2017 Beethoven Junior Intercollegiate Piano Competition

Those who read this blog regularly will know how much I enjoy adjudicating; it’s always a fascinating experience, and one from which I’m constantly learning.

On Sunday I had the wonderful opportunity to sit on the jury of the 2017 Beethoven Junior Intercollegiate Piano Competition. Organised by the Beethoven Piano Society of Europe, the competition is held every year and proffers young pianists the chance to perform a programme built entirely from the German Master’s extraordinary output. Each participant attends one of the conservatoire junior departments or specialist music schools in the UK, and had been selected to represent their particular institution.

Pianist, teacher, writer and editor, Nils Franke, and pianist and piano professor at the Royal College of Music and Birmingham Conservatoire, Julian Jacobson, were my distinguished fellow jury members.

Standards are consistently high at such competitions, particularly when competitors hail from notable music institutions, enabling them to study with excellent teachers. But on this occasion, we witnessed exceptional pianism.

This year’s competition was held at Trinity School in Croydon (South London). A splendid modern concert hall housed a full-bloodied, rich, warm Steinway Model D (those who played it commented vociferously on its beauty). Beethoven’s Bagatelle in B flat Op. 119 No. 11 was the set piece, and to accompany this work, the ten competitors were free to select a sonata of their choice. Rather fortuitously, none of the sonatas chosen were duplicated, so we were able to listen to a fair representation of Beethoven’s thirty-two works in this form.

Repertoire included early, middle and late period sonatas: Op. 2 No. 1, Op. 2 No. 3, Op. 10. No. 2, Op. 14 No. 2, Op. 28, Op. 31 No. 2, Op. 53, Op. 54, Op. 57, and Op. 111. Most pianists began with the Bagatelle, which is a small and ostensibly straight forward work (compared to the sonatas), yet, for me, one of the most interesting aspects of the whole afternoon, was the contrasts between interpretations. Not simply speed, phrasing, sound quality, or articulation (as might be expected); there were those who imposed their own interpretation and therefore ‘made something of it’, whilst others were happy to simply let the piece unfold more organically (as instructed in the score).

Each pianist dispatched their sonata with virtuosity, control and generally a high standard of musicianship. Some unleashed the full colour and power at their disposal (made possible via such an instrument), with greater aplomb and command than others. Those who dared to play beyond the notes, even beyond the instrument in some respects, revealing a distinct oneness and spiritual affinity with the music, were the triumphant.

The winner displayed these attributes in spades. Our decision was completely unanimous; Adam Heron (pictured below) treated us to a breathtaking performance of Op. 111, and he will no doubt be a future star of the piano world. Currently studying with Hilary Coates at Wells Cathedral School, from September Adam will attend the Royal Academy of Music in London. We wish him every future success.

Second place was shared by Rebecca Leung (from the Royal Academy of Music Junior Department) and Ellis Thomas (from the Royal Northern College of Music Junior Department), and the third place was shared by Tomos Boyles (from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama Junior Department), and Gorka Plada Giron (from the Yehudi Menuhin School).

For those eager to hear Adam Heron, he will be giving a prize-winning recital at St. Barnabus Millennium Hall in London on Friday June 23rd 2017.

The Beethoven Piano Society of Europe is an international forum for pianists, teachers, musicologists and music lovers for the greater appreciation of Beethoven’s piano music in all its aspects. The Society’s primary aims are ‘the promotion of the authentic interpretation of all of Beethoven’s music for or involving piano, orchestral, chamber or vocal genres, and the deeper awareness of his pianistic oeuvre as a whole’; you can become a member, and find out much more here.


Adam Heron – winner of the 2017 Beethoven Junior Intercollegiate Piano Competition

Weekend Competition: Piano Notes 2017-18

PNotes17_18_001_Cover_0812BWM.inddPiano Notes were published last month and offer students and teachers a wealth of practical advice for the entire ABRSM (Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music examination board) piano syllabus from Grade 1 through to Grade 8, which started in January 2017 and goes through to Spring 2019. The notes include all alternative pieces as well as those printed in each graded book, so they make for a very beneficial and handy guide, irrespective of your standard or ability (and are great to keep by the piano as a reference).

