centenary of Leonard Bernstein’s birth in 1918 has offered an opportunity for musicians and music lovers to reassess his extraordinary contribution to music over the last century.

How fitting that Boosey & Hawkes music publishers in conjunction with the Leonard Bernstein Music Publishing Company and Hal Leonard have celebrated with the publication of Selected Anniversaries for Piano, a superb new collection of Bernstein’s solo piano music featuring 16 pieces suitable for players of around UK Grade 5-7 level, and including excellent support material and online tuition videos, all the work of editor Michael Mizrahi.

Let’s take a closer look…

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Piano Music by British & American Composers

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Lurking in my reviews backlog for some time, here’s a book which has continued to beckon, so let me finally highlight it as the epitome of a great idea brilliantly brought to life.

The so-called “core repertoire” for classical piano has long been predominantly drawn from the great composers of the Central European Tradition (Germany, Austria and Hungary), France and Russia. Meanwhile, composers from the UK and USA have somewhat struggled to gain comparable recognition beyond their own borders.

This bumper anthology from publishers Boosey & Hawkes collates piano works from an even and well-matched spread of composers from both sides of the Atlantic, all of whom lived and worked in the 20th century. As such it offers a rather wonderful introduction to some great music, much of it too-little performed, but all hugely worthy of the pianist’s attention.

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Latin & Jazz Preludes

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Much-loved composer Christopher Norton turned 65 this June, and while celebrating the milestone, long-time publishers Boosey & Hawkes issued newly repackaged editions of his hugely popular Latin Preludes Collection and Jazz Preludes Collection, complete with accompanying CDs featuring newly-recorded demonstration performances by pianist Iain Farrington, who also delivered the recordings included with the more recent Eastern Preludes and Pacific Preludes Collections.

What better time to reappraise these publications?..

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Which Mikrokosmos?

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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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