Joachim Raff’s Piano Sonatas

Sheet Music Review

At the peak of his success in the 1870’s, Joachim Raff (1822-1882) was one of the most celebrated composers in the world, his eleven symphonies popular in concert halls across Europe and beyond, his marvellous body of solo and four-hand piano music a staple of the repertoire.

And yet, but the time of his death a few years later, his star was already in decline, his fall from fashion remarkably rapid. His music languished largely unperformed through the twentieth century, and is only now being properly reappraised, enjoying something of a revival.

Of Raff’s 216 works with opus numbers, 117 are works for piano solo, 54 for four-handed piano, and 23 piano arrangements of works by other composers. Concert pianist Tra Nguyen has led the charge to rediscover some of this extraordinary music, her stunning recordings revealing the quality of Raff’s writing and once again elevating him to a position alongside Brahms and his contemporaries.

Nguyen’s recordings for Naxos’s Grand Piano label are available to stream via the major platforms, and can be bought as a budget 6CD set from Amazon UK here. They are well worth exploring!

Introducing his new scholarly urtext edition of Raff’s three Piano Sonatas, recently published by Edition Breitkopf, Ulrich Mahlert suggests:

“It was precisely the enormous scope of Raff’s creativity that was one of the reasons why his works were not paid so much attention, because a differentiated engagement with so many compositions is time-consuming. The disregard of abundance went along with generalised, stereotypically repeated negative judgments, obscuring the view or even preventing dealing with Raff’s music at all. Thus, an unfortunate cycle of ignorance emerged which we hope that the present edition can help overcome.”

With that goal in mind, let’s consider Mahlert’s new edition of the Piano Sonatas.

Continue reading Joachim Raff’s Piano Sonatas

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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Barbara Arens in Conversation

Barbara Arens will be known to most Pianodao readers as an excellent and prolific educational composer – I have previously reviewed several collections of her music, and most recently the Piano Exotico and Piano Tranquillo/Vivace collections published by Breitkopf & Härtel.

Around the time I was writing that review, I heard from Barbara that she was publishing a further five books via her own Editions Rensakov publishing on Amazon.

I decided it was about time I caught up with Barbara for a chat about all this fresh activity!…

Continue reading Barbara Arens in Conversation

Piano Exotico, Tranquillo & Vivace!

Sheet Music Review

The indomitable and much-loved Barbara Arens has recently added two new titles to her Breitkopf & Hārtel catalogue, which already includes One Hand Piano, 21 Amazingly Easy Pieces and Piano Misterioso.

The double-barrelled Piano Tranquillo/Vivace has already been reviewed here briefly a while ago, but I will take another look here. First, however, let’s take a look at the latest edition to the series, the marvellous Piano Exotico

Continue reading Piano Exotico, Tranquillo & Vivace!

NEW Piano Music from Breitkopf & Hārtel

Sheet Music Review

Over recent months, esteemed and enterprising German music publishers Breitkopf & Hārtel have unleashed a succession of interesting new piano sheet music publications, and in this group review I’m going to introduce you to the whole lot:

  • Ulrich Mahlert (editor): Spielbuch für Klavier
  • Friedrich Grossnick: More Catchy Tunes
  • Luis Zett: Busy Lizzy & Lazy Daisy
  • Alexey Shor: Childhood Memories
  • Martin Reich: Primo & Secondo  (4 hands)
  • Manfred Schmitz: Jazz Parnass  (6 hands)
  • Jairo Geronymo: 4 Prima Vistas  (2 pianos, 4 hands)

Here goes…

Continue reading NEW Piano Music from Breitkopf & Hārtel

8 Great Piano Duet Books

Sheet Music Review

The Piano Duet is a musical genre that I have explored too little with my students in the past, so a few years ago I decided to stock up on a few duet books. Finding excellent material for more advanced students was easy enough, given the wonderful works for “One Piano Four Hands” by such classical greats as Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Debussy, Poulenc et al. But finding good material for beginners and intermediate players proved far more difficult.

Fast forward to 2016 and that gap in the market has been addressed by a succession of simply great publications over the last few years.

Here is my selection of some of the best, which I hope you will go ahead and explore for yourselves!

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“Piano Misterioso” – Barbara Arens

Sheet Music Review

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.”
A. Einstein: The World as I see it

In my review of Barbara Arens’ ’21 Amazingly Easy Pieces’ last month I concluded:

“The partnership between composer and publisher has clearly worked brilliantly here, and the resulting book is quite simply a delight. Let’s hope for more to come!”

I’m therefore particularly happy to be reviewing the follow up ‘Piano Misterioso’, especially as all the praise offered in my previous review equally applies here. It is clear that publishers Breitkopf & Härtel have again given their full professional attention to editorial detail, beautifully presenting Barbara’s latest pieces with class and distinction.

Continue reading “Piano Misterioso” – Barbara Arens

21 Amazingly Easy Pieces

Sheet Music Review

’21 Amazingly Easy Pieces’ is an original collection of new pieces  by Barbara Arens, published by Breitkopf & Härtel in 2014, which has recently come to my attention – and I am seriously impressed with it.

‘Piano Misterioso’, from the same author and publisher, will also be reviewed shortly on Pianodao.

Continue reading 21 Amazingly Easy Pieces