Published by Rhinegold (the leading music education publishers, who also organise the Music and Drama Education Expo Event held in February 2017 at Olympia in London), the notes can be purchased from Rhinegold’s website.

Piano Notes have been written by a team of five writers, all of whom are  experienced teachers; Fiona Lau, Katharine May, Michael Round, Murray McLachlan and myself, and we wrote around 200-350 words on each piece (depending on the grade), detailing the most important elements, advocating various practice tips and performance suggestions.

My contribution was to write notes for all list C pieces from Grades 1 – 6. I was pleased to find a fairly widespread selection of works; from masters such as Kabalevsky, Prokofiev, Shostakovich and Bartók, through to vibrant piano arrangements, and many Contemporary composer’s works too. Although for my taste, there is probably too much emphasis on the ‘jazz’ inspired style, and not enough on Contemporary classical music (which I believe should be introduced to students from the beginning).

I’ve two copies of Piano Notes to give away this weekend, so please leave your comments in the comment box at the end of this post and I will announce the two winners on Sunday evening (British time). Good luck!

You can find out more about Piano Notes here, and order your copy here.

Manchester Music Festival Young Artists Program

yapHere’s a wonderful chance for young pianists and string players to attend a Summer course in Vermont (US) with an illustrious faculty and exciting performance opportunities.

The Manchester Music Festival (MMF) Young Artists Program is a full scholarship, six-week intensive chamber music festival for string players and pianists, aged from 18 – 26. Occurring annually every summer in scenic Manchester (Vermont), the 2017 Young Artists Program will take place from July 3rd to August 13th, 2017. Young Artists will receive daily coaching sessions by a faculty composed of world-renowned artists and pedagogues.

The primary focus of the Young Artists Program is to intensively study and perform chamber music at a high level, and to benefit from outstanding musical guidance on a daily basis. During the course, students can expect to study several chamber masterworks, with ensemble sizes ranging from duos to octets in a broad spectrum of repertoire spanning the centuries, from Baroque to Contemporary. Groups will also be selected to perform in the weekly MMF Young Artists concert series.

On August 3rd, 2017, Young Artists will participate in one orchestral concert, performing Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony and the Brahms Piano Concerto No. 2 in B-flat Major, with Ignat Solzhenitsyn conducting and pianist Alexander Kobrin.

Young Artists will also have the opportunity to perform in public masterclasses and take private lessons with many of the faculty members. In addition, they will benefit from forum discussions addressing principles of entrepreneurship and career development which will assist in forging successful paths as professional musicians.

‘This is a full-scholarship program, meaning that we offer this opportunity to outstanding students at no cost to them, other than the application fee. This makes us quite unique in the world of expensive summer programs’ –  Adam Neiman  (artistic director of the MMF, concert pianist and professor of piano at the Chicago College of Performing Arts (Roosevelt University)).

Each MMF Young Artist receives a scholarship providing full tuition, free accommodations, and a modest weekly stipend. Students are responsible for their own meals.

Scholarships are made possible by the generous contributions of individual sponsors and endowments, and all of the Young Artists will have opportunities to interact socially with their patrons during their stay in Manchester.

The closing date for applications is February 15th 2017.

Download the Young Artists Program brochure

Visit the website here

Recommended Piano Resources for November 2016

Badge Graphics Draft 3In the run up to Christmas, many of us are on the lookout for gift ideas for friends, family, piano teachers, students and piano lovers everywhere. I hope this fairly substantial selection will inspire a host of piano related shopping. As usual, there’s something to interest all levels. I’ve made a few exciting composer discoveries (which is always fun); today’s list features a historical novel, a new piano method, a practice notebook, a Children’s piano concerto, and new compilations, as well as publications from our favourite publishers. Enjoy!


