Aleksey Igudesman is perhaps best known as one half of inventive and irreverent classical duo Igudesman and Joo, who have taken the world by storm with their unique and hilarious theatrical shows, combining comedy with classical music and popular culture.
Igudesman and Joo’s YouTube clips have to date gathered over 35 million hits, and the duo has appeared live and on television in numerous countries.
But there’s a lot more to St Petersburg-born Igudesman, who describes himself variously as “The World’s Most Ambiguously Inglorious Composer”, “Most Accidentally Immoral Producer” and “Most Attractively Intense Violininst”.
Insectopedia is one of Igudesman’s latest projects, a collection of ten insect-inspired solo piano pieces for the intermediate pianist which aim to be as educational as they are entertaining.
From the rear cover of the beautifully presented Universal Edition publication, global superstar pianist Yuja Wang tell us:
“Reminiscent of Bartók’s Mikrokosmos, you will have a lot of fun with this little album. In fact, the more you are involved, the more fun you will have with it. The music in Insectopedia is so vivid that you feel like you are becoming one of the insects. Well, perhaps not the cockroach, but try not to fly away after playing it!”
In the conclusion to my recent review of Bärenreiter’s recently published Jonathan Del Mar edition of the complete Beethoven piano sonatas, I noted,
“With the appearance of Jonathan Del Mar’s new benchmark edition for Bärenreiter, we have less of an excuse than ever when it comes to understanding and interpreting the master’s intentions… This magnificent resource is surely not only a new landmark in Beethoven scholarship, but for pianists its issue is the publishing event of the decade.”
In the light of such high praise, eyebrows might be raised at the spectacle of me now reviewing an alternative edition. However, it’s only fair to admit that however definitive an edition is (and the Del Mar edition is as definitive as they come), there is still space for more than one edition of these masterpieces on our shelves.
Given the complexity of establishing an exact text of these core works, and the performance considerations they raise, I certainly welcome the option of having a couple of editions to consult, especially if they offer complementary strengths and insights.
Also last year, and with the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth clearly in sight, Wiener Urtext released their own fully updated and revised urtext edition of the Sonatas in three volumes, UT 50427/8/9.
Without detracting from my enthusiasm for the Del Mar edition in any way at all, there are good reasons why some players might welcome the strengths offered by the Wiener Urtext editions, or even prefer them; this review will focus on explaining what I think those are…
Once in a while a music book comes my way which quite simply “blows me away”, and such a book is Little Stories, a new collection of 16 late elementary pieces by Polish composer Agnieszka Lasko, published by Euterpe and distributed by Universal Edition.
With it’s truly lush illustrations and presentation of Lasko’s highly original and attractive compositions, the book is a natural winner. The inclusion in several pieces of opportunities for children to improvise and compose takes the book to another level again, making it a truly essential addition to the childrens’ pedagogic literature.
In addition to Mike Cornick‘s new solo piano collection Ragtime Blues and more (which I recently reviewed here), Universal Edition have just published his latest collection for one piano, four hands: Elgar Favourites arranged for Piano Duet.
Once again, it’s a collection that’s well worth a look, so let’s take one…
The arrival of a new collection from the pen of composer and arranger Mike Cornick is always likely to be greeted with enthusiasm.
Cornick’s latest two publications are Ragtime Blues and more and Elgar Favourites (arranged for piano duet). The latter will be reviewed separately, while in this post I will be having a look at ‘Ragtime Blues and more’…
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.”
Wiener Urtext Edition have, in recent years, made a particular effort to renew their editions of Schubert’s smaller-scale piano works, the two sets of Impromptus, Op.90 and Op.142, and the Moments musicaux op.94, a new edition of which has just appeared on the market.
Is this new version the definitive edition? Let’s see…
“Alles fließt” – “Everything Flows” – is a virtuoso piano piece which was commissioned for the International Beethoven Piano Competition 2017, and first performed during its opening by Christoph Traxler.
When reviewing new music, it always helps to have a recording; and if it happens to be accompanied by an arty film of a man wearing just his underpants having an existential meltdown in a remote forest (see below) … well, so be it.
Now that I’ve got your attention, let me tell you more about this rather wonderful new concert work, just published by Doblinger…
Adrian Connell is well-known and beloved as the smiling face of Universal Edition here in the UK. Over the last three decades, he has tirelessly promoted the music of other composers while quietly and steadily pursuing his own musical interests: conducting, arranging, playing bass guitar, and developing his own portfolio of compositions.
These include 6 Symphonies, 2 Concerti, numerous other orchestral works including overtures, variations and symphonic poems, works for string orchestra and for concert band, and a growing body of choral music. Most of these works were composed in response to commissions.
It’s with great pleasure that I highlight and commend three of his publications for pianists in this short review, all brought to us by German publisher Edition Dohr:
Evolving Blues for Piano four hands (1990)
Six Easy Pieces for piano solo (1990-2015)
Suite on a Jazz Theme for piano four hands (1989/2015)
Mike Cornick remains one of our most prolific piano composers, and one who has made a very substantial contribution to the popular piano duet literature.
His latest release, Dinner for Two, subtitled “Romantic arrangements for piano duet”, continues his best-selling “for two” series which began with 2010’s Tea for Two and has now grown to 7 titles. As ever, the book is brought to us by Universal Edition.
“Easy” collections of the core classical piano repertoire abound, but few bring to the table the depth of scholarship, reliable editing, fingering and expert advice found in the recent (and ongoing) “Urtext Primo” series.
As the latest collection in the series – featuring the music of Clementi, Czerny and Cramer – hits the shelves of music stores worldwide, let’s take a look …
Teachers often ask me to recommend duet and ensemble pieces suitable for older players who are at intermediate level.
One context where this has added importance is the preparation of pieces for assessment as GCSE “ensemble” performances. Here there is a particular need for music at around ABRSM Grade 3 level, with suitably easy duet part for the classroom music teacher to play at sight, or for two or more students to perform together.
But equally, for those who teach siblings or paired/group lessons, intermediate music for more than one player can be an important – indeed essential – resource.
Happily, popular educational composer Mike Cornick has been on the case, writing brilliant arrangements for various combinations of players, and publishing several collections through Universal Edition over the years.
There are two particular sets of books well worth looking at. Firstly, there are several neat duet books, and secondly – more unusually – a series of books for larger combinations sharing a single piano.
In this review I will take a look at two of Mike’s latest publications:
Movie Music Favourites: Eight arrangements for piano duet
Mike Cornick has established a reputation as one of our leading composers of jazz piano music. Many of his previous works have been particularly warmly received in an educational context, with compositions such as his Blues in Two, Modulations and In the Groove featured in exam syllabi worldwide.
Mike’s enormous output includes more than sixty piano publications, brought to us by Universal Edition, the latest of which is his Six Jazz Piano Solos, written are written “for intermediate-level players and beyond”.
The collection comprises new, original piano solos which are around UK Grade 4-6 level. Each miniature explores different characteristics of jazz piano playing and style, and together they make a welcome addition to the repertoire for players at this level.