Paul Harris’s Purple Piano House

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Paul Harris is known worldwide as one of today’s foremost music educators and I have reviewed numerous publications bearing his name on Pianodao before.

Harris’s latest is unusual indeed, which perhaps need not surprise us given his incredibly fertile mind and innovative creativity.

The Purple Piano House, published by his own Queen’s Temple Publications and subtitled “A Musical Adventure for Pianists” is a delightful story-with-music book which is sure to charm younger players, and offers several intriguing pedagogic possibilities.

The story itself is written by Sam Edenborough, and the book includes illustrations by Jasper Pye. Let’s join them on an adventure…

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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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Mike Cornick • A Piano Sketchbook

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Mike Cornick has a long-established reputation as the master of what might once have been called “light music”: easy-going melodic pieces offering a smooth blend of classical, jazz and popular styles, equally accessible to player and listener alike.

I have previously reviewed many of Cornick’s publications, including the more jazzy collections Blues in Two and more, Ragtime Blues and more and Six Jazz Piano Solos, as well as his duet collections Elgar Favourites and Dinner for Two, titles from which you will probably already have deduced Cornick’s musical versatility and the basis of his significant mainstream appeal.

Cornick’s latest collection is called A Piano Sketchbook, and offers a pot-pourri of six assorted intermediate piano solos in a range of jazz and Latin styles…

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Schumann’s Three Romances

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Schumann’s Romanze in F sharp Op.28 No.2 is one of my absolute favourite pieces to play, and with its inclusion on the ABRSM Grade 8 syllabus over the last couple of years it has also featured more prominently in my teaching. This truly beautiful paean to love is surely one of the highlights of the nineteenth century repertoire, and is understandably cherished the world over.

That said, many struggle to read the score accurately, which in most editions is compressed to two pages, dense with accidentals, counterpoint and three-stave passages.

A welcome solution has arrived with a new edition from Wiener Urtext Edition, who have generously afforded the piece four pages (including one page turn). Playing the piece using this version has proved for me a boon, the notation a model of clarity.

The other two Romances also appear more inviting here, freshly edited by Michael Beiche and with fingerings and notes on interpretation by Tobias Koch. So let’s take a closer look…

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8 Great Duet Books 2022

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My review of 8 Great Piano Duet Books published back in 2016 has been a popular post with readers ever since, proving that there’s plenty of interest in piano duet books.

Since then I have reviewed a trickle of other duet books, but ground to a halt during the pandemic. Meanwhile, more duet books have been amassing in my review backlog, and in this new round up I’ve got my paws on another 8 Great Duet Books for 2022.

For ease, I will introduce them in approximate order of difficulty…

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Beethoven: Klavierstücke

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Beethoven’s 35 Piano Sonatas and 22 Variations sets are at the very summit not only of his own creative output for the instrument, but are a climax of the classical keyboard repertoire. They are not, however, the sum total of the great composer’s output for solo piano…

With their latest volume, Wiener Urtext Edition UT 50295 amass his other works in one essential 260-page reference compendium, including 31 pieces with opus numbers (all but one published in the composer’s lifetime) and 36 without, one of which was newly rediscovered in 2020.

All works included are edited from the sources by Jochen Reutter, whose recent edition of the complete Sonatas for Wiener Urtext I reviewed here, with fingerings and notes on interpretation by Sheila Arnold.

Wiener Urtext has further issued a number of shorter folio editions of individual works, and in this review I will also detail those for your interest.

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Egon Wellesz: Sechs Klavierstücke op.26

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Egon Wellesz is one of those great pioneers of 20th century music who perhaps hasn’t yet been given his due either by historians or audiences.

Wellesz’s Sechs Klavierstücke (Six Piano Pieces) op.26 were composed in 1919 but are only now, a century later, appearing in print as a complete work. Perhaps finally their significance within the music to have emerged from Vienna in those decisive early decades of the twentieth century will finally be recognised…

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Martin Doepke: Piano Tales

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Born in Cologne in 1957, Martin Doepke has made a big name for himself in Germany as a collaborative keyboard player, recording musician and, since the late 1980’s, composing for theatre and TV productions. He has also taught popular music at the Rheinische Musikschule in Cologne since 1990.

Piano Tales is Doepke’s first published collection of solo piano music from Universal Edition. The book includes three pieces adapted from his hit German musical version of Beauty and the Beast (not to be confused with the Disney one!) as well as ten other original pieces about which the composer writes,

“The pieces in the present volume were written at different times over the years and in various places. They reflect my love of classical music and my passion for film music and musicals. Apart from the three taken from my musical Beauty and the Beast the pieces are not connected.
Each tells a short story. Some are playfully romantic, others are rather mystically melancholic or have a pulsing rhythm. Their styles span today’s music genres and call for a love of musical variety and diversity.”

This is certainly a good summary, but let’s take a closer look and listen…

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Igudesman’s ‘Insectopedia’

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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 (the book would suit players around UK Grade 4) 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!”

Well that got my attention! Intrigued? Let’s check it out…

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Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas: Wiener Urtext

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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…

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