Blood, Sweat and Tours: Notes from the Diary of a Concert Pianist

Building a Library

Rami Bar-Niv is known and beloved worldwide as one of Israel’s most acclaimed and sought-after pianists.

Performing worldwide as a soloist with orchestra, recitalist and chamber musician, Bar-Niv has become an ambassador of goodwill for Israel. He has made several well received recordings for CBS, many of his compositions have been published and recorded, and he is widely in demand as a teacher.

Bar-Niv will be known to some readers as author of the outstanding book, The Art of Piano Fingering (which I have reviewed here), and from his illuminating interview with Pianodao last year.

And we can all get to know him in depth and far more intimately, thanks to his recently published autobiography Blood, Sweat and Tours: Notes from the Diary of a Concert Pianist.


Continue reading Blood, Sweat and Tours: Notes from the Diary of a Concert Pianist

Granados: Danzas españolas

Sheet Music Review

Enrique Granados (1867-1916) was one of the great composers to expand the piano repertoire in the twilight years of the Romantic era, and must be counted among Spain’s most marvellous writers for the instrument; so it is a shame that so much of his output remains too little-known and rarely performed.

Less than a handful of easy miniatures have been picked up by exam boards and anthologies, the same few repeatedly so, revealing not only a lack of imagination but too limited a knowledge of Granados’s music, which in fact includes a significant body of music suitable for intermediate and early advanced players.

Meanwhile, the mighty cycle Goyescas belongs aside his compatriot Albéniz’s Iberia suites, but alas, only a couple of movements appear on concert programmes with any frequency.

At the centre of Granados’s output, the twelve Danzas españolas are a fabulous collection suitable for the advanced player (around UK Grades 6-8).

And while (unlike Albéniz) much of Granados’s solo piano music is closer in tone to Schumann than to Spanish flamenco, these pieces are replete with the regional flair and the sunny countenance that lends colour and a hint of exoticism to the best Spanish music. This is Granados at his most rustic.

That much of Granados’s music is difficult to find in good, widely available editions doesn’t help. Those wanting to play the Danzas Españolas relied on old editions by IMP and Dover. Happily, these marvellous pieces can now be explored in a superb new urtext from Henle Verlag, the subject of this review…

Continue reading Granados: Danzas españolas

Memoirs of an Accompanist

Building a Library

Specialist literary publisher Kahn & Averill have a stellar reputation for delivering compelling biographies and autobiographies of interesting and important figures within the classical music world.

I have previously reviewed their biographies of the iconic pianist Dinu Lipatti and more recently the autobiography of filmmaker Christopher Nupen.

And now, hot off the press, comes the autobiography of Helmut Deutsch, one of the most successful and sought-after lieder accompanists of our time.

Deutsch has accompanied, both on stage and in the recording studio, the likes of Hermann Prey, Olaf Bär, Brigitte Fassbaender, Jonas Kaufmann and many others.

His is a career and life in music that will surely yield both insight and a rich seam of anecdote, in the tradition of Gerald Moore’s excellent memoirs, so let’s take a look…

Continue reading Memoirs of an Accompanist

Mike Cornick’s Elgar Favourites

Sheet Music Review

In addition to Mike Cornick‘s new solo piano collection Ragtime Blues and more (which I recently reviewed here), Universal Edition have just published his latest collection for one piano, four hands: Elgar Favourites arranged for Piano Duet.

Once again, it’s a collection that’s well worth a look, so let’s take one…

Continue reading Mike Cornick’s Elgar Favourites

Iyad Sughayer in Conversation

Iyad Sughayer has been quietly establishing a reputation as one of our brightest upcoming pianists, appearing as soloist with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, European Union Chamber Orchestra and the Cairo and Amman Symphony Orchestras, as well as giving solo performances in such prestigious venues as London’s Wigmore Hall and King’s Place, Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall and the Steinway-Haus in Hamburg.

Now he has released his debut recording on the BIS label. A brilliantly conceived and executed disc of solo piano works by Aram Khachaturian (1903-78), the recording is certainly a stunning showcase for the brilliant talents of this young player, who delivers performances of the utmost musical conviction and power.

Sughayer wrote a short piece touching on the nature of musical engagement for Pianodao a couple of years ago, and I was delighted to more recently catch up with him at the Chetham’s Summer School for Pianists, since which I have now had a chance to interview him in more depth for the site…

Continue reading Iyad Sughayer in Conversation

Andrey Gugnin plays Shostakovich

Recording of the Month

Though perhaps not the best-known of his piano works, Shostakovich’s solo music for the instrument surely ranks among the best of the twentieth century.

