Schott’s Easy Concert Duets

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A few years ago I reviewed Schott’s Easy Concert Pieces, a series of three excellent anthologies of core classical repertoire, which progressively deliver a rich pedagogic diet of music suitable for elementary to intermediate players. Since then I have been using these cost-effective books at my studio in Milton Keynes, where they have proved especially popular with teenage and adult learners.

Now, Schott are back with a new collection, this one more suitable for early advanced players, and delivering an appealing selection of core material for piano, four hands. The book offers “20 Original Pieces from 4 Centuries”, and includes favourites by Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Bizet, Fauré, Moszkowski, Debussy and more.

With ‘social distancing’ a receding memory for most of us, this could be a great time to start exploring the duet repertoire, and this just might be the ideal collection to help us do that. Let’s find out if it is…

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9 Female Composers from 3 Centuries

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Some time ago I reviewed Wiener Urtext Edition’s Urtext Primo series of six books, each bringing together the music of three composers whose careers overlapped, two well known, the third less performed today. You can read my series review here.

These are serious editions suitable for late intermediate to early advanced players who want to explore key repertoire in a broader musical context, and some of the adult learners I work with have certainly found them rewarding.

Wiener Urtext now bring a seventh volume to the series. 9 Female Composers from 3 Centuries has a self-explanatory title, and is a natural expansion of a series that already shines a spotlight on the music of overlooked composers of the past. This latest collection offers authoritative new editions of 25 pieces, as always edited and with practice tips by Nils Franke.

There has of course been a spate of new collections of music composed by women composers, all of which I have praised in reviews here, and which between them have nicely filled a gap in our repertoire and historical understanding.

I am told these books have only been a modest success, however, which raises intriguing questions about whether publishing agendas and perceptions of the market match the unaffected musical appetites of players. As I look at this new collection let’s not only consider the intrinsic value of the publication itself, but whether and what it can add to this increasingly crowded market…

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Scott Joplin • 20 Ragtimes

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The Chicago World Fair of 1893 established Ragtime music as a national craze in the US, and by the end of the decade, the “King of Ragtime” Scott Joplin (1868-1917) was enjoying immense success as the composer of the genre’s biggest hits, most notably the Maple Leaf Rag, published in 1899.

Joplin died at the age of just 49, by which point he had composed just 53 piano pieces pieces, ten songs, one ragtime ballet, and two operas. Nevertheless, his impact on music was seismic, and a number of his works remain among the best loved in the whole piano repertoire.

It is, of course, for his Ragtime pieces that Joplin is particularly remembered, and a newly reissued publication in the Schott Piano Classics series presents 20 of the best known in a superb performers edition.

These are seminally important works in the solo piano repertoire, the emergence of jazz, and in the broader cultural history of the 20th century. And yet they remain somewhat under-represented in the music catalogue, as they do on exam lists and in concert. So this arrival is happy news indeed…

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