Piano Junior

ed_13801-heumann_648_This new method published by Schott Music consists of a series of books (8 books in total) and has been written by German pedagogue and composer, Hans-Günter Heumann. I was a consultant on this method, and it has been exciting to see the finished product. PJ is a robot who is the main ‘character’ (he has a friend called ‘Mozart’ the dog too!) in this tutor series for youngsters (age 6 and above). Piano Junior is designed as a ‘fun and interactive’ piano method, starting with black notes, employing innovative, user-friendly graphic notation before introducing white notes, traditional staves, clefs and time signatures. In addition to each book, there is also extra material on the website, which includes videos, audio demos and play-alongs for all the pieces, as well as downloadable rhythm checks, workouts, sight-reading exercises and other resources. Find out much more here and purchase here.

My Practice Palette

my-practice-palette-coverWritten by British teacher Roberta Wolff, this book can be enjoyed in paperback or e-book version and is designed to assist students and teachers in their quest for effective practising. My Practice Palette  is essentially a notebook which aims to educate parents, teaches, and students about how to practise while eliminating the need for teachers to write practice notes. This is done by teaching practice methodology and metacognition. Roberta recommends using My Practice Palette from grades 1-5. Teachers can also work through the Practice Palette during lesson time. The benefits of this are, no extra time is required for planning, and teachers can be spontaneous yet easily keep track of a student’s progress. It’s certainly a colourful volume and would no doubt encourage those who might otherwise find practising dull. Find out more and get your copy here.

14 Easy Pieces for Piano

lane_richard_14_easy_pieces_for_piano_pno73American composer Richard Lane (1933 – 2014) has written a group of charming little pieces for those of around Grade 1 level (ABRSM). I discovered Richard’s music through the ABRSM list C pieces (for 2017/8), whilst writing the Piano Notes series (due to be published by Rhinegold in January). These works, which are published by Swiss publisher BIM Editions, are tuneful, attractive and all feature particular technical elements (important for teaching repertoire). Duets, an arrangement and original pieces all feature in this volume. Find out more and purchase here.

Piano Star

9781848499249This is a new series published by the British examination board, ABRSM, for beginners (or for those up to prep test level). There are three books in the series, each containing new arrangements and original pieces written by a host of different composers and teachers, all associated with the popular British exam board. The volumes include solo pieces and duets, offer a mix of styles, plus fun extension activities and plenty of illustrations. There are 74 pieces in total, written by 20 composers including Christopher Norton, Paul Harris, Mark Tanner and Mike Cornick, and children will love the tuneful simplicity of the pieces; this is certainly useful teaching material. Find out more and purchase here.


Piano Concerto No. 1 For Children


An interesting discovery, written in 1993 by Russian composer Ilia Chkolnik and published by BIM Editions, in their Junior Series. Piano concertos written solely for children are becoming increasingly popular, with many, particularly Russian composers, highlighting this potential gap in the market. This score has an orchestral reduction (or second piano part), and at first glance, could be mistaken for advanced level. However, it consists of idiomatic, essentially tonal writing and lasts just 11 minutes. There are three movements, two fast outer sections, and a beautiful slow movement, which reminds me of Shostakovich’s Second Concerto in F major Op. 102. Teachers looking for varied contemporary repertoire will enjoy this piece. To hear, find out more and purchase, click here.

Intermediate to Advanced

My First Chopin


A new publication from Schott Music, compiled by German pianist and pedagogue, Wilhelm Ohman. This collection of 20 pieces lies well within the capabilities of the advanced player, and contains some of Chopin’s best-loved works including a group of Preludes, Waltzes, Mazurkas and Nocturnes. These genres are popular amongst students, and with the Raindrop Prelude Op. 28 No. 15, Prelude in B minor Op. 28 No. 6, Waltz in B minor Op. posth. 69 No. 2, Mazurka in B flat major Op. 7 No. 1, Nocturne in C sharp minor No. 20 Op. posth., Funeral March (from Sonata No. 2 in B flat minor Op. 35), to name a few favourites. An excellent addition to any student’s library. Find out more and purchase here.

