The Greatest Schumann?

In a grand publishing milestone, Breitkopf & Härtel have reissued in seven volumes Robert Schumann’s complete piano works in the edition prepared by his widow Clara Schumann, and later updated with additional fingerings by the legendary pianist Wilhelm Kempff

Let’s dig straight into the fascinating history of this one ….

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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.

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8 Great Piano Duet Books

Sheet Music Review

The Piano Duet is a musical genre that I have explored too little with my students in the past, so a few years ago I decided to stock up on a few duet books. Finding excellent material for more advanced students was easy enough, given the wonderful works for “One Piano Four Hands” by such classical greats as Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Debussy, Poulenc et al. But finding good material for beginners and intermediate players proved far more difficult.

Fast forward to 2016 and that gap in the market has been addressed by a succession of simply great publications over the last few years.

Here is my selection of some of the best, which I hope you will go ahead and explore for yourselves!

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“Piano Misterioso” – Barbara Arens

Sheet Music Review

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious.”
A. Einstein: The World as I see it

In my review of Barbara Arens’ ’21 Amazingly Easy Pieces’ last month I concluded:

“The partnership between composer and publisher has clearly worked brilliantly here, and the resulting book is quite simply a delight. Let’s hope for more to come!”

I’m therefore particularly happy to be reviewing the follow up ‘Piano Misterioso’, especially as all the praise offered in my previous review equally applies here. It is clear that publishers Breitkopf & Härtel have again given their full professional attention to editorial detail, beautifully presenting Barbara’s latest pieces with class and distinction.

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21 Amazingly Easy Pieces

Sheet Music Review

’21 Amazingly Easy Pieces’ is an original collection of new pieces  by Barbara Arens, published by Breitkopf & Härtel in 2014, which has recently come to my attention – and I am seriously impressed with it.

‘Piano Misterioso’, from the same author and publisher, will also be reviewed shortly on Pianodao.

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