Louis Lortie: In paradisum

photo: Elias.photography

Recording of the Month

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 music, so let’s take the disc for a spin…

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Víkingur Ólafsson: Debussy meets Rameau

photography: Ari Magg

Recording of the Month

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…

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Pam Wedgwood: Piano Meditations

Sheet Music Review

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…

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ABRSM “Core Classics” – The Review

Sheet Music Review

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”

Sheet Music Review

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…

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Winter Repertoire Challenge

The Winter Repertoire Challenge is ideal for players of all ages, and offers a great opportunity for developing your Active Repertoire at the piano. Are you up for it?

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Capturing the Season

Sheet Music Review

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…

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The Sufferings of the Queen of France

Sheet Music Review

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

Sheet Music Review

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

Summer Repertoire Challenge

The Summer Repertoire Challenge is ideal for young players (and their teachers!) embarking on the long school holidays, and offers a great starting point for developing an Active Repertoire at the piano!

Continue reading Summer Repertoire Challenge

Einaudi’s Seven Days Walking

Sheet Music Review

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…

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Dohnányi’s Complete Solo Piano Works

Recording of the Month

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 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…

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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

Sheet Music Review

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:

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 …

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Piano Tales for Alice

Sheet Music Review

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…

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Debussy: Where to Start?

Sheet Music Review

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.

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.

Continue reading Debussy: Where to Start?

Indian Raags for Piano made easy

Sheet Music Review

”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?

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Bartók: For Children

Sheet Music Review

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.

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Martinů: Easy Piano Pieces & Dances

Sheet Music Review

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.

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