The Piano Playlist


A large selection of 50 popular classical pieces arranged by British arranger and editor Barrie Carson Turner, and published by Schott Music. Arrangements have always been a favourite with pianists, and this offers a comprehensive list of music across several centuries, all transcribed for intermediate up to advanced players. From opera arias (Habanera from Carmen by Bizet, Nessun Dorma from Turandot, and O Mio Babbino Caro from Gianni Schicchi both by Puccini), to ballet numbers, famous gems from orchestral works (Ode to Joy (Beethoven), The Swan (Saint-Saëns), Adagietto (Mahler’s 4th Symphony)), to piano concertos, instrumental music and  arrangements of piano pieces. My choice piece is When I am Laid in Earth from Dido and Aeneas by Purcell. This is a beneficial volume for those wanting to discover some of the best-loved works in the Classical repertoire. It would also serve as excellent sight-reading material. Find out more and purchase here.

The Ultimate Easy Piano Songlist

e20016ac-d186-4c15-a350-c7c3873fd590A new publication from Faber Music. Containing 45 arrangements of best selling songs, this will please those who enjoy a wide variety of pop and easy listening music. Numbers from artists such as Adele, Cilla Black, Cole Porter, Ella Fitzgerald, Chris Rea, Michael Buble, Eagles, One Direction, Wham!, Nina Simone, Muse, Vera Lynn, David Bowie, Justin Beiber, Jamie Cullum, and Radiohead, to name a few. This is designated ‘Easy Piano’ but few elementary pianists will manage these arrangements; I would suggest intermediate level as minimum. Complete with lyrics and chord indications, this is a lovely volume, and would make a perfect stocking filler! Find out more and purchase here.

Piano Collection by Jevdet Hajiyev

indexThe first book of a special centenary edition of selected piano works inspired by Azerbaijani traditional music, written by Azerbaijani composer, Jevdet Hajiyev (1917 – 2002). This volume is published by EVC Music Publications, in a project commissioned by the Muradov family archive. For intermediate to advanced level players, this book will be a useful addition to any piano teacher, advanced student or keen amateur’s piano library. With the expected Russian inflections, this music is generally tonal but with a direct influence of Twentieth Century masters such as Prokofiev and Shostakovich (Jevdet Hajiyev’s teacher). Some pieces are short (such as those from Musical Sketches), whilst the Scherzo and Sonata are more substantial. Listen to the music, find out more and get a copy here.  



flowkeyFlowkey is a piano learning-app geared for all levels, whether beginner or advanced. It’s also a useful music education tool for parents, teachers, and adult learners, as it’s easy to get started. A wide spectrum of music is covered, from classical music to pop songs. You can apparently practice interactively and receive instant feedback; progress can be tracked and piano lessons are also on offer, in the form of various courses. Flowkey is partnered with Yamaha, and can be easily connected to digital pianos. Find out much more here.


Ghost Variations

getattachmentthumbnailThis is the latest novel by British author, writer, and critic Jessica Duchen. Whilst not strictly focused on the piano, it is a very interesting musical tale. Jessica tells the true story of Hungarian-born violinist Jelly D’Aranyi’s quest to recover Robert Schumann’s forgotten violin concerto. It’s also the story of an aging woman in a world which is becoming progressively more hostile. Jelly negotiates her way through the changing world of 1930s London. War is ever-present, and the heroine has to come to terms with her fading powers and upcoming young stars such as Yehudi Menuhin. As a woman, she faces the ultimate decision, choosing between music or love.  Find out more here and buy your copy here.

You can find out more about my new Faber Music Piano Anthology here.

And my beginner’s guide, So You Want To Play The Piano? here.