Now, in his newly released Hyperion debut, Russian pianist Andrey Gugnin presents an all-Shostakovich programme which showcases both the quality and variety of this repertoire…

Make no mistake: this is a stunning album, and even in a month crowded with new releases from major artists, I found it an easy choice for inclusion in the Recording of the Month series…

Continue reading Andrey Gugnin plays Shostakovich

The Sufferings of the Queen of France

Sheet Music Review

Ut Orpheus Edizioni (distributed by Universal Edition) have recently published a new urtext edition of Dussek’s catchily-titled The Sufferings of the Queen of France (for piano of harpsichord), subtitled in the original:

“A Musical Composition, Expressing the feelings of the unfortunate Marie Antoinette, During her Imprisonment, Trial, etc. The Music, adapted for the Piano-Forte or Harpsichord Composed by J.L. Dussek.”

Ripping stuff! Let’s take a look…

Continue reading The Sufferings of the Queen of France

Igor Levit: Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas

Recording of the Month

Undertaking a complete recording of the 32 published Piano Sonatas of Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827) remains one of the monumental challenges for any concert pianist, and with the 250th anniversary of the composer’s birth next year it’s likely that the many accounts on disc will come under greater comparative scrutiny than ever.

Enter Igor Levit, who has previously impressed critics and audiences around the world both in recital and on disc. A Sony Classics artist, Levit is flying the flag for one of the world’s largest labels with his new 9CD set of the Sonata cycle, released this month.


photography © Felix Broede /Sony Classical

These are interpretations which inevitably face comparison with the legendary recordings by such luminaries as Artur Schnabel, Wilhelm Kempff and Friedrich Gulda, beloved cycles by Stephen Kovacevich, Alfred Brendel and Claudio Arrau, and the more recent accounts by Paul Lewis, András Schiff, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet and (revelatory on fortepiano) Ronald Brautigam.

With such high stakes, let’s find out how Levit’s cycle fares …

Continue reading Igor Levit: Beethoven’s 32 Piano Sonatas

Fazil Say: Troy Sonata

Sheet Music Review

It’s my pleasure to review a lot of superb new piano music on this site, but rarely do I have the chance to hail a monumental masterpiece to compare with Fazil Say’s Troy Sonata.

The piece was recently recorded by the composer himself and released on his outstanding Fazil Say Plays Say CD from Warner Classics, which was highly praised as my Recording of the Month and reviewed here.

In that review I noted:

“There really is no doubt in my mind that the Troy Sonata is one of the most significant solo piano works of our current century.”

It is with therefore with genuine pleasure that I can also now tell you about the sheet music publication, brought to us by Schott Music

Continue reading Fazil Say: Troy Sonata

Schubert’s “Moments musicaux”

Sheet Music Review

Wiener Urtext Edition have, in recent years, made a particular effort to renew their editions of Schubert’s smaller-scale piano works, the two sets of Impromptus, Op.90 and Op.142, and the Moments musicaux op.94, a new edition of which has just appeared on the market.

Is this new version the definitive edition? Let’s see…

Continue reading Schubert’s “Moments musicaux”

The Waco Variations

Book Review

I should preface this review by saying that, disappointingly, in the last couple of years I have too rarely found time to start reading a good novel, and even less frequently succeeded in finishing one.

The Waco Variations, written by the American pianist and writer Rhonda Rizzo, kept me up late into the night, and demanded to be finished! Perhaps no further recommendation is needed!

However, you probably want to know more about what makes this such a great read, so…

Continue reading The Waco Variations

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

Eva Gevorgyan: The Makings of a Superstar

An interview with teenage piano sensation Eva Gevorgyan.

At the tender age of just 14, Russian pianist Eva Gevorgyan has astonished audiences across Europe, Israel and the USA with her deeply felt musicality, dazzling technique and mature musical intelligence.

A student at the prestigious Central Music School for Gifted Children at the Moscow Conservatory since she was six years old (where she studies with Natalia Trull), Eva is gaining recognition as one of the brightest stars to emerge from Russia in recent years.

In 2019, Eva became the Discovery Winner at the ICMA (International Classical Music Awards). She is among 24 pianists who went through to the 1st round of The Cliburn Competition, and was named a piano student-in-residence at the Verbier Festival this year.

Here she is performing Liszt’s Rhapsodie espagnole, S.254:

Eva has performed for the Italian President, and recently quizzed Russian President Vladimir Putin in a live TV debate about possible reforms for the Specialist Music education in her homeland.

It was a privilege to witness her first UK performance, recently held in the Elgar Room at London’s prestigious Royal Albert Hall, and one of the highlights of this year’s Elena Cobb Star Prize Festival.

