PIANO WEEK 2019

It’s always a pleasure highlighting various piano courses, but I particularly enjoy featuring this one. PIANO WEEK has been running for seven years, and since 2018 I have had the good fortune to be a faculty member. It’s a wonderful way to spend a week; you can immerse yourself in piano music and meet many new friends, and that’s just for starters! I invited PIANO WEEK directors, Samantha Ward and Maciej Raginia, to tell us more about this innovative course and piano festival…


If you want to venture away from the ‘tried and tested’ this summer, combine your love of music with travel and new cuisine, read on! The touring aspect of PIANO WEEK and its non-selective character alongside our passion for music, have contributed to creating a steadily growing community of like-minded people, music lovers, concert pianists, authors and world-famous guest artists. We consider ourselves extremely lucky to have established long-lasting collaborations with Steinway & Sons (in the UK, Japan & China) and Schott Music, which have allowed us to enhance the quality resources on offer. With PIANO WEEK growing organically over the last seven years, we have ensured that a feeling of family remained at the heart of our operations and the festival’s ethos. You can still pick up the phone and talk to us directly if you want to know more about what we do or if you need help weighing up your options. If you are intrigued, here is what our participants say about us:

Since its humble beginnings in North Wales in 2013, PIANO WEEK has travelled to Weston Rhyn (UK), Rugby (UK), Foligno (Italy), Sankt Goar (Germany), Tokyo (Japan), Beijing (China) and has welcomed major names in the industry such as Stephen Kovacevich, Leon McCawley, Chenyin Li and David Fung alongside our in-house team of international concert pianists. We are particularly excited this year that Leslie Howard will join us at Weston Rhyn (Moreton Hall School) on Saturday, 3rd August 2019 in a performance of works by Percy Grainger for six hands on two pianos (tickets will soon be available for purchase on www.pianoweek.com/whats-on). All of the festival concerts are free to attend for our residential and non-residential participants and form an integral part of the PIANO WEEK experience.

The course part of PIANO WEEK is packed full of a variety of different classes, with a great emphasis placed on the performance aspect of piano playing. We accept entries from participants of all ages and abilities, with an age range spanning eighty-four years so far, from absolute beginners through children of all levels, to conservatoire students and adult amateur pianists. We pride ourselves on our all-round, holistic approach to learning the piano and apart from a generous amount of one-to-one tuition and master classes on offer, the programme boasts duet lessons, multiple participant performances as well as theory, composition, listening, harmony, sight reading and memorisation classes. There is a lot of fun for all involved too, as well as ample amounts of chocolate on offer!

Our courses for the summer of 2019 include a week in Foligno (Scuola Comunale di Musica) between 14th and 21st July, two weeks in Weston Rhyn between 21st July and 4th August (Moreton Hall School) and a week in Rugby (Rugby School) between 18th and 25th August. For those of you looking further afield, PIANO WEEK returns to Tokyo (Symphony Salon) between 30th April and 5th May 2020. In the meantime, here is our personalised mini guide to what’s going on:

PIANO WEEK Foligno

When: 14 – 21 Jul 2019

Where: Scuola Comunale di Musica

Price: £1345 – £2190

About: A beautiful ancient town in Umbria, nearby the famous vineyards of Montefalco. The music school is situated in the heart of the old town, with restaurants and bars serving delicious local cuisine at fair prices, coupled with generous aperitivi and gelato which we simply cannot resist…!

Find out more:

http://pianoweek.com/scuola-comunale-di-musica-di-foligno-it/

PIANO WEEK Weston Rhyn

When: 21 – 28 Jul 2019 &  28 Jul – 4 Aug 2019

Where: Moreton Hall School

Price: £1290 – £2035

About: Here, you can breathe in fresh air and enjoy the English countryside around the extensive, safe grounds encircling Moreton Hall School. Enjoy a state-of-the-art Steinway D concert grand piano during all of your performances. If you join us in the second week (28 Jul – 4 Aug), Leslie Howard will be closing the festival (and you’ll have your complimentary ticket!)

Find out more:

http://pianoweek.com/moreton-hall-school-uk/

PIANO WEEK Rugby

When: 18 – 25 Aug 2019

Where: Rugby School

Price: £1290 – £2035

About: We have a state-of-the-art music school at our disposal with an impressive fleet of concert grand pianos and ample practice facilities. The atmospheric Memorial Chapel as well as a second concert hall in the music school will be used for faculty and participant concerts. Currently, this residency has attracted mostly adult participants. A limited number of single rooms on campus are available.

Find out more:

http://pianoweek.com/rugby-school-uk/

PIANO WEEK Tokyo

When: 30 Apr – 5 May 2020

Where: Symphony Salon

Price: ¥225000 – ¥325000

About: For those of you who love travelling long distances and value top notch Japanese cuisine, this is an easy choice! In Tokyo, we are offering a non-residential course option only, with all classes and concerts taking place at Symphony Salon’s in-house concert hall. With its perfect location in the equivalent of London’s East End, there is a feel of old Tokyo just around the corner. Fantastic restaurants with fair prices in every direction…

Find out more:

http://pianoweek.com/symphony-salon-tokyo-jp/

You can apply for any of the above courses by visiting the PIANO WEEK home page (www.pianoweek.com); click on the APPLY ONLINE button in the upper right hand corner (of your desktop computer) or APPLY ONLINE at the top of the page (for the mobile version).

If you cannot join PIANO WEEK this year, we would love to welcome you at the following locations in 2020:

PIANO WEEK Foligno: 12 – 19 July 2020

PIANO WEEK Weston Rhyn: 19 – 26 July  &  26 July – 2 August 2020

PIANO WEEK Rugby: 16 – 23 August 2020

PIANO WEEK Tokyo: 30 Apr – 5 May 2020


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

10 Tips for Piano Exam Success

I am delighted to have been invited to be an Honorary Master Teacher at the Tom Lee Academy in Hong Kong, and I’m looking forward to visiting the academy every year to work specifically with piano teachers. My first blog post for the Tom Lee website focuses on piano exams. This perennially popular subject is suitably apt just now what with piano exams looming on the horizon at the end of term. I have re-blogged the article here, but if you would prefer to read the original, click here.


