The internationally acclaimed concert pianist Alice Sara Ott recently issued a heartfelt and brave statement concerning her health and recent diagnosis of multiple sclerosis, touching on the impact this has already had on her life, and on her hopes for her career.
Alice is without question one of the leading pianists of her generation.
Her recordings for Deutsche Grammophon have been consistently excellent and innovative; as an independently-minded creative artist she has already made a huge mark, even though she only recently turned 30.
Launching my Recording of the Month feature on Pianodao last autumn, her outstanding “Nightfall” disc of Debussy, Satie and Ravel was my immediate choice for the inaugural article, which you can read here (and please do).
For this week’s Sunday Sounds, I’ve picked the enchanting opening track from that album, courtesy of Deutsche Grammophon‘s YouTube channel:
Sunday Sounds shines a regular spotlight on great music, featuring YouTube and audio tracks of pianists past and present, classical and jazz, as well as great new music discoveries.
Christmas is one of those times in the year when having a few party pieces up our sleeves is particularly important – and of course family and friends are often keen to hear us play their seasonal favourites, so it’s worth adding those into the Active Repertoiremix over the next two months!
With this in mind, here’s a special Christmas gift to Pianodao readers – a Christmas Repertoire Sheet which can be used alongside your and your students’ standard Active Repertoire Sheet.
The Christmas Repertoire sheet can of course be used how you like, but my own suggestions are shown on the Sheet itself, and will hopefully be clear to those taking part in the ongoing Active Repertoire Challenge.
As always, the choice is with each player. And however you use the Christmas Repertoire sheets, I hope that it will make a positive contribution to your piano journey over the next two months!
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. Her 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, June 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 June’s publications on Pianodao – you can find out more here:
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.
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.
It’s all about Claude Debussy for classical music lovers and pianists this year, 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.
Later on in this review I will be taking a look at the Bärenreiter Urtext edition of Debussy’s Préludes (1er Livre).
But first, what about players who aren’t yet sufficiently advanced for these masterpieces? 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. And while many of these pieces are among the world’s most cherished, a few remain surprisingly less well-known.
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?
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.
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, subsequently appearing in the third Encore book.
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.