Folk Songs of the Far East

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Flushed with enthusiasm for Hal Leonard’s just-published African American Folk Songs Collection (reviewed here) I wanted to waste no time looking back at previous publications in this superb and growing series.

In this review I will focus on four collections of intermediate piano arrangements of traditional songs from the Far East:

  • Chinese Folk Songs Collection (arr. Joseph Johnson, 2009)
  • Korean Folk Songs Collection (arr. Lawrence Lee, 2010)
  • Japanese Folk Songs Collection (arr. Mika Goto, 2013)
  • Malay Folk Songs Collection (arr. Charmaine Siagian, 2019)
Continue reading Folk Songs of the Far East

African American Folk Songs

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Here in the UK we celebrate Black History Month each October, and with perfect timing Hal Leonard have recently launched a wonderful new sheet music collection. The African American Folk Songs Collection contains intermediate piano arrangements by Artina McCain of 24 traditional songs.


Dr. McCain, who comes from Arlington, Texas and is now based in Memphis, Tennessee, has won multiple Global Music Awards for her recordings of works by composers of African descent.

In her introduction to this new piano collection she tells us,

“African Americans created a rich history of song and dance. I am proud to say that I am the great-great-great-granddaughter of these strong and resilient enslaved Americans and can trace my origins in America back almost 200 years. In the late 18th century our musical history began with the African American Spiritual (or Negro Spiritual) and is the largest and most significant form of American folk song. There are over 6,000 or these anonymous masterpieces! Through oral tradition, they were passed down from generation to generation and brilliantly blended the rich musical culture of Africa with text describing hardships that they were experiencing in America.”

From this extraordinary treasury of song, McCain has selected her 24 classics for inclusion here, making original, wonderfully pianistic and pedagogically valuable arrangements.

I’m happy to tell you right away that this book is really outstanding, but let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading African American Folk Songs

Variations on a Waltz: The Diabelli Project

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


In early 1819, the well-known composer and music publisher Anton Diabelli (1781-1858), sent a 32-bar waltz to the most reputable composers of the Austrian Empire, together with an invitation to submit their variations for publication as a collaborative collection.

Among those who responded to the call were Czerny, Hummel, Moscheles, Schubert, and the eleven-year-old Franz Liszt, and from their contributions Diabelli was able to assemble a set of 50 Variations on his theme.

We only know for sure of one composer who explicitly declined Diabelli’s invitation to collaborate: Beethoven. It remains unclear why he did not want to participate directly, but he nevertheless composed his own monumental set of 33 Variations, not directly for Diabelli but exploring alternative avenues of publication.

Beethoven’s 33 Variations on a Waltz Op.120 quickly established itself not only as one of his most important keyboard works, but one of the pinnacle summits of the entire classical piano repertoire, entirely overshadowing the rest of the project.

Delivered for the recent Beethoven 250 anniversary year, Mario Aschauer’s landmark new scholarly performing edition of the Beethoven Diabelli Variations is an essential score for serious students of the work, published by Bärenreiter, BA 9657.

Perhaps even more interestingly however, Bärenreiter have also brought us their edition BA 9656, which includes Beethoven’s masterpiece together with Aschauer’s new edition of the 50 Variations on a Waltz composed by his contemporaries in response to Diabelli’s call.

Let’s take a closer look at this ambitious and exciting publication…

Continue reading Variations on a Waltz: The Diabelli Project

Returning “…from Chopin’s Land”

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES

MUSIC FROM CHOPIN’S LAND
In 2020, I was commissioned by PWM Edition to record five films showcasing Polish piano music. I was captivated by new musical discoveries, asked to see a wider selection, and have subsequently continued to independently review and introduce this repertoire to Pianodao readers…


At the start of this series I gave an account of my surprise 2020 visit to Poland, and in subsequent articles I have discussed some of the best piano music I discovered on my trip, together with the tutorial films that I and a team of international colleagues created to showcase this music to the piano teaching community worldwide.

As the series draws to a close, I would like to share a couple more books that were featured in the PWM promotion, as well as a series of three special collections which actually bear the project name, Music from Chopin’s Land.

