Which Adult Piano Method 2020?

Sheet Music Review

For 2020 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, 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…

Continue reading Which Adult Piano Method 2020?

My First Tchaikovsky

Wilhelm Ohmen’s My First Composers collections from Schott Music are proving to be a series which keeps on giving…

It only seems yesterday that I reviewed My First Haydn, having previously taken a look at My First Schumann and My First Beethoven. The series also includes collections of music by J.S. Bach, Mozart and Chopin.

The latest collection to join the series is My First Tchaikovsky

Continue reading My First Tchaikovsky

The Melody at Night, With You

Sheet Music Review

Keith Jarrett has long been one of my piano heroes, his album The Melody at Night, With You an all-time favourite recording.

I am absolutely delighted that, 20 years after its release, Schott Music have brought out a complete sheet music transcription of the ten album tracks, by Friedrich Grossnick.

I’ll get straight to it – this music is a very special recommendation.

Let me tell you why…

Continue reading The Melody at Night, With You

The Maze of Methods…

Here’s a fabulous opportunity for teachers to come and explore some of the many great piano methods currently available and in wide circulation…

EPTA UK have organised a special event at which some of the world’s leading method book writers and publishers will present an overview of the most popular books on the market, answering the questions you may have.

Hosted at the Schott Music London store, the event is FREE, but you will need to reserve a place using the link below.

I’ll be there too, chairing discussion and introducing the day, so I look forward to seeing you there if you can make it!

Full information in the poster below…

Continue reading The Maze of Methods…

Julia Hülsmann: Modern Piano Improvisation

Sheet Music Review

Here’s an interesting concept!

“Is it possible to learn to improvise? The acclaimed jazz pianist Julia Hülsmann answers this question with a resounding ‘yes’. In volume 1 of her Modern Piano Improvisation series she presents an easy and inviting introduction to this skill.
Songs are the main focus of her approach: easy arrangements of 15 jazz classics and original compositions by the internationally-renowned composer Hülsmann. Ideas and themes are given for each piece to help you to create attractive piano solos.
Demo recordings and play-along backings are available as MP3 files to download.”

So reads the blurb on the rear cover of an attractive new publication from advance music, brought to us by Schott Music.

Adding excitement to the mix, author Julia Hülsmann is indeed one of the most distinguished pianists of the contemporary European jazz scene, with a string of albums on the ECM and ACT labels, including the award-winning Scattering Poems.

So let’s take a look…

Continue reading Julia Hülsmann: Modern Piano Improvisation

Fazil Say: Troy Sonata

Sheet Music Review

It’s my pleasure to review a lot of superb new piano music on this site, but rarely do I have the chance to hail a monumental masterpiece to compare with Fazil Say’s Troy Sonata.

The piece was recently recorded by the composer himself and released on his outstanding Fazil Say Plays Say CD from Warner Classics, which was highly praised as my Recording of the Month and reviewed here.

In that review I noted:

“There really is no doubt in my mind that the Troy Sonata is one of the most significant solo piano works of our current century.”

It is with therefore with genuine pleasure that I can also now tell you about the sheet music publication, brought to us by Schott Music

Continue reading Fazil Say: Troy Sonata

My First Haydn

Sheet Music Review

Few would argue with the statement that Haydn composed some of the most important and brilliant music in the Western classical canon. And the older I get, the more I am finding that his compositions (in a similar way to Bach’s) have the power to restore balance when I feel off-key, and enrich my days.

But Haydn’s music isn’t just for miserable old fogeys; I consistently find that even the youngest of my students quickly learn to enjoy his music more than most, its appealing melodies and jaunty, humorous spirit never far away.

Of course, children (and older beginners) can only make this discovery if teachers make a point of introducing Haydn’s oeuvre to their students. And Schott Music’s latest publications My First Haydn may be just the ticket for ensuring this happens.

The book joins Schott’s imaginative “My First…” series of music books, each featuring a major keyboard composer. I have previously reviewed My First Schumann and My First Beethoven and My First Haydn follows the same format to a tee, so do check those earlier reviews.

