Karol Kurpiński: Polonaises

Music from Chopin’s Land.
In 2020 I was commissioned to record five short films showcasing piano music from PWM Edition. Captivated by the music, I asked to see a wider selection. This series was written independently to introduce this wonderful Polish repertoire to a wider audience…

Karol Kurpiński (1785-1857) was a leading figure in the musical life of Warsaw in the early nineteenth century, and a significant inspiration to his younger compatriot Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849).

So much so that Chopin’s enduring respect for Kurpiński is evidenced in his use of quotations from his senior colleague’s works in his Fantasy on Polish Airs Op.13 and Fantasy in F minor Op.49. But perhaps the most direct influence of all is in his adoption, following Kurpińsky’s example, or the Mazurka and Polonaise as regular forms in his piano music.

Now PWM Edition bring us Three Polonaises for piano, all suitable for the early advanced player (around UK Grade 6-7) so that we can discover for ourselves this music which had such a decisive impact on Chopin’s musical development, and hence on the piano repertoire…

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Discovering Chopin

Music from Chopin’s Land.
In 2020 I was commissioned to record five short films showcasing piano music from PWM Edition. Captivated by the music, I asked to see a wider selection. This series was written independently to introduce this wonderful Polish repertoire to a wider audience…

Frederic Chopin is of course one of the most beloved of all piano composers, and many players are eager to play his music as soon as they possibly can; in the case of adult learners, often when they have only been learning for a few months.

PWM Edition offer several collections and anthologies that provide the perfect introduction to the music of Poland’s most celebrated composer, as well as two revered complete editions.

In this post I will give a quick overview of this range, together with tutorial videos from PWM’s Music from Chopin’s Land series…

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Eric Lu: Chopin 24 Preludes

Recording of the Month

The 22-year-old Chinese-American pianist Eric Lu is one of the brightest rising stars in today’s classical music firmament, his playing revealing both an exciting engagement with the repertoire and a fresh and compelling new perspective on it.

Aged 20, Lu was unanimously voted winner of the Leeds International Piano Competition 2018, an achievement which propelled him firmly into the limelight and rewarded him with a management deal, major label recording deal with Warner Classics, and a concert commitment which might overwhelm the less assured player.

For his part, Lu would seem to have taken all this in his stride, the embodiment of a dream he has nurtured from a young age growing up in a house where classical music was cherished.

I briefly met Lu and heard him perform Mozart’s 23rd concerto at the Chetham’s Summer School last year (shortly before he made his BBC Proms debut with the same work), and was struck then by his poise onstage and off, his quiet confidence and calm energy.

But listening to his Warner Classics studio debut, a disc which includes Chopin’s 24 Preludes Op.28 as well as short works by Brahms and Schumann, it is the emotional range he brings to his playing which most immediately strikes me…

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James Welburn: Reflections in Waltz

Sheet Music Review

Around this time last year I reviewed James Welburn’s Musical Escapades (you can read that review here), and was very positive about his original piano music, concluding:

“What impresses me most of all is the infectious good humour and the compelling imagination that runs throughout the whole collection…
James Welburn has with this collection made a stunning Editions Musica Ferrum debut; he is clearly a composer to watch, and among this publisher’s rich and growing catalogue, Musical Escapades becomes one of their best publications yet.”

Now Welburn is back with a new collection, once more published by Musica Ferrum. Reflections in Waltz offers seven new original pieces, again suited to players at late-intermediate level…

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“Stand back from the edge please!”

As the words boomed along the station platform, I realised straight away that they were directed at me. I turned, looked up the platform towards a burly man in an official-looking hi-vis jacket and sheepishly gave him the thumbs up.

I had been momentarily transfixed in a meditation on the nature of fear.

Looking down at the rails I realised how easy it would be (having first checked there were no trains on the horizon) to step down from the platform, hop across the tracks and explore the beautiful verge that faced me on the other side.

And yet I would never, ever actually do so.

A self-preservatory terror of the rails had been instilled into me decades ago by my mother. My guess is that most of the passengers waiting on the platform would feel something of the same fear.

When movie heroes leap onto the tracks, we regard it as derring-do, suitably convinced of the huge risks involved. Meanwhile we ignore the thought that ordinary Network Rail employees routinely mosey around the rail infrastructure on a daily basis without being vaporised on the job.

Most of us rarely question the fears or values that were instilled in us at a young age. But perhaps we should do.

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Henle’s revised Chopin Scherzi

Sheet Music Review

Ask a group of pianists which edition of Chopin’s piano works is the best, and you will probably get little consensus.

Some cling to our old copies of the much-revered Paderewski Editions which have been widely used since their appearance in the mid-twentieth century, while of the more recent urtext editions, the Jan Ekier Polish National Edition comes highly recommended.

Alongside these, the ever-reliable Henle Urtext editions have been popular for many years, and enthusiasts will be pleased to hear that they have just added a new revised edition of the 4 Scherzi, edited by Norbert Müllemann and with fingerings by Hans-Martin Theopold.

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Wiener Urtext: ‘Primo’ Series

Sheet Music Review

“Easy” collections of the core classical piano repertoire abound, but few bring to the table the depth of scholarship, reliable editing, fingering and expert advice found in the recent (and ongoing) “Urtext Primo” series.

As the latest collection in the series – featuring the music of Clementi, Czerny and Cramer – hits the shelves of music stores worldwide, let’s take a look …

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