Let’s make way for the Ladies!

The latest edition of Pianist Magazine is now available and it’s an ‘all women’ affair. Spotlighting Isata Kanneh-Mason, who appears on the front cover, this issue offers all the usual magazine goodies; ‘how-to-play’ articles by Lucy Parham, Nils Franke and myself, highlighting female composers (Maria Szymanowska, Cécile Chaminade, and Clara Schumann), in-depth masterclasses from Graham Fitch and Mark Tanner, a Piano Teacher Help Desk written by Kathryn Page, a Playing by Ear article from John Geraghty, and articles on female pianists and composers by Jessica Duchen, Peter Quantrill and Inge Kjemtrup.

There’s also a fascinating feature on Clara Schumann by concert pianist Lucy Parham, who is currently touring with her new composer portrait programme I, Clara, which celebrates the 200th anniversary of the birth of Clara Wieck Schumann. The narrative of I, Clara, drawn from letters and diaries, is interspersed with live performances of Clara’s works, and of music by Robert Schumann, Brahms, Liszt, Mendelssohn, and Chopin. The narrator is the acclaimed actress, Dame Harriet Walter. Lucy and Dame Harriet have just released a CD to accompany the tour, and you can find out more about it, here. And you can enjoy a preview of I, Clara by clicking on the link below:

Pianist magazine always contains at least forty pages of sheet music as well as an accompanying CD, all performed and recorded by house pianist Chenyin Li. In this edition, the lion’s share of the sheet music is devoted to female composers, including a charming Mazurka in C by Maria Szymanowska, Bagatelle No. 2 by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, No. 1 from 25 Easy Etudes Op. 50 by Louise Farrenc, Tarentelle Op. 123 No. 10 by Cécile Chaminade, Polka Op. 36 No. 5 by Amy Beach, Méditation by Mel Bonis, and Romance Op. 11 No. 1 by Clara Schumann. I feel most honoured to have one of my educational piano pieces, Kaleidoscope, included amongst this collection.

I wrote Kaleidoscope in a couple of hours on a rainy Thursday afternoon. Set in one of my favourite keys, F minor, it’s an intermediate level piece (intended for pianists of around Grade 5 ABRSM standard), and it contains a wistful melody and accompaniment, which blossoms out into cascading semiquaver passages, with plenty of movement around the keyboard, ideal for showcasing virtuosity. Kaleidoscope has been beautifully recorded by Chenyin Li, and you can hear it by clicking the following link:

If you don’t already subscribe to Pianist, you can do so here.

www.pianistmagazine.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.


 

Celebrity Christmas Gala at Kings Place 2016

Yesterday I spent a thoroughly enjoyable morning at Kings Place (a hub for the arts near Kings Cross Station in London), soaking up a Christmas Gala concert with a difference. I don’t write many reviews (you’ll already know that if you are a regular reader of this piano blog), and I rarely go to concerts (just too busy with my work, sadly), but I wanted to write a few words regarding the value of concerts such as this one.

Organised by British concert pianist Lucy Parham and agent extraordinaire, Lisa Peacock, Lucy Parham & Friends consisted entirely of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s (1843 -1907) piano music, focusing on his Lyric Pieces (Lyric Suite Op. 54). At first glance, this might seem a fairly standard concert with conventional repertoire, but a ‘typical’ recital this was not. The programme featured a raft of celebrity amateur pianists, all playing for fun and for the love of music.

Lucy Parham, Sarah Walker, Oliver Condy & David Pickard playing In the Hall of the Mountain King
Lucy Parham, Sarah Walker, Oliver Condy & David Pickard playing In the Hall of the Mountain King

There’s no doubt this concept transformed the ‘traditional concert’ into a wonderfully inspiring, innovative event. Introduced by charismatic BBC Radio 3 presenter Sean Rafferty (who interviewed every performer before their performance), a group of fourteen pianists, who make their living doing something totally different, braved a fairly discerning, but sympathetic audience to play one or two works. Overcoming nerves is an issue for many professionals, therefore to witness those who aren’t professionals playing with confidence and clear enjoyment, was splendid.

The line up included; Sarah Walker (BBC Radio 3 presenter), Edward Fox (actor), Oliver Condy (editor of the BBC Music Magazine), Alan Rusbridger (journalist and Principal of Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford), Sophie Raworth (presenter of the BBC news and other programmes), David Pickard (Director of the BBC Proms), Conrad Williams (writer), William Sharman (athlete), Myleene Klass (radio & TV presenter), Peter Fincham (TV producer and executive), Alistair McGowan (impressionist, comedian, and actor), Stephen Boxer (actor) and Cathy Newman (Channel 4 news presenter and journalist). Some had played for a few years, whilst others had been learning since childhood, and one or two had only been practising a few months. Duets and solos cascaded between two model D Steinways which dominated the stage of Hall One.

Alistair McGowan plays Grieg's Notturno Op. 54. N0 4
Alistair McGowan plays Grieg’s Notturno Op. 54. N0 4

Repertoire included a delicious selection of Grieg favourites such as Morning (Peer Gynt), Arietta Op. 12 N0.1, Puck Op. 71, No. 3, and March of the Dwarfs Op. 54 No. 3, to less familiar pieces such as the beautiful Notturno Op. 54 No. 4. Observing those who are famous in their chosen fields, tackle piano works of considerable difficulty, and move completely out of their comfort zone, was fascinating, and I appreciated the dedication, care and genuine enthusiasm for the instrument, which was displayed by every performer.

Myleene Klass & Peter Fincham play Anitra's Dance Op. 23
Myleene Klass & Peter Fincham play Anitra’s Dance Op. 23

Concerts such as this not only provide a superb platform for those with a desire to improve their playing (I guarantee all performers will have found the experience musically beneficial, even if they were terrified!), but they also highlight classical music, and in particular, the piano. In a climate where instrumental tuition is seriously declining (and generally underfunded), and music study is progressively sidelined in our schools, such interest is heartening and of great importance.

The concert ended with a rousing account of In the Hall of the Mountain King arranged for two pianos, and four pianists (eight hands), played by Lucy Parham, Sarah Walker, Oliver Condy and David Pickard.

Lucy continues her highly successful series of Word/Play concerts (this is her fifth season at Kings Place), on Sunday 8th January 2017 with The Fox Family & Richard Sisson performing The Tales of Beatrix Potter.


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.


 

Words and Music with Lucy Parham and Friends

British concert pianist Lucy Parham came to prominence when she won the piano final of the BBC Young Musician of the Year in 1984, and  has since played with many of the world’s finest orchestras and conductors. More recently, she has become synonymous with performances of Words and Music. Lucy teams up with eminent actors, and themes her  concerts; each one delves into the lives (and often the loves too) of celebrated composers, such as Chopin, Liszt, Schumann and Debussy.

Piano music combined with narration is indeed a popular concept, and Lucy has just released a couple of videos showcasing her work. You can enjoy them both by clicking on the links below:

I interviewed Lucy as part of my Classical Conversations Series; she was one of my first guests:

www.lucyparham.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.