Weekend Competition! Safari by June Armstrong

safari-cover-238-236-225-light-backgroundMy competition this weekend features a new collection of beginner to pre-grade one piano pieces written by composer June Armstrong.

Safari consists of 23 elementary pieces and follows the course of a day in Africa, starting with African Dawn and ending with Night Sky with Stars.  You can meet all the animals along the way – gazelles, flamingos, lions, giraffes, hyenas, monkeys, elephants and many others, as well as a myriad of atmospheric scenes such as Mountain Mist and Mirage. To listen to every piece click here.

This selection contains a distinctly appealing atmospheric sound, and one which I think both adult and child beginners will enjoy. A wide range of piano techniques are introduced, and therefore these little pieces form excellent teaching material.

I have two signed copies of this volume to give away, so please leave your comments in the comment box at the end of this post, and I will select two winners (and announce them on this blog, so stay tuned!) on Sunday evening (British time). If you would like to purchase Safari, you can do so here.

A Weekend at Jackdaws Music Education Trust

jackdawsI had the pleasure of tutoring a second piano course at Jackdaws Music Education Trust over the weekend. Jackdaws is dedicated to improving participation in and enjoyment of music through residential and one day instrumental and vocal courses, various education projects, a Young Artists Programme, as well as performances by world-class musicians.

Piano courses, whether weekend courses or Summer schools, are proving increasingly popular with pianists of all levels and abilities (from beginners through to professionals). Jackdaws was recently voted second place in a UK Piano Course Ranking. According to the survey, those who attended such courses gave the following reasons as most important;  ‘the opportunity to work with leading teachers’ (something Jackdaws offers at every weekend course)  and the chance to gain ‘useful, critical feedback’.

Jackdaws is situated in the village of Great Elm, just outside Frome, in Somerset (UK). A picturesque venue and setting (see photo above), wonderful food (all home cooked by our chef Loo) and an excellent Steinway, make for a thoroughly enjoyable and, hopefully, informative few days.

My course focused on piano technique, sight-reading and memorisation, which are aspects sometimes forgotten or side-stepped during piano lessons, however, there was also ample time for each participant to work on repertoire too. In all, the weekend courses (which begin on Friday evenings at 6.30pm and finish at 4pm on Sunday afternoons), consist of around 12 hours of tuition, as well as a little time on Saturday afternoon to explore the surrounding area. It’s certainly a musically action packed weekend!

Course participants ranged from teenagers to the more mature, and from elementary level through to advanced; it was interesting to observe how this variety didn’t affect or impede enjoyment; the elementary students seemed to respond well to hearing advanced students perform and vice versa. By working at particular facets of piano playing, it’s possible to involve all standards and abilities, and offer a few ideas for improvement at every level.There were fewer pianists on my course this year, but those who came said they savoured the opportunity for longer one-to-one teaching sessions.

A weekend course doesn’t necessarily aim to overhaul piano playing overnight, but it can offer the possibility of change, and a realisation that certain elements can be tackled in a different way. Performance practice (i.e. the act of playing through a piece from beginning to end in front of a small audience) can be a triumph for some, and courses are useful for this aspect alone.

One of the participants on my course last year realised she needed another approach, and has since come for regular lessons; we have worked hard to alter and improve her playing, and she has just taken an ATCL diploma and is now preparing for music college and university auditions.

The prospect of meeting new and like-minded friends makes this a perfect way to spend a weekend. There are a plethora of piano courses taking place at Jackdaws throughout the year featuring a cohort of leading piano pedagogues (you can find out much more here), so you’ll no doubt find one to suit you.


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Jackdaws Piano Course 2016

GetAttachmentThumbnailMy piano course at Jackdaws Music Education Trust will be held in October this year and the bookings open today!  This is my second visit to Jackdaws and I’m very much forward to it.