In my first guest post for the Tom Lee Academy website, I offer a few suggestions for those preparing for piano exams. Whether you’re a young student taking Grade 1 or a more mature student taking Grade 8, here are a few practice ideas to utilize during the months leading up to the big day.

  1. Implement a piano exam practice schedule. If you can make a promise to yourself to practice little and often, your playing will improve immeasurably. Decide just how much time you can devote to piano playing every day; it might be 30 minutes per day, or 30 minutes twice per day. The regularity of your practice is important, as is mindful concentration. Six days per week is optimum, and it can be useful to work in two sessions as opposed to one.
  2. Include each exam element at every practice session. Piano exams normally consist of three pieces, scales and arpeggios, or technical exercises, sight-reading and aural tests (there are other options too, depending on the exam board). Aim to include at least three of these elements at every practice session, perhaps working with a stop watch or clock, so you don’t spend too much time on one area.
  3. Set a practice routine. During the practice session try to establish a ‘rota’; perhaps start with sight-reading and follow this with scales and technical work at every session. By doing this, you will quickly cover two important parts of your exam whilst you are still fresh and able to fully concentrate. Leave the set pieces until later in the practice session.
  4. Sight-reading. This requires a student’s full attention. Whilst it might seem tedious and onerous, if you can regularly devote time to it, improvement will be significant and will make all other piano endeavours feel easier. Ten minutes at the beginning of every session is ideal, but ensure you have plenty of material.
  5. Moving onto scales, arpeggios and technical work. Take a quick pause between sight-reading and scales; it’s best to take regular breaks. If you’re preparing for a higher grade exam (Grade 6 or above), you might need to practice scales and arpeggios in rotation, as aiming to include all in one session can prove taxing and take too much time. Work out a timetable whereby all technical work is practiced thoroughly, allowing you to concentrate fruitfully on each one.
  6. Set pieces. Pieces may also benefit from a rotational approach, particularly if they are advanced and complicated. It’s a better plan to practice slowly and assiduously as opposed to skimming over lightly, which may necessitate working at a smaller amount of material at each practice session.
  7. Performance goals. Once the pieces are within your grasp, that is, you can play them through slowly, aim to finish the final practice session of the day with a ‘play-through’ of at least one piece. This can be a valuable exercise to gauge your progress, note what has been achieved, and become accustomed to establishing the mental thought process required to think from beginning to end without any breaks or hesitations.
  8. Time keeping. A worthwhile exercise is to play each piece slowly with a metronome. Do this regularly. Set the metronome to a very steady speed and go through your piece, playing along precisely to the ‘tick’. This can highlight any technical problems, as well as instilling accurate pulse-keeping, and it will also consolidate fingerings, notes and rhythms. Many find it beneficial to ‘play through’ a work slowly, devoid of emotional content, proffering the space and time to think about physical movement around the keyboard (that is, how flexible, relaxed and comfortable you feel whilst playing each piece). As a teacher, for me this is a really crucial aspect of piano playing.
  9. Aural. Surprisingly, it is possible to practice parts of this element on your own. Singing can be done at the piano; test yourself on the expected patterns, such as intervals and scalic movement (I provide my students with various intervallic ‘tunes’). You can even play and sing the actual singing tests yourself. This is also true of cadences or any chord progressions; you can ‘learn’ how they sound whilst playing them. More tricky tests such as recognising styles of music should ideally be honed over a period of time; YouTube provides all the music you’ll ever need in order to become familiar with how various genres ‘sound’.
  10. And finally, The Notebook. Not for your teacher, but for you! My students all have their own notepads (some use their phones), and they find it helpful to write notes as the lesson progresses. Detailed notes students write themselves will always be more instructive than those written by the teacher. I ask students to reflect on their notes during their journey home. This way they can start planning their practice productively for the week ahead.

Piano exams can be daunting, but if carefully prepared and not left until the last-minute, they offer much enjoyment and the perfect opportunity to really improve piano playing.


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

Preparing for your piano course: 5 top tips

This month’s five tips for Pianist magazine’s newsletter examines the benefits of piano courses. My first article on this topic was published in the previous newsletter, and you can read it here. This article focuses on how to prepare for your course, with the aim of developing confidence so that you are able to both enjoy it and learn effectively too. I hope you find it helpful.

  1. Select at least one piece from your repertoire that you have played for a while and that you are confident performing. It’s usually a good idea to play works which are slightly less advanced, so you can play them competently and with a feel for the style. Any genre is perfectly acceptable on a course, but pick one with which you feel you resonate, so you are able to show your technical grasp and musicianship with aplomb.
  2. Your second piece (and third, if you need three pieces), should ideally be a totally different style to the first, and one which you might not have learnt securely as yet. Bear in mind that your chosen repertoire doesn’t always need to be ‘ready to perform’. When learning with a different or new teacher, it can be helpful to be able to ‘change’ the way you are preparing, especially with regard to piano technique. You could decide to keep your pieces at a slower tempo, so it’s possible to think about various fingering, pedalling, dynamics, and so on.
  3. Decide what aspects of your playing you would prefer to work on. Perhaps you need to hone your flexibility and movement around the keyboard due to issues with tension, or you may need to think about phrasing and producing a fuller, richer tone. Don’t be afraid to ask your course director or teacher to help you with your particular needs, as that is what they are there to do.
  4. If you are able to book a practice room during the course, then this is the perfect time to work on the elements addressed in your class or private course lessons. If you can make substantial progress between lessons, then your tutor can guide you more productively, usually yielding some impressive results.
  5. Remember to get some rest. Courses are surprisingly demanding both mentally and physically; sleep is sacrosanct – for the students and teachers! Enjoy your course and good luck.

    With course participants on my Jackdaws Music Education Trust course in January 2019

    If you would like to take a piano course, consider joining me on one of my courses:

Finchcocks Music: luxurious weekend courses for intermediate level players mostly with one teacher, offering master classes, solo lessons and workshops.

