Melanie Spanswick’s Play it Again: Piano series launched with two books published by Schott Music back in 2017. At the time, I heaped praise on those books, and I have subsequently used them with adult “returners” who have also loved them.
Now, with a third book joining the series, it’s time for another look. This new review covers all three books in the series, so let’s dig in…
Since winning the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2014, Martin James Bartlett has become a welcome and friendly presence in concert halls as in the media, while also pursuing his further studies as a Foundation Scholar at London’s Royal College of Music.
Having recently signed to major label Warner Classics, Martin’s debut album was released at the start of May.
Entitled “Love and Death”, the recording must I believe be regarded as marking a very significant arrival in the classical music world, Bartlett casting his spell with an imaginative programme of music by J.S. Bach, Franz Liszt, Enrique Granados and Sergei Prokofiev…
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…
As a child I became enamoured with the music of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg, who was without doubt one of the great piano composers of his generation. As an adolescent student I found huge pleasure in learning as many of his Lyric Pieces as I could (they are all between around Grades 4-8), including the deliciously evocative To Spring.
The unseasonably balmy weather in the past week has put me in mind of this lovely piece, which looks forward to the coming of Spring with infectious optimism.
There are several enjoyable and interesting performances of the piece on YouTube, including an ancient recording (barely audible) of the composer himself playing it at breakneck speed.
At the other end of the spectrum, Russian icon Sviatoslav Richter plays at less than half the composer’s tempo: a ponderous interpretation that suggests the maestro wasn’t expecting the ice to thaw anytime soon!
Here it is performed by the brilliant Alice Sara Ott, who we discover is also rather a dab hand at origami …
Exclusive Interview with concert pianist Martin Roscoe
As Hyperion Records release the fourth and final disc in Martin Roscoe’s complete 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 …
Now the series has grown to include Classical, and a fourth book snappily called Pop is scheduled to follow later in the year.
In my previous review I noted:
“There is always room on the music shelf for easy piano arrangements of well-known and popular songs – players of all ages naturally find it encouraging and enjoyable to tackle tunes that are familiar to them, their family and friends.”
The Classical book in the series follows a similar philosophy, offering 16 pieces with an emphasis on simplified arrangements of some of the best-loved melodies of all time, and with a few original versions of easy pieces thrown in for good measure.
William Youn has been establishing a growing international reputation as a “genuine poet” of the piano (as one critic eloquently put it). His recording of Mozart’s complete piano sonatas for Oehms Classics has received particular and extensive critical acclaim, and now he brings us his debut recital disc for major label Sony Classical.
Wonderful news: the latest figures from the BPI reveal that sales and streaming of recorded classical music grew by 10.2% in the last twelve months.
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 some piano teaching colleagues seem to avoid classical music, unless and until it is specifically requested by a student or otherwise required. Why is this?
“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…
Yuja Wang’s meteoric rise to global stardom has been one of the most extraordinary stories of the piano world over the last decade.
When her debut CD for Deutsche Grammophon was released back in 2009 she was barely in her 20’s and many (me included) raised their eyebrows at her choice of programme, opening with Chopin’s monumental B flat minor Sonata and squeezing in performances of Scriabin’s 2nd Sonata and two Ligeti Etudes before finishing with Liszt’s Sonata in B minor. As it turned out, she performed all these with aplomb, her Liszt in particular being among the very best readings recently committed to disc.
Since then, the Chinese virtuoso has recorded concerti by Rachmaninov, Prokofiev (perhaps the most emotionally gripping performance I’ve yet heard of his grief-ridden 2nd Concerto), Ravel and Mendelssohn. Her solo discs Transformation and Fantasia have delighted fans, and she has lit up the world’s greatest concert halls with her technically explosive and musically rapt playing.
Now she’s back with a new recording. The Berlin Recital was recorded live at the Berlin Philharmonie Kammermusiksaal in June 2018, and features a bedazzling programme of music by Rachmaninov, Scriabin, Ligeti and Prokofiev.