I love it when a music book exceeds my initial expectations, and the three books in Hal Leonard’s new Classical Piano Sheet Music Series score a hat trick on that front.
Between them, these three handsomely presented and well-edited books deliver a very decent survey of Western Classical piano music from the Baroque, Classical and Romantic Eras, and I can warmly recommend them to intermediate pianists and their teachers.
In the review that follows I will include an easy-to-read piece listing for all the pieces in each of the three books, individual purchase links, having first given a general overview of the series…
Supporting Your Piano Playing Journey Written by ANDREW EALES
To what extent does your voice today harmonise with the chorus that went before you?
A ‘deep’ question perhaps, and one which we can use to ground ourselves, a reminder of that which is more permanent in our lives, as well as more broadly indelible in our communities, history and culture.
The Music We Play
When it comes to the music we play, bombarded with the new we can lose sight of those established favourites and foundations which have nurtured and nourished us before, and which in many cases have been treasured by previous generations.
As a piano teacher, I am thrilled that such a wealth and variety of new piano music comes my way. Overwhelmed, even. Through my reviews I try to promote a rich and varied selection of the very best new music suitable for all levels of player. Sometimes readers mention that it is too much, and certainly we all need to cherry-pick the fresh discoveries that excite us most.
It would be possible for a pianist or teacher to use these latest publications as the core of their performing or teaching repertoire, ignoring all that went before. Those newer to the piano may well choose to do so. But what of our peerless heritage?
As pianists we have an astonishing range, depth and wealth of repertoire upon which we can fix our gaze and focus our practice…
“By 1790, ‘without question the living composer most loved by young and old’ was not Haydn or Mozart but Leopold Koželuch.”
So writes Christopher Hogwood (quoting from Ernst Ludwig Gerber’s Historisch-Biographisches Lexicon der Tonkünstler, Leipzig, 1790) in his deftly compelling introduction to Bärenreiter’s new score Koželuch: Six Easy Sonatas, BA 11565.
This opening claim is not the only surprise in this excellent new publication, which is surely an essential purchase for anyone teaching intermediate pianists, and for players of all ages at this level. So let’s find out more…
I have pleasure in sharing this new recording which I have made of a piece I recently discovered in the collection Four Early 20th Century Piano Suites by Black Composers, published by Schirmer edition.
Henry Thacker (“Harry”) Burleigh (1866–1949) was an American composer and professional baritone. As a composer he was a pioneer in the development of a characteristically American music. He introduced many classically trained musicians and composers (including Dvořák) to spirituals, while also including this wonderfully rich and expressive music in his own compositions.
Through Moanin’ Pines is the first of the six pieces which make up his 1907 piano suite “From the Southland”, his only solo piano work.
The piece is based on the following text:
“Along de desolate roads we pass Thro’ lonely pines and wither’d grass: – De win’ moans in de branches tall An’ a heavy sadness broods o’er all.”
Here is my recording.
Piano: Andrew Eales (Nord Grand, Amber Upright piano) Recording & Mastering: Ableton Live Suite 11, 22 October 2021
Before the last rays of summer settle into the colours of autumn, let me tell you about this wonderful book, my summer holiday read, but equally suitable for the cozy evenings ahead, or for that matter as a Christmas gift.
Indeed, whether you find yourself wanting inspiration for fresh beginnings, a reboot in your piano journey, or simply a brilliant read, Susan Tomes’ The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces is poised to perfectly hit the spot and deliver the tonic you are looking for.
It’s a book which very much delivers on the promise of its title, giving a chronological survey of the storied history of the instrument and, more particularly, the development of a glorious repertoire that is surely one of the pinnacles of human achievement.
It used to be possible to joke that piano exam syllabi, like buses, arrived three at a time. But with the addition of the Music Teachers’ Board to the mix and fresh arrival of a “classical” syllabus from RSL Awards (Rockschool), students and teachers have five fully and equally accredited UK boards to choose between.
A disclaimer at the start. Eagle-eyed readers will soon spot that in the nine RSL Classical Piano books the name Andrew Eales appears as a “syllabus consultant”. While I didn’t actually contribute directly to the syllabus, I did offer a little feedback in the later stages of its conception.
On the plus side this perhaps gives me particular insight, but at the same time I will try to maintain distance, as ever avoid bias, and focus on providing the independent factual outline that you need in order to evaluate for yourself whether the syllabus might be the right fit you.
MUSIC FROM CHOPIN’S LAND In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing educational piano music by Polish composers. Captivated by my new musical discoveries, I have continued to independently explore and review the music of Chopin’s land…
While The Maiden’s Prayer is one of the most beloved piano pieces of all time, its composer Tekla Bądarzewska-Baranowska remains one of the many great female composers of the early 19th century whose music was largely ignored in the 20th.
In this article I will try to find out who she was, what else she wrote, introduce a wonderful collection of her pieces from PWM edition, Memories of my Cottage, and share the tutorial video that I filmed for PWM offering tips on playing and teaching The Maiden’s Prayer itself…
“…the wellspring of all the pianistic innovations which have been thought to be found in my work.”
So said composer Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) of his breakthrough composition Jeux d’Eau, completed on November 11th, 1901 and dedicated to his teacher Gabriel Fauré. As such, the work is surely a milestone not only in Ravel’s compositional development, but also in that of the classical piano repertoire.
In this post I will consider the genesis and significance of Jeux d’Eau before taking a look at Nicolas Southon’s brand new urtext edition of the piece, with fingering and notes on the interpretation by concert pianist Alexandre Tharaud, recently published by Bärenreiter.
Few would argue with the statement that Haydn composed some of the most important and brilliant music in the Western classical canon. And the older I get, the more I am finding that his compositions (in a similar way to Bach’s) have the power to restore balance when I feel off-key, and enrich my days.
But Haydn’s music isn’t just for miserable old fogeys; I consistently find that even the youngest of my students quickly learn to enjoy his music more than most, its appealing melodies and jaunty, humorous spirit never far away.
Of course, children (and older beginners) can only make this discovery if teachers make a point of introducing Haydn’s oeuvre to their students. And Schott Music’s latest publications My First Haydn may be just the ticket for ensuring this happens.
The book joins Schott’s imaginative “My First…” series of music books, each featuring a major keyboard composer. I have previously reviewed My First Schumann and My First Beethoven and My First Haydn follows the same format to a tee, so do check those earlier reviews.
But for now let’s dig into this latest in the series…