My courses at Finchcocks Music: 14th – 16th June, 6th – 8th September and 16th– 18th November 2019. For more information, click here.

PIANO WEEK: a week-long course, with multiple teachers, offering many aspects of musicianship and piano playing, plus copious performing opportunities on a Steinway model D piano. There are faculty recitals every evening and the opportunity to meet many other pianists.

My courses at PIANO WEEK:   22nd – 29th July at Moreton Hall School (Shropshire, UK), 29th July – 5th at Moreton Hall School (Shropshire, UK), August and 18th – 25th August 2019 at Rugby School (Birmingham, UK).  For more information, click here.

Montecatini Piano Festival: this new course and festival takes place in Italy, near Florence from August 16th – 20th 2019, and it focuses on the piano, chamber music, and composition. I will be offering a composition workshop this year. Find out more, here.

Jackdaws Piano Course: Polishing Your Piano Technique. This is the fifth year that I have held a course at Jackdaws Music Education Trust. I host one weekend per year for ten students which focuses on piano technique.

My course at Jackdaws: 17th – 19th January 2020. For more information, click here.


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

A visit to the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

I recently had the pleasure of spending an afternoon at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. It was my first visit to the splendid new building situated on Jennens Road, about a 15 minute walk from New Street station. The RBC inhabited this new premises in September 2017.

Image: FBCStudios

Established in 1886 as the Birmingham School of Music, the RBC has an illustrious list of alumni, many of whom are active within the profession. During the move it merged with the Birmingham School of Acting, and was granted its Royal title on September 24th 2017 by Her Majesty, The Queen, (and before this, the RBC announced its first Royal Patron Prince Edward the Earl of Wessex).

The conservatoire now boasts 250 visiting specialist tutors and around 80 full-time staff; these include active professional musicians, internationally renowned performers, composers, conductors, scholars and educators. ‘Cellist Julian Lloyd Webber has been principal since 2015, and has done much to raise the RBC’s profile.

Professor John Thwaites who is Head of Keyboard Studies at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire

My visit was primarily to explore the keyboard department and it was wonderful to meet and chat to Head of Keyboard Studies Professor John Thwaites (you can read our recent interview here). We met in the light and airy foyer; the building, which was designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (see image above), is stunning and gives a real sense of space and tranquility. As I had arrived on a particularly balmy, sunny day, we sat outside for our interview in a stylish seating area near the large cafeteria.

The spacious entrance hall at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.

Professor Thwaites has been head of the keyboard department for ten years. During this time standards have been continually raised and the department has doubled in size. Many of the current students are already performing professionally.

A recording session taking place at Bradshaw Hall, the larger concert venue at the RBC.

The RBC welcomes talented young players from around the world, with special links to the Far East and Hungary. Other important connections have been made with Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany, Spain, Italy, Russia, Israel, the U.S.A., Japan and Korea. This international emphasis continues to spread the word about the RBC’s impressive expansion and development.

Recent competition successes include Luigi Carroccia, who was a Quarter-Finalist at the 15th Van Cliburn Competition (held in 2017); Roman Kosyakov, who won the Hastings International Piano Competition, the Sheepdrove Intercollegiate Prize, and has just become a Kirckman Concert Society Young Artist; Daniel Lebhardt, who is a member of the Young Concert Artists Trust (YCAT) and now has representation by Askonas Holt; and Angus Webster who won the 7th International Jorma Panula Conducting Competition in Finland. And who could forget the brilliant young pianist Lauren Zhang, who, at 16, became 2018 BBC Young Musician. Whilst competition successes aren’t always seen as a positive endorsement, they are an objective test of a department’s credibility.

Lauren Zhang winning BBC Young Musician 2018 (Image: BBC)

Lauren (pictured to the left) studies at the RBC Junior Department, and is a student of Dr. Robert Markham (for the list of all piano professorial staff, click here). Mindful of the importance of pedagogy, Professor Thwaites is currently pursuing a forward-thinking new initiative: the Birmingham Piano Academy. On Sundays local people would be given the opportunity to study with some of the RBC students and teachers. I love this idea. And it would be a very positive development, especially at a time when music in schools has sadly all but disappeared, and there are few quality establishments offering music education for everyone.

The keyboard department is spacious and benefits from copious practice facilities: it’s not difficult to see why students are thriving at this institute. Postgraduate pianists study with two professors simultaneously and there are weekly performance classes for all students conducted by different professors, allowing maximum input from a wide cohort of teachers.

Renowned pianists who have recently given master classes include Peter Donohoe, Imogen Cooper, Andrei Gavrilov, Louis Lortie, Stephen Hough, Paul Badura-Skoda, Jean-Efflam Bavouzet, to name a few.

The Lab. A studio designed for a variety of arts performances and experimental music.

Like many music conservatoires, there are regular internal competitions and beneficial performing opportunities, as well as piano festivals highlighting a large selection of composers.

Chamber music forms a vital component for students, and piano trios are currently under the spotlight. A new chamber music festival was inaugurated last year; Birmingham International Piano Chamber Music Festival. The artistic director of this new venture, Daniel Tong, is also Head of Piano Chamber Music Studies at the RBC. The festival consists of concerts, master classes and a chamber music competition, and it takes place in November. Performances were live streamed, and the grand final concert was featured on Classic FM.

I toured the building admiring the concert and recital halls, the lab, the organ department, and I also enjoyed exploring some of the early instruments, such as this beautiful Wieck piano, which was made by one of Clara Schumann’s cousins:

A music college must seek to constantly evolve. And it must also offer students a special experience, so they feel drawn to travel from far and wide knowing that they will emerge equipped to enter this demanding profession, not just as excellent performers, but with a deeper musical understanding and a sense of musical responsibility within the community. The Royal Birmingham Conservatoire can clearly offer such an experience in spades.

www.bcu.ac.uk


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

The Primrose Piano Quartet record Brahms Piano Quartets

The Primrose Piano Quartet is widely regarded as one of the U.K.’s leading chamber ensembles. They are named after the great viola player William Primrose, and they enjoy a busy performing schedule worldwide, with regular appearances at London’s major concert halls. The ensemble’s most recent recording focuses on the complete piano quartets of Johannes Brahms. I visited the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire last week to chat to the quartet’s pianist, Professor John Thwaites (who is Head of Keyboard Studies at the RBC), about the history and background surrounding these intimate works.