But for now let’s dig into this latest in the series…

Continue reading My First Haydn

Exploring the Piano Music of Nikolai Kapustin

Kapustin’s extensive catalogue of solo piano music is increasingly recognised as one of the significant landmarks of the contemporary recital repertoire.

In an earlier review, Discovering the Piano Music of Nikolai Kapustin, I had a look at two contrasting works, the fiendishly difficult Sonata No.6 Op.62 (1991), and the more accessible (and now highly popular) Sonatina Op.100 (2000), new editions of which Schott Music had recently released.

Since then, Schott have been continuing to refresh the Kapustin catalogue (theirs since 2013) with new editions of his solo works appearing at regular intervals.

In this follow-up I will be giving a quick round-up of all the latest arrivals. Of these it must be noted that even the least assuming pieces here are rightly classified as “virtuoso”, being at least Diploma level in difficulty.

In all cases, these works are fully scored-out compositions in the classical vein, but heavily imbued with the language, techniques and aesthetics of contemporary jazz, leaning on influences that encompass modern jazz piano icons from Thelonious Monk to McCoy Tyner and beyond.

Continue reading Exploring the Piano Music of Nikolai Kapustin

Weber: The Piano Sonatas

Sheet Music Review

Carl Maria von Weber (1786-1826) was one of the significant pioneers of German Romanticism in music, chiefly remembered for his operas Der Freischütz, Oberon and the popular Invitation to the Dance.

Weber was also a brilliant pianist who composed four Sonatas, several shorter solo pieces, two Concertos, the Konzertstück in F minor for piano and orchestra, and considerably influencing successors such as Mendelssohn and Liszt.

Though not as universally known as those of his contemporaries Beethoven and Schubert, Weber’s four Sonatas have found a continuing place in the repertoire, and have been championed by leading concert artists such as Artur Schnabel, Claudio Arrau, Sviatoslav Richter, Emil Gilels, Leon Fleischer, Hamish Milne and Paul Lewis.

They have been less-well served in print however, an oversight which Schott Music hope to rectify with the publication of their new, affordable single-volume edition.

Continue reading Weber: The Piano Sonatas

Play it Again: Piano

Sheet Music Review

Melanie Spanswick’s Play it Again: Piano series launched with two books published by Schott Music back in 2017. At the time, I heaped praise on those books, and I have subsequently used them with adult “returners” who have also loved them.

Now, with a third book joining the series, it’s time for another look. This new review covers all three books in the series, so let’s dig in…

Continue reading Play it Again: Piano

Bertini’s Piano Études

Sheet Music Review

Henri Bertini (1798-1876) may be less well-known than his ridiculously prolific contemporary Carl Czerny (1791-1857), but his piano studies should not be overlooked, and were hugely influential in their day.

Now, thanks to Schott Music’s sumptuous Essential Exercises series, 48 Studies have been newly republished, offering the perfect opportunity to rediscover and explore this neglected composer’s marvellous work. Let’s dig in…

Continue reading Bertini’s Piano Études

Türk: Pieces for Beginners

Sheet Music Review

Schott Music have recently been developing a new series of publications called the Schott Student Edition, presenting core pedagogic repertoire in an attractive, affordable and contemporary format for today’s learners.

With several editions already in the pipeline for string and wind players, pianists can now also start their collection, thanks to the arrival of an excellent new edition of favourite pieces by Daniel Gottlob Türk, edited by Erich Doflein and with new Teaching Notes written by Samantha Ward.

Let’s take a closer look…

Continue reading Türk: Pieces for Beginners

Piano Playground 2

Sheet Music Review

Hans-Günter Heumann has been busy. Since I launched Pianodao three years ago I have reviewed his excellent Fantasy Piano and Mystery Piano collections, as well as the 16-book Piano Junior method series.

Then, just a few weeks ago, I reviewed Piano Playground 1, a fresh collection of original pieces, concluding:

“The best pieces here are genuinely great, and will surely enliven the musical development of young players!”