And then the punchline! I will end this final post in the series with a short reflection on the lasting lessons I have learnt about piano pedagogy following on from my visit to Chopin’s land…

So, firstly, a few extra reviews and videos for your interest and enjoyment…

Continue reading Returning “…from Chopin’s Land”

Piano Calm Christmas

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Philip Keveren is one of my favourite arrangers and composers whose music has a contemporary popular vibe. He is also clearly industrious: this year alone has seen the release of his clever Circles: Character Etudes in 24 keys (reviewed here) and the hugely appealing Piano Calm (reviewed here), both of which are quickly establishing themselves as firm favourites with my students.

Now Keveren brings us the sequel to the latter collection, Piano Calm Christmas. And if it lives up to its recent predecessors, we can look forward to something very special indeed.

So let’s find out…

Continue reading Piano Calm Christmas

Louis Lortie: In paradisum

photo: Elias.photography

RECORDINGS OF THE MONTH
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Of all the truly seminal composers in the evolution of the piano repertoire, Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) remains one of the less performed, his significance little understood, his extraordinary music too easily overlooked.

How welcome then In paradisum, the second instalment in French-Canadian pianist Louis Lortie’s Chandos series A Fauré Recital which began with the excellent Après un rêve (available here) back in 2016, and which we must hope will develop into a complete cycle of this, arguably Fauré’s most important body of music.


Whether you are already an enthusiast for this music or a newcomer to it, Lortie’s winning way with Fauré’s idiom will enchant and enliven your appreciation of this wonderful repertoire, so let’s take the disc for a spin…

Continue reading Louis Lortie: In paradisum

Víkingur Ólafsson: Debussy meets Rameau

photography: Ari Magg

RECORDINGS OF THE MONTH
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


For a second month in a row, my piano recording of the month choice comes from the fingers of a young player whose playing I did not immediately warm to, but who has more recently completely won me over.

Víkingur Ólafsson’s DG debut recording focused on the music of Philip Glass, while for his award-winning follow-up he turned to Bach, mixing the composer’s originals with transcriptions and various reworkings. The Icelandic pianist proved his mettle with an ultra-crystalline approach and technique that dazzled critics and music-lovers alike; but it left me just a little cold.

Ólafsson’s latest offering, bringing together a joyous collection of pieces by the French baroque master Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764) interspersed and offset with an eclectic set of beloved and lesser-known pieces by Claude Debussy (1862-1918), is the clincher.

A disc replete with musical marvels, Ólafsson’s album of French keyboard wizardry is revelatory in its insights and deserves the highest plaudits…

Continue reading Víkingur Ólafsson: Debussy meets Rameau

Pam Wedgwood: Piano Meditations

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Following on from her previous collections of original pieces inspired by works of art Piano Gallery (reviewed here) and Piano Seascapes (reviewed here), Piano Meditations is the latest from best-selling composer Pam Wedgwood, brought to us as ever by publishers Faber Music.

Here we have 12 brand new compositions which are, according to their composer, “inspired by contemplative works of art, and once again the publication includes a gorgeous full colour pull-out poster featuring images of all the paintings which served as Pam’s muse.

Intermediate players who enjoyed the previous collections, along with Wedgwood’s many fans, will undoubtedly already be rushing to their music supplier for a copy; for the benefit of those wanting more information, let’s take a quick look…

Continue reading Pam Wedgwood: Piano Meditations

ABRSM “Core Classics” – The Review

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Once in a while, a publication arrives for review which is based on a great concept and is itself essentially a very good product, but where the mismatch between the original intention and its actual delivery is a glaring one, as though at some point in the developmental process there was a communication breakdown.

Core Classics: Essential Repertoire for Piano, a set of seven progressively “graded” solo repertoire books published worldwide today by ABRSM, is a striking example of this phenomenon.

That is a particular disappointment, given that this is actually a beautifully presented and musically interesting series. So let’s find out exactly what Core Classics has to offer…

Continue reading ABRSM “Core Classics” – The Review

Graham Lynch’s “Art Preludes”

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


A recent review that I read elsewhere suggested that Elena Cobb’s EVC Music has “cornered the market in pedagogical, developmental publications for piano”. While this is something of an overstatement, it is certainly great to see EVC at last receiving its due recognition for a published catalogue that has continued to go from strength to strength.

EVC Music is not just about pedagogy though; the company has been steadily bringing to market a growing and glowing range of performance works by contemporary composers, the latest of which is Art Preludes, a suite of five new pieces by British composer Graham Lynch.

Interested in finding our more? Then read on…

Continue reading Graham Lynch’s “Art Preludes”

Capturing the Spirit of the Season

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


As autumn nears its end, the thoughts of musicians everywhere are no doubt turning to the coming season, likely to be a musically rich one for many.