MS: The Primrose Piano Quartet (pictured above) have performed and recorded a substantial and varied repertoire. How long have you been together, how do you structure your programmes, and what influences your repertoire choices?

Professor John Thwaites

JT: We’ve been together since 2002, and there have been a couple of changes since. Susanne (Susanne Stanzeleit: violin) and I were founder members and we are still there. Dot (Dorothea Vogel: viola) and Andrew (Andrew Fuller: ’cello) are more recent members. We initially made a big focus of British Twentieth Century repertoire, so a lot of our early CD releases and concerts feature this repertoire. For example, we played at the Wigmore Hall for the centenary of William Hurlstone’s birth. Which was a lovely thing to do. We did that linked to the Asthma Society because Hurlstone was asthmatic. One of the reasons he died in his early twenties was that he taught harmony at the Royal College of Music and taught using chalk. The chalk dust affected his lungs and he had to go for frequent long walks in the park! It was all very tragic. But an amazing story. He wrote a very beautiful piano quartet which we’ve played a lot.

One of the interesting things about the British repertoire is trying to popularise it abroad. There are countries, including, for example, Denmark and Germany, where they’ve been very interested to hear our slightly unusual British repertoire. And that’s also linked to my role here, because when we have students coming from abroad, particularly the Far East, they are coming here partly as a European Country, and to learn standard repertoire, but they are also extremely receptive to the British repertoire. They tend to fall in love with it, take it back home and keep playing it. And that’s exciting.

So in our case, we dug out all the more interesting and unusual piano quartets from the early part of the Twentieth Century. The ones that stick in my mind; there’s a beautiful one by Thomas Dunhill (who is known for his educational piano pieces), and we’ve played it many times and recorded it. And then masterpieces like the Herbert Howells Piano Quartet. The Howells is dedicated to the hill at Chosen, now known as Churchdown Hill (a large mound of a hill between Cheltenham and Gloucester offering spectacular views), which was frequented by Herbert Howells and his childhood friend, composer Ivor Gurney. It’s a beautiful hill, which I’ve got to know very well!

We also added to our repertoire by commissioning. The two most famous composers that we’ve commissioned are Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and Anthony Payne. Both works by these composers are significant substantial pieces. It was great working with them because it gives you an insight into how they work. And not only how they work, but how one might work with a composer from the past, such as Brahms. The sense of freedom and flexibility you have when working with a living composer perhaps ought to be replicated when we are dealing with someone no longer amongst us.

There are about twelve master pieces for piano quartet and we’ve played them all. Other than that, we are looking at other interesting pieces which go off in Nationalistic avenues. We are also following specialist interests like this Brahms project. Some programmes are specialist and some programmes are just a nice mixture of masterpieces.

MS: Many congratulations on your latest recording. Tell us a little about the history behind these works.

JT: They are all early works in the sense that they were drafted in the late 1850s and early 1860s, but then the case of the one that was the first to be drafted, which was the C minor, (it was originally drafted in C sharp minor), and it didn’t find its finished form until the 1870s, and so therefore came out as Op. 60. That’s the one that’s closest to the Sturm und Drang issue of Brahms living in the Schumann household before Schumann went away to the asylum, and indeed afterwards!

The whole issue of Brahms as a programmatic composer is interesting in that we tend to think of him as an absolute composer in contrast to Liszt or Wagner, but now we know it’s not quite as simple as that. Brahms himself suggested that a picture of Werther could be put on the front cover of this piano quartet. There are other chamber music works, where it seems to me that the biographical element is particularly strong. One would be the horn trio (Horn Trio in E flat major Op. 40), which seems so clearly to be a reference to the death of Brahms’ mother, and it’s around that same time that he wrote the Requiem (German Requiem Op. 45). When you start looking for all these clues, there’s a whole new element of academic thinking now with allusion and referencing, which I’ve enjoyed getting in to.

The Op. 25 (in G minor) and Op. 26 (in A major) quartets were written in what appears to have been quite a happy time for him, living in the suburbs of Hamburg in the early 1860s. Then he took them on tour to Vienna. So they were an important part of him announcing himself in Vienna in 1862. And that led on to him deciding to settle permanently in Vienna in 1868. This links nicely with us. We introduced ourselves to Vienna by turning up as a piano quartet, and also going to one of the halls we know Brahms worked in.

The Primrose Piano Quartet recording at the Ehrbar Hall in Vienna.

MS: You recorded the disc in the Ehrbar Hall (pictured above) on period instruments and I wondered what influenced your decision?

JT: It’s worth mentioning Gert Hecher, who lives in Vienna. It’s an interesting story, how I met him. I was playing in Budapest with the ‘cellist Alexander Baillie, and I’d heard that there was a piano for sale in Vienna which I was initially interested in, but the lady who owned the piano was not around to show it to me, so I was feeling slightly disappointed and disillusioned – in Vienna at a loose end! Alexander looked on the internet and he found that Brahms’ own Streicher piano had been restored by Gert Hecher. So he phoned Gert, and asked if we could see his pianos. We met him and he’s got the most significant collection of Austro-German pianos in the world. He has three large ground floor rooms full of pianos and further showrooms on his first floor too. And he lives with them. He has a separate workshop where they are all taken apart and restored. He’s passionate about these instruments and does a fantastic job of restoring them to playing condition, and that includes taking the pitch to A440. Which is the most practical thing when dealing with chamber music in the modern world.

The Streicher instrument used for the recording of Piano Quartet in G minor Op. 25.