Jackdaws has a wonderful history and tradition, and is renowned for its instrumental and vocal courses, education projects, young artists programme, and performances by world-class musicians. Situated near Frome in Somerset (UK), the venue is set in exquisite countryside. There are a whole range of courses on offer featuring many outstanding teachers, and lots are residential. You can find out all about the Education Trust here.

My piano course will begin on Friday 14th of October at 6.30pm and finish on Sunday afternoon on the 16th October at 4pm. It consists of eight concentrated sessions throughout the weekend, providing ample opportunity to work on many aspects of pianism. I was fortunate to have a full house last year (10 participants), which was fun (you can read more about the weekend and repertoire presented here).

I’ll be focusing on piano technique, memorisation and sight-reading. These are topics I often offer for courses, as I believe they are frequently neglected. However, there will also be plenty of time for more traditional workshop fayre; where each pianist plays a prepared piece and we work on it in a master class format. Therefore we ask each participant to bring two short  pieces of their choice (however, your pieces do not need to be polished or performance ready – we will work on this together).

GetAttachmentThumbnailThe weekend will commence with sessions on evaluating and honing technical freedom at the piano, with full class participation. This will be followed by plenty of tips and practical guidance on memorisation, again with class participation, and the course will finish with sessions on sight-reading, and a final opportunity to work on chosen pieces.

This piano course is open to any standard or level of playing, and there are a maximum of ten places. The fee for the  course is £200 for the entire weekend, to include all meals except breakfast (there is a selection of B&Bs to choose from if you would like to stay nearby). To find out more about the course, and for booking and registration (which is now open) click here – I look forward to meeting you.

‘A very enjoyable course Melanie. A lot of information was covered. Really appreciated the technical help and also watching your approach to teaching the other students. Alex’s food was indeed wonderful, catering for so many varied food requirements. Such a high standard of skills from the variety of participants. Very enjoyable indeed. Looking forward to another course in the future – can’t have too much knowledge, always willing to learn more.Thanks again Melanie. Highly recommended!’

Maggie George: Participant on the 2015 Jackdaws Music Education Trust Course


Weekend Competition Double Bill…

GetAttachmentThumbnailThis weekend’s competition features two piano resources which I hope will be of interest.

The first is a collection of 12 Tangos, written by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla (1921 – 1992), arranged by Rachel Chapin, and published by Boosey and Hawkes. Each piece contains all the expected tango inflections, incorporated alongside elements of classical music and jazz. The works would suit those of Grades 3 – 5 (ABRSM; approximately intermediate level). The selection ranges from Libertango and Milonga for Three, to Vuelvo al Sur and Sin Rumbo.

The second book, Piano Village, is a selection of original compositions, written by Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin (1957 – ) also published by Boosey and Hawkes. Consisting of 25 works, this generous volume features some of Kats-Chernin’s most well-known pieces including Eliza’s Aria. Ranging in difficulty, these gems are generally for more advanced players, and are often highly rhythmic, patterned and Minimalist in style.

To win, please leave a comment in the comment box at the end of this post, and I will select two winners on Sunday evening (British time). Good luck!

You can find out more about Piazzola’s Tangos here and about Piano Village, here.


A Few Thoughts on Selecting Piano Diploma Repertoire

Shutterstock Background Piano Music for WebsiteToday’s post is the second exploring piano diploma repertoire. You can read my first post, here. As the previous article describes, there are many ways of ensuring an interesting well-balanced programme, but when it comes to choosing the music itself, how and what do you select? Which pieces make ‘safe’ choices and what constitutes an appealing, yet diverse assortment?

Personal taste plays a gargantuan role, and what suits one will not be necessarily attractive to another. Here are a few tips and suggestions (which are based on my taste and experience with pupils).

You could aim to include a larger work; a sonata is ideal because it contains several movements, allowing you to display a whole gamut of emotions resplendent in one piece, and you can convey musical understanding, through the structure and various layers of textures. Slow movements often provide an opportunity to rest technically (although musically they are demanding). Classical sonatas, typically those by Beethoven, Haydn or Mozart, make prime choices. The more dramatic works provide excitement, passion and theatrics; they are fun to play and practise, lie comfortably, and there’s plenty of scope for development and improvement whilst learning them. They also take anything from 15 to 25 minutes to perform, and therefore form a large chunk of the proposed recital (a significant consideration).

