Hal Leonard’s ‘Classical Piano Sheet Music Series’

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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…

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Discover Timeless Classics

Fluency, understanding, expression and confidence.
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…

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Koželuch: Six Easy Sonatas

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“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…

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Harry T. Burleigh: Through Moanin’ Pines

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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

For information about the sheet music, read on…

Continue reading Harry T. Burleigh: Through Moanin’ Pines

Beatrice Rana plays Chopin

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As Autumn draws in, there is usually a bumper selection of new piano recordings to enjoy, and this year is proving no exception.

In recent weeks, several major artists have released recordings which explore unusual territory, adding to the interest of their programmes. Streaming these latest issues, I have heard superlative pianism and moments of supreme beauty and inspiration. Sadly though, I must also admit that some albums I had high hopes for have ultimately left me disappointed, proving perhaps that novelty as an end in itself is not always the best route.

Enter Beatrice Rana with her latest CD for Warner Classics. Following on from her stunning and highly acclaimed recording of Ravel and Stravinsky a couple of years ago (my Recording of the Month here), Rana’s latest disc is a recital of Chopin, comprising his 12 Études Op.25 and the Four Scherzi.

And that’s it. No obscurities, DJ collaborations or electronic noodling thrown in to entice the punters, nor even an encore bonbon to sweeten what is essentially a rather dark programme.

But Rana’s programme is, in my view, the most audacious of all. It is perhaps easier to impress with music that is lesser known; to tackle two such beloved monuments of the piano repertoire and breathe fresh, invigorating life and artistic illumination into them: well, that’s a significant challenge!

And – big sigh – Rana succeeds.
This new recording is in a word: magnificent.

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The Piano: A History in 100 Pieces

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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.

So let’s take a closer look…

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Lise de la Salle: When Do We Dance?

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The French pianist Lise de la Salle is one of those rare prodigies who seem to arrive, fully formed, on the international concert scene at an improbably young age.

Signed by the Naïve Classique label when she was just 14 years old, de la Salle has performed internationally full time since she was 18, and by the time she was 20 she had already recorded three recital discs (featuring Rachmaninov, Ravel, Bach, Liszt, Mozart and Prokofiev) and a concerto disc (Shostakovich/Liszt/Prokofiev) under the baton of Lawrence Foster.

A further six discs later, and having recently turned 33, de la Salle is now back with a concept album of music for dance written by composers from three continents between 1850-1950, which she describes thus:

“An immersion in a variety of different worlds, juxtaposed without transition, linked together by the main thread of rhythm, movement. It’s a journey that explores the different ways in which dance takes possession of the body: with an amazing swing in North America, developing a strong, erotic sensuality, in South America and Spain, with reserve, elegance and sophistication in France, or through the expression of a late sentimental romanticism in eastern Europe and Russia.”

And it’s a stunning journey: all of the above and more…

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Myriam Barbaux-Cohen plays Granados

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The music of Spanish composer Enrique Granados (1867-1916) is surely one of the great treasuries of the piano repertoire, with imaginatively engaging and brilliantly crafted pieces suitable for players at all levels of development.

And yet too many are unaware of the breadth of Granados’s output, despite instantly recognising his name; aside from a couple of the pieces from his monumental masterpiece Goyescas and one or two easy pieces which have been picked up by music examination boards, much of his music remains largely unexplored by today’s players.

The brilliant Alicia de Larrocha (1923-2009) did much to popularise the music of Granados alongside the other great composers of her country, but for me the discovery of his music was first made through the fabulous complete set recorded by Martin Jones for Nimbus back in 2001, which has proved an ongoing source of musical delight.

And yet still too-little cherished, much of this music remains rarely heard.

Appearing last year, but a fresh discovery to me, French pianist Myriam Barbaux-Cohen’s disc of Granados’s music offers another noteworthy opportunity to discover some of the hidden music that you may have missed!

With Spring in the air, the sunny disposition of this disc definitely belongs to this moment, so let’s take it for a spin. It’s my February 2021 Recording of the Month…

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RSL Classical Piano

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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.

So let’s take a look…

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‘The Maiden’s Prayer’ and beyond


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MUSIC FROM CHOPIN’S LAND
In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing piano music by Polish composers. Captivated by new musical discoveries, I have continued to independently explore and review this repertoire…


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…

Continue reading ‘The Maiden’s Prayer’ and beyond