Gert’s collection is pretty extraordinary. He’s got seven Streicher pianos, and they are all so different. He’s got Streichers that are quite bright and would be used perhaps for recording Liszt. And then he’s got this particular Streicher (pictured to the left), an unusual one within his collection, which is more mellow and seems to be quintessentially ‘Brahmsian’. And ironically enough, that piano is the exact same model as the one that Brahms had, which has been restored for the museum. This Streicher is in fantastic working condition and it’s what we used for the recording of the G minor quartet. This piano was apparently very similar to the one that Brahms had. Brahms only had it because he was given it for free! We know that he loved Blüthner and he had a Graf from the Schumann family. We also know that he loved the bigger pianos such as those made by Ehrbar.

With Ehrbar, what’s nice here, is that we recorded in the hall of the manufacturer, similar to the Wigmore Hall (which was once Bechstein Hall). It’s now linked to a conservatoire and they don’t have an Ehrbar piano there at all. We were able to take a piano which would have been in this hall at some point, from Gert’s private collection, back to the hall, and this was a lovely thing to do.

The Blüthner piano used for the recording of Piano Quartet in A major Op. 26.

The last piano was an early Blüthner (pictured to the right), which was classic for Brahms. Actually, it’s slightly classic for our connection to Brahms. We have a festival in Hampshire and we stay with Penny Clive, whose husband owned an 1890s Blüthner; one which Brahms chose for a family member. We use that regularly, and of course we know that Brahms actually played this piano because he chose it!

 

MS: Why did you select these particular instruments for your recordings?

JT: This is a tricky question to answer! One consideration was how to use the piano which is the closest to the modern piano which is definitely the Ehrbar (pictured below). We wanted to record the later of the piano quartets on this piano (the Op. 60). But the irony there is that this was the first piece to have been drafted of the three quartets. It was finally published in the 1870s and the piano is also from the 1870s too. In one sense the pianos go with the timeline of the writing of the pieces. But then beyond that it was quite difficult to decide.

The Ehrbar piano used for the recording of Piano Quartet in C minor Op. 60.

We’ve got the Ehrbar for the Op. 60. That made sense on lots of counts. And then the question was what to do with the other two. The Blüthner isn’t really like one’s modern idea of a Blüthner sound. It’s very bell-like and very pure. It’s straight-strung which gives a greater resonance, and it does also have a visceral brilliance. The A major is such a big piece and it needs a range of sound, but also, the Blüthner has a really beautiful singing sound which I thought would be lovely for the second movement of the A major. However, it could have worked to use the Blüthner for the G minor quartet which has such extrovert qualities, and I think some might say that the mellow Streicher struggles to keep up with the strings in the early movements of the G minor. The pay off in doing what we did is that the Streicher seems to bring something very special to the finale of the G minor quartet. This movement has cimbalom writing and although it’s not a powerful instrument, it somehow does conjure up that gypsy world of Hungarian folk music perfectly. It’s perhaps the only recording of this iconic movement where one can imagine being in a Viennese café (a number of which we enjoyed frequenting after sessions!).

MS: How did you prepare for the recording in terms of becoming accustomed to the different actions?

JT: I’d gone out to Vienna, before the recording sessions, to choose the pianos so that I wasn’t going to face any surprises. That was an interesting process. As I’d mentioned before, Gert had three or four enormous showrooms of pianos and he had been trying to steer me towards his less favoured pianos! Or the ones that had sometimes been neglected.

There was a Swiss manufacturer that I’d never heard of before, and various other pianos there. I can see in retrospect that he wanted more of his collection to be heard – in fact he was very honest about it over dinner! Some of the pianos we used have been recorded previously many times. Some of them would have been much harder work to adjust to. I realised that when I did a previous recording with Gert (of Brahms ‘cello sonatas with Alexander Baillie), we chose the Ehrbar, which is also used on this Brahms recording. But when we arrived to make the recording, there was a different Ehrbar prepared for us to use. The earlier Ehrbar, which we used for the Brahms F major ‘cello sonata, had an incredibly heavy Viennese action which was very tough, especially in that piece. That was all part of Gert getting some of his less favoured pianos their moment in the limelight!

However, I did stick to my guns about the pianos which I thought would be best for our quartet recording. So there wasn’t really anything crazy or any super strange actions. I felt that I’d be OK adjusting. It was quite a big ask as we only had three recording days. So at the beginning of each day we had to change the piano, reestablish the balance, which all takes a while, and then do the piece. And we also had a ‘kick-out time’, which was convenient for getting to our favourite Serbian restaurant on time! But it did mean that we had to be very focused during the day.

MS: How did you adjust to the pedalling and how does it differ from that on modern instruments?

JT: As the sound is slightly less sustained, you can pedal more. Although I don’t think I really did pedal that much more. There was something interesting in the editions which related to pedalling. We did various things to prepare for the recording, one of which was a major symposium of academic experts here in Birmingham at the conservatoire. And another was that we did some workshopping with amateur adults at the Benslow Music Trust.

We handed out some older editions of the quartets and one of the adult players at the workshop asked why I didn’t do a particular pedal marking in her score. At the beginning of the C minor quartet, where the strings enter, I wasn’t supposed to come off (according to this score), I should have kept the pedal depressed for another two bars. She was absolutely right! This was an edition by Hans Gal, which he made in Vienna before he came to Britain, and which is supposed to have been based on all sorts of sources and also on knowledge of musicians playing the repertoire going back to Brahms’ lifetime. Who knows? It may have been a look back to an authentic performing tradition, and it does make sense in some ways. There’s an octave C which you depress and then a diminuendo marking has been written, and you can’t get much diminuendo done in a single bar. But if you keep the sustaining pedal depressed when the strings come in, then you can get a diminuendo. As soon as this was brought to our attention, we thought we should add this to our performance.

The Primrose Piano Quartet during their recording sessions at the Ehrbar Saal.

MS: I enjoyed your dynamic ranges very much. Is this more challenging on period instruments?