Afterwards, with Elena’s support as a translator, I was able to chat with Eva backstage…

Continue reading Eva Gevorgyan: The Makings of a Superstar

Einaudi’s Seven Days Walking

Sheet Music Review

Ludovico Einaudi’s legion of fans worldwide are no doubt already enjoying his latest release; Seven Days Walking: Day One was released in mid-March, and is to be followed by six further albums, each offering fresh variants on the first, culminating in a boxed set later in the year.

Hot on its heels comes the sheet music publication of the album, brought to us by publishers Chester Music and distributed by Hal Leonard.

For more information read on…

Continue reading Einaudi’s Seven Days Walking

Dohnányi’s Complete Solo Piano Works

Recording of the Month

In his recent interview for Pianodao, concert pianist Martin Roscoe enthusiastically discussed his long-held ambition to record a complete series of the solo piano works of the great Hungarian composer and polymath Ernő Dohnányi (1877-1960).

Now that ambition reaches its fulfilment, culminating in the fourth and final release in Roscoe’s recorded Dohnányi cycle for Hyperion Records, released this month, and an easy choice for Pianodao’s Recording of the Month.


I’ve been a fan of Dohnányi’s music for several years, not least knowing that my own teacher Joseph Weingarten had been one of his students in Budapest Academy. I’ve been collecting Roscoe’s recordings since the series started, and have been eagerly awaiting this final issue.

Before reviewing the CD itself, here’s a short introduction to the composer and music…

Continue reading Dohnányi’s Complete Solo Piano Works

Lang Lang’s Piano Book

Sheet Music Review

SUMPTUOUS!

That’s the first word that came to me as I unpacked the advance review copy of Lang Lang’s Piano Book when it arrived back in February, and it is rightly the first word of this review.

Because Lang Lang’s Piano Book is without question one of the most lush sheet music publications I have ever seen. So, right away a huge round of applause goes to Faber Music for a job magnificently done.

But beyond the opulent presentation, what actually is Lang Lang’s Piano Book? Let’s take a look…

Continue reading Lang Lang’s Piano Book

Türk: Pieces for Beginners

Sheet Music Review

Schott Music have recently been developing a new series of publications called the Schott Student Edition, presenting core pedagogic repertoire in an attractive, affordable and contemporary format for today’s learners.

With several editions already in the pipeline for string and wind players, pianists can now also start their collection, thanks to the arrival of an excellent new edition of favourite pieces by Daniel Gottlob Türk, edited by Erich Doflein and with new Teaching Notes written by Samantha Ward.

Let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading Türk: Pieces for Beginners

Martin Roscoe’s Dohnányi Odyssey

photo: Eric Richmond

Exclusive Interview with concert pianist Martin Roscoe

As Hyperion Records release the fourth and final disc in Martin Roscoe’s survey of the solo piano music of Ernő Dohnányi it was a delight to have the chance to ask Martin about his Dohnányi odyssey, which has taken so much of his time over recent years.


I was keen to know more about how this extraordinary project came about, and the impact it has made on pianist and audiences alike …

Continue reading Martin Roscoe’s Dohnányi Odyssey

Do you believe in classical music?

Wonderful news: the latest figures from the BPI reveal that sales and streaming of recorded classical music grew by 10.2% in 2018 compared to the 2017 figures.

This compares to the much lower 5.7% growth in other genres. In fact, classical CD sales grew by 6.9%, while most other genres actually saw a decline in sales.

And online streaming of classical music grew by a whopping 42%, compared to the 33% rise in the overall market. These figures are presented and discussed in this BBC News article.

Some will no doubt quibble over the specific artists and composers featured in the statistics, and we must admit that the categories formulated by salespeople and marketeers rarely tell the whole story. But those of us who really believe in classical music won’t be surprised by its upsurge and enduring popularity. We know that once people encounter good music, it can wield its transformative power.

It is odd, then, that so many piano teaching colleagues seem to largely avoid classical music unless and until it is specifically requested by a student or required for an exam. Why is this?

Continue reading Do you believe in classical music?

The Classical Piano Sonata

Building a Library

“Since my youth I have been fascinated by sonata form and, over a period of some forty years, all the programmes I have performed have been centred on works in that form. Therefore this book is a labour of love as much as, hopefully, a useful guide to some of the most marvellous music ever conceived.”

So writes Michael Davidson of his superb book The Classical Piano Sonata, which has since its publication in 2004 become something of a classic itself, and an indispensable guide for every serious pianist and music-lover.

Let’s take a closer look at the book, and evaluate what it is which makes it such an essential addition to the pianist’s library…

Continue reading The Classical Piano Sonata