The Intermediate Pianist is an award-winning set of three books co-written by Karen Marshall and Heather Hammond, published by Faber Music in 2017. They launched Marshall’s Piano Trainer Series, which grew to include the Foundation Pianist (with David Blackwell, 2018), the Advanced Pianist (with Mark Tanner, 2019), and supplemented by the Piano Trainer Scales Workbook (2021).
Between them, these eight books deliver a fully self-contained curriculum for piano players from elementary to advanced level, but they have now been joined by another important supplementary book. The Intermediate Piano Sonata Collection has been written, compiled and edited by Marshall, and the publishers tell us,
“This collection gathers together nine complete sonatas that are all intermediate to early advanced (Grades 4 to 6) in standard. Featuring works by Beethoven, Anna Bon, Haydn, Mozart and Robert Schumann, it provides the highest quality of music and many years of study. Each sonata is accompanied by a live recording, background information, playing tips and musicianship activities; students are also encouraged to use the Sonata Music Map to analyse each work in detail themselves.”
Writing for Grove Online, Christoph Wolff and Ulrich Leisinger say of J.S. Bach’s second son Carl Philipp Emanuel (1714-1788),
“He was the most important composer in Protestant Germany during the second half of the 18th century, and enjoyed unqualified admiration and recognition particularly as a teacher and keyboard composer.”
C.P.E. Bach’s most enthusiastic admirers included that great triumvirate of the Viennese Classical era, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven, and of those composers whose careers straddled the transition from Baroque to Classical styles in the mid 18th century, C.P.E. has perhaps left the most extraordinary body of music, especially for the keyboard family of instruments.
C.P.E. Bach composed some 400 works for solo keyboard instruments. Sadly, much of this music fell out of use in the nineteenth century and it is only in recent decades that it has once more found itself championed by performers, the most recent of whom is the Canadian virtuoso Marc-André Hamelin.
Hamelin’s new release from the ever-brilliant Hyperion label is a 140-minute two-CD set showcasing a broad and irresistible range of C.P.E. Bach’s art.
It is surely destined to be recognised as one of the great recordings of the present decade, so join me as I take a closer look at this Pianodao Recording of the Month…
Cordelia Williams’ dual interests are quickly uncovered by the discovery that she was not only the Piano Winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year 2006, since when she has embarked on a globetrotting performing and recording career, but that she has also has a First in Theology from Clare College, Cambridge.
Williams’ pianism and spiritual enquiry share the focus of Nightlight, her fourth solo piano disc for SOMM Recordings, and Pianodao’s August 2021 Recording of the Month…
Published in 1784, Mozart’s Sonata in A major, with its famous Rondo Alla Turca finale, is one of the most popular works in the entire classical piano repertoire.
A couple of years ago, a newly resurfaced section of the lost autograph prompted Bärenreiter to issue an up-to-date Urtext edition of this celebrated piece, which appeared as edition BA 9186.
Now, another source has surfaced with the appearance of a previously unknown contemporaneous copy of the complete manuscript, which has prompted the esteemed publisher to update their urtext edition again.
The newly discovered source by a professional Viennese copyist sheds new light on the numerous discrepancies between autographs and first editions of many Mozart sonatas. It supports the assumption that the revision of the text for the first edition resulted from the change of target group from Mozart’s inner circle to an audience of connoisseurs and amateurs, but that this did not render the original autograph text obsolete; rather, both versions of the sonata represent historical realities.
According to the publishers,
“To achieve a truly faithful scholarly-critical performance edition of Mozart’s sonata, the editor, Mario Aschauer, has set new editorial standards and offers the most innovative methodological approach of our time by presenting the musical texts of the autograph and the original print separately without merging the sources editorially to a new text. On the basis of the newly discovered source, it is possible for the first time to reconstruct the autograph of this famous sonata and offer it to the performer as a self-contained playable version.”
“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…
The Music Book for Maria Anna “Nannerl” Mozart (compiled by Leopold Mozart in 1759) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s London Sketchbook (1764) are surely established at the very pinnacle of the pedagogic keyboard repertoire, their status secure alongside Bach’s Anna Magdalena Notebook, Schumann’s Album for the Young and Bartók’s For Children.
And yet, honestly, how many piano teachers are truly familiar with the contents of these collections, beyond the few favourites that are regularly cherry-picked for exam syllabi and educational repertoire collections? I’m certainly willing, if hardly happy, to plead guilty to the charge of somewhat overlooking this music.
But it turns out that there is a good reason why most of us don’t know these pedagogic collections inside out: while many selections of pieces from these notebooks are available elsewhere, most collections limit themselves to those written by Wolfgang Amadeus and, remarkably there isn’t a full published edition on the market.
Well thankfully Bärenreiter Urtext Edition are now rectifying this situation with a new complete publication based on the New Mozart Edition. According to the publishers,
“Until now the edition The Music Books of Mozart and his Sister has only been available as part of the boxed set of Mozart’s oeuvre for piano (BA 5749) which has gone out of print. Now for the first time, it can be purchased separately. Based on the New Mozart Edition, this is the only publication to contain all the pieces, sketches and fragments found in the notebooks. The Foreword by the great Mozart scholar Wolfgang Plath provides valuable information on the pieces themselves and on the question of their authorship; besides Mozart’s earliest juvenilia, some of which formed the basis of later compositions, the notebooks also contain works by Leopold Mozart and other composers.”
This sounds plausibly irresistible, but as always, we’ll take a closer look …
“Easy” collections of the core classical piano repertoire abound, but few bring to the table the depth of scholarship, reliable editing, fingering and expert advice found in the recent (and ongoing) “Urtext Primo” series.
As the latest collection in the series – featuring the music of Clementi, Czerny and Cramer – hits the shelves of music stores worldwide, let’s take a look …
Ask any classical performer to name which edition of the core repertoire they most highly regard both for daily use and as an authoritative Urtext Edition, and the name G. Henle Verlag will be at or close to the top of their list.
In their own words:
“Musicians need to be able to rely on their sheet music. This should be undistorted, free of errors, practical and durable. This is exactly what we provide. We call it Henle Urtext. Musicians around the world, both amateurs and professionals, know us. Unlike the other music publishers, we have concentrated almost exclusively on producing Urtext editions of the great “classical” compositions ever since Günter Henle founded our company in 1948. As the world’s undisputed leader in this premium class, we have the most know-how about Urtext as well as the most comprehensive Urtext catalogue, comprising 1.000 titles to date.”
To this extensive catagloue, Henle recently added a new series of publications specifically aimed at those “returning to the piano”. That series, ‘At the Piano’ is happily now available in English.
According to the publisher:
Each volume includes original pieces by one composer.
The works are arranged in progressive order of difficulty (from easy to medium level).
The works complement one another conceptually.
The length of the pieces ranges from one to eight pages.
The works contain fingerings and practical tips on technique and interpretation.
There’s even this promotional video:
There are 12 volumes in the series, each focussing on the music of one core composer, and for this review I will be focussing on the Mozart volume in the series.