JT: Some technical aspects are a little bit more difficult because most of the pianos have a single escapement rather than a double escapement. So we notice that in trills and other elements. But these instruments have been so carefully made and restored by Gert, that generally I find them a complete joy to play. I am a big fan of the modern Steinway (I own them and have bought many of them), and I love them. But I’m also a big fan of all these other instruments, most of whose makers disappeared a long time ago.

I love it when I find a piano with a personality. Not all pianists do. Some prefer a blank canvas so that they can bring their own personality to the instrument. I respect that. But I like to find a piano with a personality and then you can experiment and find things that work well on particular instruments. Perhaps it’s because I am a chamber musician, and I enjoy the whole process of collaboration. In one sense, one is collaborating with these three very different pianos. I find this more inspiring. We had a technician on hand all the time, which was necessary with such instruments, but they were so beautifully set-up that there were very few issues.

MS: What about the Urtext editions?

JT: I recently did the Brahms ‘cello sonata with Christoph Richter and he showed me the manuscript of the end of the finale. Just before the final Vivace, there’s a section where it seems right to just stretch in a meno mosso fashion for a couple of bars, but it’s actually written ritardando. But on the manuscript it says poco sostenuto, over the whole two bars, which is exactly how I’ve always wanted to see it. And then, for whatever reason, Brahms had crossed that out, and later put in the ritardando. So, if you have a strong feeling for how a passage should go, you never know, it might have been the first thought of the composer, as in this case.

In any case, we know that, as Brahms said himself, ‘if you don’t have a feeling for my music, or an understanding for the style, then don’t bother playing it’. It seems, from everything we know, there was a lot of freedom in the interpretation, and that’s the way he conducted, and the way you hear the older generation conductors, such as (Willem) Mengelberg. You can hear all this on Youtube now. It’s not so strange for a modern player, if you’ve been heading in a slightly freer direction anyway. This reinforced my notion of freeing myself up and not being too high bound by what’s in the score.

In the case of the finale of the G minor quartet, there are some places where the Henle edition has put in some obvious suggestions, where the same passage might be played at the same tempo, but actually it’s more fun not to! And when you see the older editions where it’s not so consistent, it inspires you to do something a bit more creative.

MS: Tell us about your forthcoming performances. Where can we hear you play these quartets?

JT: We are going up to Scotland in the Autumn to play them all. And we have our own festival now. It’s been going a while and is in a village called West Meon, and it came out of the connection to the Brahms Blüthner piano and the Clive family. It’s really blossomed and it’s very gratifying how a large number of people have put much time and energy into it, and we are able to invite exciting guests now. Michael Collins has been a couple of time, and we are having Simon Callow this time. He will perform Strauss’ Enoch Arden with me.

MS: Thank you so much for taking the time to chat to me about this fascinating project, and I wish you every success with the new recording.

JT: Thank you, Melanie.

You can purchase the complete Brahms Piano Quartets recorded by the Primrose Piano Quartet (Meridian), by clicking here, and you can read one of the many recent reviews, here.

www.primrosepianoquartet.org.uk


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

The Montecatini Piano Festival

I’m delighted to be attending the new Montecatini Piano Festival this year. As many will know from reading this blog, I love to travel with my work and consider it a privilege. I feel travelling is one of the best ways to explore a particular place, culture, or country.

This festival is to be held in Montecatini Terme situated in Tuscany, in Italy. The town is within easy reach of the historic art mecca, Florence and fascinating Pisa (both around 40 minutes by car), and the walled city of Lucca, (around 20 minutes by car). Montecatini is located only a 10 minute drive from the city of Pistoia which has been the Italian Capital of Culture since 2017, and it’s approximately an hour’s drive from the medieval heart of Tuscany, Siena.

This area of Tuscany is known for its splendid Italian Art Nouveau architecture. Montecatini is a noted spa resort famed for special therapeutic water, and particularly for the Parco delle Terme spa complex. It became a renowned spot for La Belle Époque and was subsequently visited by great artists and composers such as Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Richard Strauss as well as fashion designer Christian Dior. Other local sites of interest include the Funicolare and the Valdinievole. And for the more active, there are also breath-taking walks, hikes and cycling routes.

The piano festival takes place in several venues across Montecatini, and festival concerts are to be held in the open air theatre of the Terme Tettuccio (see photo above). Participants can take advantage of a series of concerts, individual lessons and chamber music coaching given by musicians and faculty members.

Guests, students, course professors and performers all stay at the festival’s affiliated hotel, the Hotel Arnolfo & Aqua Laetitia. This five-star resort offers luxury accommodation and a host of spa and beauty facilities, including massage, saunas and a variety of beauty treatments, all of which are available to course attendees.

Japanese pianist Aisa Ijiri (pictured to the left), who is artistic director of this festival, (and is also artistic director of TIPA in Japan), makes the comment:

‘Music is a universal language. It is also a beautiful journey into art. I hope our visiting musicians and participants will consider our festival a home in which to feel united with a shared journey of our whole artistic experiences, all in the beauty of Tuscany.’

The 2019 festival will offer an attractive series of concerts, individual lessons, masterclasses and chamber music coaching given by resident artists. In particular, pianist Sofya Gulyak (pictured below), first prize winner at The Leeds International Piano Competition in 2009, and who is now professor of piano at the Royal College of Music, will give a recital and master classes. As will violinist Emanuel Salvador, who is concertmaster of the Baltic Neopolis Orchestra.

This festival also offers performance opportunities for the participants, and a new competition for young musicians to win the chance to give a concert, providing a stepping stone towards a professional concert career. I will give a composition workshop, and I’m looking forward to hearing some of my compositions performed in the opening Gala Concert.

You can find out much more about the festival by visiting the website, and you can secure your place by clicking here.

www.montecatinipianofestival.com


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

A Holiday Competition!

This weekend Pianist magazine and Schott Music are holding a competition which takes place on Pianist’s social media sites. One of five copies of Play it again: PIANO Book 3 are available for five winners. You can enter and find out more about this competition by clicking here. And you can find out more about the whole Play it again series, here.