Piano players and teachers are always on the look out for fresh material, and I’m happy to remind you of two excellent collections co-written by composers Alison Mathews and Barbara Arens, Capturing the Joy of Winter, and Capturing the Spirit of Christmas.

Both were positively reviewed here when they appeared in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and it’s high time to consolidate my thoughts into a single review. So here goes…

Continue reading Capturing the Spirit of the Season

The Sufferings of the Queen of France

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Ut Orpheus Edizioni (distributed by Universal Edition) have recently published a new urtext edition of Dussek’s catchily-titled The Sufferings of the Queen of France (for piano of harpsichord), subtitled in the original:

“A Musical Composition, Expressing the feelings of the unfortunate Marie Antoinette, During her Imprisonment, Trial, etc. The Music, adapted for the Piano-Forte or Harpsichord Composed by J.L. Dussek.”

Ripping stuff! Let’s take a look…

Continue reading The Sufferings of the Queen of France

The Peaceful Piano Playlist

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Faber Music’s numerous piano anthologies have established themselves not only as enticing collections of sought-after pieces, but as a barometer of trends in the piano world.

The newly issued Peaceful Piano Playlist exemplifies this perfectly, offering a selection of relaxing classics and “new classical” pieces that will no doubt have huge appeal to teenagers and adults who play for pleasure and to relax.

If the title (and image above) already appeal, there’s a good chance that you will enjoy this publication immensely. So let’s take a closer look (and listen)…

Continue reading The Peaceful Piano Playlist

Einaudi’s Seven Days Walking

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Ludovico Einaudi’s legion of fans worldwide are no doubt already enjoying his latest release; Seven Days Walking: Day One was released in mid-March, and is to be followed by six further albums, each offering fresh variants on the first, culminating in a boxed set later in the year.

Hot on its heels comes the sheet music publication of the album, brought to us by publishers Chester Music and distributed by Hal Leonard.

For more information read on…

Continue reading Einaudi’s Seven Days Walking

Dohnányi’s Complete Solo Piano Works

RECORDINGS OF THE MONTH
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


In his recent interview for Pianodao, concert pianist Martin Roscoe enthusiastically discussed his long-held ambition to record a complete series of the solo piano works of the great Hungarian composer, teacher and polymath Ernő Dohnányi (1877-1960).

Now that ambition reaches its fulfilment, culminating in the fourth and final release in Roscoe’s recorded Dohnányi cycle for Hyperion Records, released this month, and an easy choice for Pianodao’s Recording of the Month.


I’ve been a fan of Dohnányi’s music for several years, not least knowing that my own teacher Joseph Weingarten had been one of his students in Budapest Academy. I’ve been collecting Roscoe’s recordings since the series started, and have been eagerly awaiting this final issue.

Before reviewing the CD itself, here’s a short introduction to the composer and music…

Continue reading Dohnányi’s Complete Solo Piano Works

Martin Roscoe’s Dohnányi Odyssey

photo: Eric Richmond

Exclusive Interview with concert pianist Martin Roscoe

As Hyperion Records release the fourth and final disc in Martin Roscoe’s survey of the solo piano music of Ernő Dohnányi it was a delight to have the chance to ask Martin about his Dohnányi odyssey, which has taken so much of his time over recent years.


I was keen to know more about how this extraordinary project came about, and the impact it has made on pianist and audiences alike …

Continue reading Martin Roscoe’s Dohnányi Odyssey

June Armstrong’s Sea World

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Over recent years, piano teacher and composer June Armstrong has steadily developed an enviable reputation as one of Britain’s most prolific and distinctive educational composers.

Armstrongs’s impressive range of self-published – and beautifully produced – titles now stretches to some 15 collections of pieces suitable for players at most levels from beginner to advanced.

Along the way, she has gained a cult following from teachers-in-the-know – and no doubt gained many new fans following the recent inclusion of several pieces in the graded syllabuses of the examination boards.

I have reviewed a number of Armstrong’s publications on Pianodao; you can find out more here:

June has also kindly shared her piano story with us here as part of the Your Stories series.

June’s latest collection, Sea World, contains 17 new “Impressions for Piano”, aimed at players between UK Grades 1 to 3 (Elementary to Early Intermediate standard). Let’s take a look …

Continue reading June Armstrong’s Sea World

Piano Tales for Alice

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


The rise and rise of EVC Music Publications as an exciting and innovative music publisher can’t have escaped the notice of any player or teacher active on social media, and like many I have watched their emergence over the last three years or so with growing interest.

