Since the late 1960’s, when he become the doyen of the experimental music scene, Howard Skempton has carved a unique place for himself in British musical life.
Skempton’s influences include Eric Satie, Morton Feldman, John Cage and La Monte Young. His own music resists lazy categorisation, but is characterised by pared-back textures, focused economy of expression, clarity of melodic line, and the avoidance of dissonance even when most determinedly resisting the pull of tonality.
These qualities remain an integral hallmark of the latest entry in his significant solo piano catalogue, the 24 Preludes and Fugues recently published by OUP.
Bob Chilcott will be known to many readers for his lifelong association with choral music, first as a chorister and choral scholar in the choir of King’s College, Cambridge, and for 12 years as a member of the King’s Singers.
Chilcott became a full-time composer in 1997, and has produced a large catalogue of music for all types of choirs which is published by Oxford University Press. His most often performed pieces includeA Little Jazz Mass, Requiem, and Can you hear me?
In common with John Rutter, whose Piano Collection and Christmas Piano Album I have recently reviewed, Chilcott has lately turned his hand to creating a collection of piano pieces. Nattily titled A Little Jazz Piano in reference to his popular Mass, this newly published collection from OUP contains three short pieces suitable for intermediate players.
In my review here of the John Rutter Piano Album a few months ago, I noted in my conclusion:
“Having produced such sumptuous and elevating transcriptions of eight non-seasonal songs, is it too much to hope that Rutter will return soon with a collection of his most beloved seasonal favourites?”
Well, I’m thrilled to let you know that Rutter is indeed back with a volume of eight choice Christmas classics neatly transcribed for solo piano!
One of the many positive developments within the piano teaching and performing community in 2020 has been a re-evaluation of the contribution of musicians of African descent to the repertoire.
A primary sourcebook for this music, Oxford University Press published Piano Music of Africa and the Afrian Diaspora in five volumes, compiled and edited by William H. Chapman Nyaho, between 2007-8. Between them, the books offer 60 pieces by 36 separate composers of African descent, organised by difficulty level as follows:
Volume 1: Early Intermediate
Volume 2: Intermediate
Volume 3: Early Advanced
Volume 4: Advanced
Volume 5: Advanced
More than a decade has passed since the publication of these books, and it is odd that so little of this music has made its way onto concert platforms or found regular use in teaching studios, exams, and homes.
Quite why more haven’t picked up this music is a mystery, because anyone with a fair mind and musical imagination will discover as soon as they explore these OUP volumes that the music of these neglected composers is consistently superb.
One of the most extraordinarily popular and successful British composers of his generation, John Rutter’s choral works, anthems, hymns and carols are beloved the world over for their distinctive mix of French choral, English pastoral and American popular influences.
Rutter has enjoyed a long career at the pinnacle of the English choral world, from his appearance as a chorister in the first (1963) recording of Britten’s War Requiem (conducted by the composer himself), through his time at Cambridge and his numerous prestigious appointments and accomplishments up to the present day.
Now his Piano Collection: A Flower Remembered, brings together 8 of his best-loved choral pieces in new transcriptions for solo piano.
Appearing both as a 21-minute recording by Wayne Marshall (available on the usual streaming platforms and to purchase in MP3 format here), and as a sheet music publication from Rutter’s publishers OUP, the arrival of The John Rutter Piano Album is something of an event to truly cherish!
For 2020/2021 I am pleased to present an updated feature on the adult method books I most highly recommend.
I’ll start with in-depth reviews of my Top 5 Choices. After that I will also include shorter reviews of some other great alternatives.
One of the most exciting developments over the course of my piano career has been the huge increase in adults taking up lessons. I have lost count of the number of adult beginners I’ve had the pleasure of teaching over the last three decades; at present I teach more than 30 adults.
I’ve seen adults taking up the piano for many reasons; some wish they had learnt when they were younger, while for others taking up piano as an adult is the next chapter in a growing musical interest.
Whatever the reason for starting lessons, the last thing most adults want is to be presented with Jimmy Timpson’s First Piano Lessons for Tiny Tots, or a minor variation with the word “adult” cannily stamped on the front cover.
And that’s perhaps one reason why my round-up of the adult beginner method books was by far the most-read article on Pianodao in 2019.
Fully refreshed for 2020/21, I’m delighted to present this updated and expanded version, including two major methods not mentioned last year.
But we’ll again begin with my top tips (also updated!) about what to look for in an adult method book, and why adults learn the piano differently to younger beginners…
With so many great new educational piano music publications on the market, it is becoming easy to miss or overlook some genuinely top-drawer material.
And of the many collections to be published over the last few years, Vitalij Neugasimov’s two books of Piano Sketches are among those that you really DON’T want to miss!
Publishers Oxford University Press (OUP) have now added two new volumes of duets to the series, appropriately titled Piano Sketches Duets 1 and 2 – providing the perfect opportunity to explore the whole series.
OUP do seem to have the midas touch when it comes to selecting sure-fire winners to publish – their many best-sellers include the Nikki Iles Jazz Series, Janet & Alan Bullard’s brilliant Pianoworks, and of course Pauline Hall’s Piano Time range of method books, which despite stiff competition retain the crown as the UK’s favourite piano tutor books.
So let’s see whether the Piano Sketches series compares favourably…