For regular piano updates subscribe to Pianist’s newsletter, which consists of more practice tips and piano information, here. Good luck!

 

 

I’d like to wish you and your family a very Happy Easter weekend.

www.pianistmagazine.com

www.en.schott-music.com


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

Play it again: PIANO Book 3

Play it again: PIANO Book 3 is now available, and, as I know some readers have been eagerly awaiting its arrival, today’s post provides some information about this new publication. I’m very excited about the third book in this series. Each book has its own character and unique collection of pieces, but this one is my favourite!

As a recap, Play it again: PIANO Book 1 and 2 were both published in 2017. Play it again is a progressive and graded piano course, published by Schott Music, intended for those who are returning to piano playing after a break. However, this course has also proved popular for students wanting to explore different repertoire between exam grades too. You can find out more about Book 1, here, and Book 2, here.

The course moves happily alongside the U.K. examination board system. Book 1 takes students from Grade 1 -4 and Book 2, from approximately Grade 5 – 8 level. Book 1 features 28 mostly original pieces taken from standard (as well as more unusual) repertoire, and Book 2 contains 21 pieces. Each ‘level’ consists of a group of pieces focusing on different aspects of technique and musicianship.  For many, particularly those learning alone, the most important facet are the copious practice notes and suggestions which accompany every piece. Piano teachers who fancy an anthology of pieces to work through with their pupils may like to explore this course too.

Play it again: PIANO Book 3

Book 3 will take students on from where Book 2 left off; approximately Grade 8 level through to Associate Diploma level. The new book is much larger than Book 1 and 2 (at 156 pages), and the practice notes which accompany each piece are, as may be expected, far more extensive.

What you can expect to find in Book 3

Book 3  consists of 11 piano pieces,  the majority of which are drawn from standard repertoire (with emphasis on pedagogical works and those suitable for exams). Similar to Book 1 and 2, there is a ‘technique’ section at the beginning of Book 3, with practical exercises and suggestions; these are especially helpful for those with tension issues. In the ‘technique’ section I have included hand flexibility exercises, information on the Bridge position, and exercises for developing finger agility  (especially for the fourth and fifth fingers), as well as thumb exercises. The Warm-Up exercises at the end of the book focus on ways of developing a more holistic approach to pre-practice preparation.

Each piece contains between 3 and 10 pages of practice ideas and tips, as well as many musical examples, diagrams and photographs. The layout is very similar to that of Book 1 and 2. As this is a progressive course, it’s possible to ‘return’ to a level to suit your current standard; some may want to start at the beginning of Book 3,  whilst others may prefer to ‘drop in’ at a later stage.

Book 3 is divided into two parts:

1. Grade 8 – Post Grade 8 Diploma

2. Post Grade  8 Diploma –  Associate Diploma

As Book 3 is a much more advanced level than that of Book 1 and 2, the repertoire is classical and the book is geared towards those who want, or are possibly considering, taking post Grade 8 exams. It’s possible to create a suitable post grade 8 diploma (ARSM/DipLCM) or Associate Diploma (DipABRSM, ATCL, ALCM) programme entirely from this book.  The former section consists of six works, and the latter, five. Each section contains a concert study (in the same manner as Book 1 and 2), alongside a collection of standard, as well as lesser known, pieces.

I hope you like my selection! This choice was based on many factors: the need to include pieces which employ particular techniques, musicianship, and, most importantly, works which display the chosen composer’s overall style effectively, and it was imperative to represent many different styles of music. Each work also had to be enjoyable to play, and, as with most commercial publications, some works simply had to be well-known. Other more practical aspects, such as overall programming of the book and the length of the piece, also came into play.

Book 3 Repertoire

Grade 8 – Post Grade 8 Diploma:

Domenico Scarlatti: Sonata in E major K. 215
Edvard Grieg: Wedding Day at Troldhaugen Op. 65 No. 6
Claude Debussy: La Puerta del Vino L. 223 No. 3
Alexander Scriabin: Prelude in B minor Op. 11 No.  6
Paul Hindemith: Interludium and Fuga Decima in D flat
Melanie Spanswick: Frenzy, Etude for Nimble Fingers

Post Grade 8 Diploma to Associate Diploma Level

Ludwig van Beethoven: Sonata in C minor ‘Pathetique’ Op 13
Johannes Brahms: Intermezzo in A major Op. 118 No. 2
Edward MacDowall: Wild Jagd from Virtuoso Etudes Op. 46 No. 3
Issac Albeniz: Asturias Leyenda Op.  47 No. 5
Sergei Rachmaninoff: Prelude in G sharp minor Op. 32 No. 12

Layout

I’ve included the scale and arpeggio of each key, where appropriate; or I have linked it to those already featured in Book 1 and 2.  There are warm-up or pre-practice exercises, tailored to every piece. My aim was to highlight a myriad of practice ideas and different methods of breaking pieces down, hopefully re-assembling them with ease and with a greater understanding.

Each piece contains fingering, dynamic suggestions and (where necessary) some pedalling. Although you may choose to ignore this and add your own. All the information provided for every piece is transferable to an infinite number of piano works, therefore building solid practical methods for tackling different styles and genres. There are four videos online already, on Schott’s Youtube channel, and we will add another three teaching videos to this playlist very soon.

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The pages are well laid out and are designed with ‘tip circles’ and ‘technique box-outs’, and I hope it’s an easy to use course, inspiring pianists to rekindle their love for the piano (see gallery above for an example of the page layouts).

Play it again: PIANO is now sold worldwide and many piano schools are using it as their course of choice for students. Schott Music and I launched Book 3 on April 4th at the Frankfurt Musikmesse (see image at the top; pictured with my editors, Robert Schäfer and Schott Editor-in-chief Rainer Mohrs, and the Cristofori Singapore team).

This year I will be travelling around the U.K. visiting various music stores giving Play it again workshops, so if you would like to find out more about the books, please keep an eye on this blog for updates about my travels. I’ll also be visiting the Far East twice for book tours, as well as Germany and Italy.

You can purchase Book 3, watch my teaching videos, and find out more about the Play it again: PIANO series, by clicking here.