I have previously praised a number of EVC Music’s publications. The Jevdet Hajiyev: Piano Collection 1 was particularly enterprising, and I am enthusiastic for Andrew Higgins’ excellent Birds: Études-Tableaux and the recent reissue of Graham Lynch’s wonderful Sound Sketches series. And I was delighted to report that the EVC Music Star Prize Event at the Royal Albert Hall last month was such a resounding success!

With the publication of Piano Tales for Alice – a brand new collection of easy pieces by acclaimed jazz performer and composer Nikki Iles – it seems to me that EVC Music has unequivocally arrived as a mature and significant force in music publishing.

Building on their activities thus far, with this publication EVC Music has hit the jackpot, bringing to market a genuine classic…

Continue reading Piano Tales for Alice

Debussy: Where to Start?

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


It’s all about Claude Debussy for classical music lovers and pianists in 2018, as we mark the centenary of his death in 1918. And rightly so, because few composers have made such a seminal contribution to the pianist’s literature, or composed music which explores such a range of colour, tonal possibility and timbre from the instrument.

For the developing pianist, the question often arises – where to start exploring Debussy’s rich, varied and substantial body of piano music? The good news is that, while Debussy never wrote anything simple, his oeuvre does offer up plenty of music that suits pianists of early advanced, around Grade 5-8 level.

In a recent editorial for the BBC Music Magazine, Oliver Condy fondly remembers his teenage efforts playing Debussy’s music at the piano:

“Playing his music was always so much fun – serious music that didn’t seem at all serious, jazz that our music teachers would instantly sanction. And Debussy’s innate skill of writing for the piano meant that everything fell nicely under the fingers. Maximum effect, minimum effort. Of course, I’m not talking about the harder pieces – oh no. But in general, I’ll always see Debussy as one of the most gracious of composers who understands that to be appreciated, it helps if performers don’t hate you from the start.”

There are several excellent collections of Debussy’s piano music aimed at players at this “early advanced” level, but in this review I am going to focus on the Debussy: Easy Piano Pieces and Dances collection published by Bärenreiter…

Continue reading Debussy: Where to Start?

Indian Raags for Piano made easy

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


”And now for something completely different …”

John Pitts’ book How to Play Indian Sitar Raags on a Piano was undoubtedly one of the most unique publications submitted for review last year, and as I browsed through the 260-page volume, I have to admit that I was somewhat overwhelmed by the depth and quantity of information in it – to the extent that I felt genuinely unqualified to write a review.

How happy I was, then, to learn that John has written a prequel called Indian Raags for Piano Made Easy, suitable for players from easy to intermediate level (around Grades 1+ to 4 in my view).

This, surely, would be the collection that I needed in order to jump in and have a go at exploring this extraordinary and diverse music! So, how did that work out?

Continue reading Indian Raags for Piano made easy

Bartók: For Children

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


Bartók’s seminal collection For Children is, in my view, one of the few absolute essential classics of the piano pedagogy repertoire: a work which has in equal measure both charmed and challenged generations of young pianists, and seems as popular with my students today as ever.

Two new versions of this milestone have appeared in recent months: a single-volume complete edition from Boosey & Hawkes, and a brand new urtext edition from Henle Verlag in partnership with Editio Musica Budapest.

In this review I’m going to present each, with some concluding thoughts on their relative merits, and recommendations of which edition will suit whom.

Continue reading Bartók: For Children

Martinů: Easy Piano Pieces & Dances

The PIANODAO MUSIC LIBRARY
Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES


The composer Bohuslav Martinů’s name will be known to many readers, but perhaps fewer will be familiar with his piano music, other than the gorgeous miniature Colombine Dances, which was such a popular choice when it was set for ABRSM Grade 6 a few years ago.

Born in 1890, Martinů is rightly regarded as one of the great Czech composers of the early 20th century. He was impressively prolific, leaving 15 operas, 14 ballet scores, 6 Symphonies, and a very large body of instrumental and choral music. His musical influences were eclectic – embracing modernism, neo-classicism, jazz and Latin American dance music.

All of which are evident in a new collection of previously unknown piano works, brought to us by Bärenreiter.

BA09586_00_9790260107465_co_lrg_01
Continue reading Martinů: Easy Piano Pieces & Dances