The Magic Link: a book review

It’s always a pleasure reading or playing through new piano music publications, whether they be sheet music or text books, but The Magic Link is a piano book that encompasses both genres. Russian pianist and educator, Rada Bukhman has designed a piano tutor with a twist, thus creating a completely different way to set about learning or assimilating classical piano music.

Rada began her career as a pianist at the age of nine when she performed with the Omsk Symphony Orchestra, and has since devoted herself to teaching in her adopted home of Canada. She has written several books about piano playing, focusing largely on her alma mater, the Russian School.

The Magic Link was written ostensibly for children; it contains the scores of Pyotr  Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Children’s Album Op. 39 (all 24 pieces) and Robert Schumann’s Album for the Young Op. 68 (18 selected pieces). These are important works for young pianists to tackle and they provide a varied foray into the Romantic repertoire. This book, however, affords far more than merely ‘notes on the page’; each piece is preceded, and in many cases succeeded too, by written conversations between a piano teacher and a few students. It has the effect of ‘eaves dropping’ on a class lesson, the teacher gently encouraging pupils to explore many diverse technical and musical issues in each work.

A plethora of different topics are discussed, from Folk Tunes and Wooden Horses to An Italian Journey and Fairy Tales. At each point an appropriate work is presented often appearing with excerpts of orchestral or other genre works too, illustrating where each composer drew his inspiration. The piano teacher cleverly guides the young pupils through the pieces, pointing out various features from dynamic and stylistic markings, key signatures, and chord progressions, to different moods, character and how to make the piano ‘sing’, rather like a musical analysis. The teacher also proffers various stories regarding the lives of Tchaikovsky and Schumann giving tidbits of daily life which brings the whole experience to life.

There is much information to grasp and a child might take some time to digest it fully, but with the help of a skilled teacher or parent, they will no doubt enjoy this musical adventure. Each piece is complimented with a colourful drawing, many sketched by children and some by Rada herself. One of the more interesting elements in this publication is the way particular musical styles are highlighted. From chorales and contrapuntal compositions to waltzes, polkas and Russian folk dances, young players receive an excellent introduction to various musical forms which is most helpful and instructive.

This book will be a welcome addition to a piano library and a useful resource for any music teacher or parent who wishes to gain an insight into classical piano music therefore enabling them to help their children learn productively. The pieces are generally intermediate level, although beginners will certainly appreciate the stories, drawings and musical information offered throughout this volume.


Melanie Spanswick has written and published a wide range of courses, anthologies, examination syllabuses, and text books, including Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). This best-selling graded, progressive piano course contains a large selection of repertoire featuring a huge array of styles and genres, with copious practice tips and suggestions for every piece.

For more information, please visit the publications page, here.

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