Alternatively, purchase from Amazon, here.


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

How to Make a Professional Recording: 16 Tips

My guest writer today is American pianist and author Rhonda Rizzo. Rhonda’s previous guest post focused on her new novel, The Waco Variations. As she has enjoyed considerable success as a recording artist, I asked Rhonda to write about her experiences in the recording studio.


One of the biggest goals most musicians have is to create a recording. For the professional, it’s a necessary rite of passage and it’s a worthy goal for talented amateurs as well. Thankfully, what was once reserved for record label artists is now open to anyone. But since the process of making a record is neither simple nor inexpensive, it’s important to learn as much as possible about it before you start. These brief tips are some important things I’ve learned through recording my own CDs.

Before you record:

* Be clear about what you want to record and why. It’s much more complicated to create a professional recording than to preserve a few pieces for family and friends. Research saves time, money, and a lot of frustration.

* Know your chosen repertoire very, very well. Perform it anywhere and everywhere for anyone who will listen. Record yourself playing, both to hear yourself clearly and to become comfortable being recorded. Make sure you can play the music flawlessly from beginning to end, in perfect time. Yes, recordings can be edited, but editing is tedious and expensive. You’ll thank yourself later if you do your work before you enter the studio.

* Decide if you wish to record a “live” album or studio recording. Live albums have the advantage of being less expensive than studio recordings, but they’re inherently less perfect because you can’t do things a second time in a concert.

* Research your local recording options. If using a studio, which has the best piano? If recording in a performance hall or church, is it soundproofed? Because the piano has a huge dynamic range, it’s important to find an engineer who has experience recording the instrument, which includes capturing the overtones and the effects of the room.

* Create the cover art. Unless you’re a graphic artist with lots of experience making album covers, hire someone to create it for you. Know (before you start) if you want to make a physical CD, offer the music as digital downloads, or both.

* Hire a tuner/technician to prep the piano for the recording.

During the recording

* Don’t try to record for more than 4 hours a day. Full-length albums will most likely require several 4-hour days to complete, even if you’re perfectly prepared.

* Show up rested. Wear comfortable clothes and bring plenty of water and favourite snacks.

* Take breaks as needed. Move around and stretch.

* Be gentle with yourself; “red light panic” is real, people.

* Wear headphones to hear how the piano sounds through the mics.

* Record several “takes” of each piece so you have choices.

After you record

* Editing. This is where the real work begins. Your first task is to pick the “take” you prefer. If the take contains mistakes, this is your chance to edit them out, usually by re-recording sections. Depending on the number of edits required, this can take hours.

* Mixing. All the mics record different parts of the piano or the room. This phase mixes everything together. This is also where the engineer can “tweak” the sound by changing how “live” the room sounds, or emphasizing one part of the piano over another.

* Mastering. This is the stage where the individual tracks are turned into an album. All the recording levels need to be even. The spacing between the tracks needs to be uniform.

For more information on mixing and mastering, click here.

* If creating physical CDs, be prepared to work through a professional distribution company. I recommend CDBaby. I also recommend using them for distribution of digital tracks as well.

There’s a reason the phrase “art isn’t easy” is a cliché. Making a record is a big commitment of both time and finances, and experience has taught me that doing this sort of thing “on the cheap” usually leads to disappointing results. The more you can afford to pay professionals to record, edit, mix, master, press, and distribute your CD, the easier you’ll find the process. Do your research before you begin the project and commit to giving the process your best playing, time, and financial resources. Your reward? An album you can be proud of for years to come.

 

Rhonda Rizzo is a performing and recording pianist, and author.  She has released four CDs, Made in America, Oregon Impressions: the Piano Music of Dave Deason, 2 to Tango: Music for Piano Duet, and A Spin on It, numerous articles, and a novel, The Waco Variations.  She’s devoted to playing (and writing about) the music of living composers on her blog, www.nodeadguys.com. The Waco Variations, a Novel is available at www.Amazon.com.


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.


 

Play it again workshop at the Frankfurt Music Fair

I’m really looking forward to giving a presentation and workshop at this year’s Frankfurt Music Fair or Musikmesse which takes place from April 2nd – 5th.  My workshop will be held on Thursday April 4th at 2.00pm. This presentation focuses on Play it again: PIANO Book 1, 2 and 3. Book 3 will be officially launched next week at the Fair, after which I’ll add links as to where it can be purchased for those of you who have kindly enquired.

I very much enjoy giving workshops and presentations. They nearly always include references to my books, and this one will be no exception. I’ll start by speaking about all three books within my piano course, which, as many readers know, is intended for those returning to piano playing after a break. The workshop highlights the importance of developing physical flexibility in piano playing, with audience participation and some relaxation exercises too.

The new addition to the Play it again course, Book 3, begins where Book 2 stops. It takes students on a journey from Grade 8 to the Associate Diploma level, via the new Post Grade 8 Diploma. As a quick recap, Play it again Book 1 is approximately Grade 1 – 4 level, and Book 2, Grade 5 – 8. Each book contains a collection of pieces mostly selected from standard repertoire. There are twenty-eight pieces in Book 1, and twenty-one in Book 2.

Book 3 features eleven works by a variety of composers and genres, with copious practice notes for each piece (some pieces have up to 8 pages of notes). It’s possible to form a Post Grade 8 Diploma or Associate Diploma programme from this book. Book 3 will be on sale at the Frankfurt Fair, and I’ll be publishing a much more detailed survey of the book next week.

If you would like to attend my presentation, you can find more information here. I look forward to meeting you.


My publications:

For much more information about how to practice piano repertoire, take a look at my piano course, Play it again: PIANO (published by Schott Music). Covering a huge array of styles and genres, the course features a large collection of progressive, graded piano repertoire from approximately Grade 1 to advanced diploma level, with copious practice tips for every piece. A convenient and beneficial course for students of any age, with or without a teacher, and it can also be used alongside piano examination syllabuses too.

You can find out more about my other piano publications and compositions here.