Hot on its heels comes the follow up, Piano Playground 2, so let’s investigate…

Continue reading Piano Playground 2

Melanie Spanswick: No Words Necessary

Sheet Music Review

Lots of piano players enjoy the contemporary stylings of popular composers such as Ludovico Einaudi, Yirumi and David Lanz, but it’s not so easy to find really good arrangements of their music that are accessible to intermediate players, and which manage to be both concise and accurate distillations of the post-minimal piano style.

The search for an educationally sound and musically engaging alternative just got easier with the publication by Schott Music of No Words Necessary, an excellent collection of 12 new pieces composed by Melanie Spanswick.

These interesting and enjoyable pieces will certainly satisfy those looking for approachable contemporary piano solos, and they further confirm Melanie as an imaginative and engaging composer.

So let’s check it out …

Continue reading Melanie Spanswick: No Words Necessary

Tim Richards’ Jazz, Latin & Modern Collection

Sheet Music Review

Tim Richards is rightly regarded as one of the UK’s leading jazz and blues pianists/educators.

As a pianist, Tim has been a presence on the international music scene since the early 1980s, touring with his long-running trio and leading larger groups Spirit Level and Great Spirit, appearing at festivals opposite names such as John Lee Hooker, Miles Davis and Horace Silver. He has released more than a dozen albums as a leader.

As an educator, Tim came to the attention of many through his stunning blues piano method, Improvising Blues Piano in 1997, and it’s follow-ups Exploring Jazz Piano (vols. 1 and 2) which won the prestigious MIA Award for “Best Pop Publication” in 2006. He has subsequently co-authored Exploring Latin Piano and the Brazilian Piano Collection.

As well as being a prolific writer, Tim has been an ABRSM Jazz Examiner since 1999, contributing to their jazz grade syllabus, and he leads jazz classes and workshops widely.

His most recent publication, Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection, received the following praise in my Pianodao review:

“Tim’s latest publication is an instant classic, earning an immediate place at the top table. These are deeply felt, expertly realised and above all authentic pieces that will not only hopefully open up the world of blues piano playing to a new wave of enthusiasts, but which are classics in their own right…
Tim Richards Blues, Boogie and Gospel Collection proves itself not simply as the best “jazz piano” publication of the year, but probably the best of the decade so far.

Following such tall praise, can his brand new book Tim Richards Jazz, Latin and Modern Collection possibly live up to expectations? Let’s find out …

Continue reading Tim Richards’ Jazz, Latin & Modern Collection

Piano Playground

Sheet Music Review

Hans-Günter Heumann is nothing if not prolific  – only a few weeks ago I was reviewing his excellent Mystery Piano collection, follow-up to his popular Fantasy Piano, which I am equally enthusiastic about.

And let’s not forget that in the meantime he has published the 16 books that make up the Piano Junior method series!

Somehow he has also now found the time to write Piano Playground 1 – with a second book to follow in November.

Piano Playground 1 is a collection of “30 Playful Piano Pieces”, brought to us by Heumann’s regular publishers, Schott Music.

Let’s take a look…

Continue reading Piano Playground

The ‘Deliberately Forgotten’ Composer

Sheet Music Review

The name Vsevolod Petrovich Zaderatsky (1891-1953) may be a new one to most readers – but if so it is perhaps because the authorities of the Soviet Era condemned this extraordinary composer to be “deliberately forgotten”.

But with the first edition of his 24 Preludes and Fugues (1937-9) – which were composed while Zaderatsky was a prisoner in the dreaded Kolyma forced-labour camp – newly published worldwide, his fortunes may be posthumously about to change…

Continue reading The ‘Deliberately Forgotten’ Composer

Rachmaninoff: Critical Urtext Edition

Sheet Music Review

Given the ravishing Romantic beauty of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s piano oeuvre, it’s easy to forget that the composer only passed away in 1943, meaning that for copyright purposes new editions of his works are only now beginning to significantly make their mark.

Chief among editions must surely be the colossal Critical Edition of the Complete Works edited by Valentin Antipode and published by the Russian Music Publishing in 2005, in association with Schott Music GmbH and Boosey & Hawkes.

Now available, the “Practical Edition” for performers is based on that groundbreaking benchmark edition.

