This post follows on from my first of the year; highlighting useful piano resources. Whether a teacher, pupil or a professional, we can never have too much piano repertoire it seems, and discovering new possibilities is always exciting.
Canadian composer and pianist Robert Bruce (pictured to the left) has been active in Ontario for many years. He has penned copious works for the instrument, and published his first set of piano pieces in 1991 for Celestial Music Publications (his own publishing company).
Robert has written music for young children, as well as piano repertoire for students which is used by all the major music conservatories in Canada for formal piano examinations, is performed in many music festivals each year and is included in the 3rd edition of the well-known reference book Pianists’ Guide to Piano Literature by Dr Maurice Hinson. His catalogue also includes music for film, television and animation; music for healing and meditation; piano works; ensemble works; orchestral works.
Stylistically, the music is predominantly tonal with touches of blues and impressionistic flavours; Robert labels both his style and his performing ensemble, Classical Nouveau. Believing firmly in the connection between music and spirituality, he has written two text-books, In Between the Lines – Books 1 and 2, which outline the philosophy he has discovered and developed over a period of seventeen years.
Three Books entitled Miniatures for Piano were written in 1991, 1992 and 1995 respectively, and they will suit both younger and more mature players. Each book contains 6 piano pieces, which are brief, but yet, according to the composer, ‘are streamlined musical expressions that convey, in sequence, a variety of feelings ranging from happy and carefree to warm and sentimental, and they draw upon a few of the many “sound colours” that are inherent in the piano’. The works are title-less, therefore encouraging performers to be ‘imaginative, creative, expressive and musically-free’.
The first set is probably the least taxing technically, with numbers 1 and 4, easily being within the capabilities of a Grade 5 student, the others are suitable for those around Grade 6-8 (UK exam boards). Brief and occasionally very simplistic, they do demand players to be aware of emotions and feelings, and this aspect is what makes them (in my opinion), an ideal addition to repertoire. There is plenty of guidance in terms of expression and colour, but pedalling is left to the performer, and the notes (at the back of the book), ask the pianist to ‘colour these pieces freely, but carefully, with sustain pedal’.
Book 2 and 3, follow a similar structure; I really like the harmonic changes in No. 2 (of Book 2), which relies on chromatically shifting chords in the LH, and a legato octave melody in the RH (excellent practice for smooth Cantabile playing!). Book 2 No. 6, is clearly inspired by Debussy, whilst the first piece of Book 3 has many similarities with Chopin’s Prelude No. 2 in G major (from 24 Preludes Op. 28), although it’s taken at a much more leisurely tempo.
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.