This review will take a look at Volumes 2-4 in the ongoing series. In case you are wondering, Volume 1 apparently won’t be available for a little while yet, but I hope to bring you a review once it is!

Continue reading Rachmaninoff: Critical Urtext Edition

Mystery Piano

Sheet Music Review

Of the many new piano collections reviewed here on Pianodao over the last couple of years, one of the smaller number to make a particular impact within my own teaching studio has been Hans-Günter Heumann’s Fantasy Piano, reviewed here, which has become a firm favourite with early-intermediate players. Pieces such as Rainbow Fairy and The Sunken Island of Atlantis have started to appear in our regular student concerts, and clearly appeal to players and audiences alike.

Heumann has now produced a brand new collection – a sequel, again published by Schott Music, called Mystery Piano. So let’s see how it compares…

Continue reading Mystery Piano

Piano Junior 4 – The Finale

Sheet Music Review

When I reviewed Hans-Günter Heumann’s Piano Junior series on the launch of the first two levels in January 2017, I was full of praise, concluding:

“My own view is that Piano Junior has in many respects raised the bar, in some ways perhaps even setting a new standard by which piano courses for children will be judged.”

With the launch of the Level 3 books later that year, I wrote in my October 2017 review:

“… all I can hope for now is that the Level 4 publications, due next year, will provide the icing on an already tasty cake!”

Well, Piano Junior 4 is now with us! And so, with interest suitably piqued, let’s have a taste and see whether it is as sweet as hoped …

Continue reading Piano Junior 4 – The Finale

Discovering the Piano Music of Nikolai Kapustin

Sheet Music Review

Without doubt one of the more interesting, indeed extraordinary, composers of our times, Nikolai Kapustin was born in the town of Gorlovka in eastern Ukraine in 1937.

At the age of 14 he relocated to Moscow, studying piano at the Conservatoire, and announcing his composing career in 1957 with the Concertino for piano and orchestra Op.1. During this time he also had his own quintet and was a member of Yuri Saulsky’s Big Band; his enthusiasm for jazz continued after graduation when he joined the Oleg Lundstem Big Band.

Focussing purely on composing from the 1980s, Kapustin uses jazz idioms within the context of formal classical structures, writing orchestral, chamber and piano solo works for the concert hall.

Kapustin’s piano writing is for the most part rhythmically complex and highly virtuosic, making huge technical and musical demands on the performer.

Although his jazz-infused classical music is gaining an ever-larger audience of enthusiastic connoisseurs, few of us it seems have found a suitable entry point for learning and performing his works, in spite of the fact that his publishers Schott Music have many of his solo piano works available in print.

Schott’s two latest additions to the Kapustin catalogue may provide impetus, however: the Sonata No.6 Op.62 (1991) and Sonatina Op.100 are among his more approachable works, and should be accessible to players upwards from UK Grade 8 to Diploma level.

Continue reading Discovering the Piano Music of Nikolai Kapustin

The Piano Playlist

Sheet Music Review

The Piano Playlist is an anthology of 50 popular classics in easy solo piano arrangements by Barrie Carson Turner, published by Schott Music. According to the publishers,

“Taking the concept of the ‘playlist’ from the world of digital streaming, the book presents a carefully chosen selection of the world’s favourite classical pieces for today’s student and amateur musicians.
Including works from the symphonic, operatic and solo repertoire, this collection will provide hours of enjoyable music making. From the relaxing to the dramatic and the uplifting to the melancholic, there’s music for every mood and occasion.”

I included a short review of this when it first appeared, but having now used it successfully with adult students I am pleased to offer a more detailed look and recommendation …

Continue reading The Piano Playlist

My First Schumann

Pianodao Choice

Schott Music, the revered German publishers founded back in 1770, are maintaining an impressive commitment to new piano music publishing projects, including a wide range of resources and publications for players of all levels.

Of particular interest to intermediate players (and their teachers) will be there ongoing “My First …” series. The first two issues (Bach and Mozart – see below) have recently been joined by “My First Schumann”, which I am delighted to review here.

Continue reading My First Schumann