Inclusion of works from the Classical style demonstrates an ability to play cleanly, concisely, rhythmically, with clear articulation, and brilliant finger work; if you don’t possess this final attribute at the start of learning, then you should by the end!. A Baroque Suite, such as those by J S Bach, may also make an exemplary choice; whilst they are very different stylistically to a Classical sonata, they too proffer the opportunity to display many emotions and technical elements, all wrapped up in several movements.

Delving into less popular repertoire can bring a fresh and contrasting juxtaposition to a Classical  or Baroque piece. Why not think about adding a couple of Twentieth Century works? There is colossal variety within this era; two works can represent totally opposing styles (especially if one is from the Twentieth, and another the Twenty-First Century).

Whether you decide to select early Twentieth Century works by major French composers (Debussy, Ravel, Poulenc), Russian masters (Scriabin, Shostakovich, or Prokofiev), or later Twentieth Century pieces, you’ll find a collection of fascinating and lesser played gems which can make compelling choices.

I recommend considering works from the latter half of the Twentieth Century through to the present day; students invariably love their diversity, their challenges and they seem to enjoy discovering composers who are either living or who died relatively recently. Superlative choices might encompass works by Lennox Berkeley, Peter Sculthorpe, Oliver Messiaen, Diana Burrell, John McCabe, Edwin Roxburgh, and – a new discovery for me – Douglas Lilburn (from New Zealand). These inclusions  hide on diploma repertoire lists, and are frequently sidestepped.

Devising an imaginative programme with at least ten minutes of music selected from those composers mentioned above might be a prudent choice. Combining a Messiaen prelude with a work by Diana Burrell for example, will not necessarily be conflicting stylistically. Peter Sculthorpe’s beautiful Night Pieces work well with a composition such as Douglas Lilburn’s From the Port Hills too. These options may entice and inspire pupils, encouraging them to branch out, seeking the less trodden path.

If either you or your students are in the process of deciding on a programme, or are thinking about taking a diploma, spend time surveying the repertoire on offer. Work out timings carefully, and make certain you’ve listened to all possibilities. You’ll learn more this way and may uncover exciting discoveries, which should bode well for your recital, and for the viva voce which is a necessity in some exams.

The following repertoire suggestions are from the major UK examination board’s various current performance diploma selections (please obtain the appropriate syllabus and check these listings for yourself before making any decisions). After each composer and listed piece, I’ve added the diploma to which they belong (in brackets). To download a syllabus, click on the exam board name at the top of each list.

ABRSM Diplomas:                                                                                                     Diana Burrell – Constellations I and II (DipABRSM)                                                 Howard Blake – Chaconne and Toccatina: from ‘8 Character Pieces’ (DipABRSM)       Joseph Makholm – 2 of the ‘3 Impressions’ (DipABRSM)                                           Edwin Roxburgh – Moonscape (DipABRSM)                                                              Peter Sculthorpe – Night Pieces (DipABRSM)                                                         Michael Finnissy – Yvaropera 5 (LRSM)                                                                      Peter Rancine Fricker – Studies nos.2 and 4 from ‘12 Studies’, Op.38 (LRSM)         Oliver Knussen – Sonya’s Lullaby, Op.16 (LRSM)                                                      Roger Redgate – trace (LRSM)                                                                                  James MacMillan – Sonata (FRSM)

Brian Chapple – Bagatelles diverse nos. 6 and 7 (ATCL)
Douglas Lilburn – From the Port Hills (no. 4 from Five Bagatelles) (ATCL)
Karl Jenkins – Boogie Woogie Llanoogie (ATCL)
Frederic Rzewski – Dreadful Memories (from Squares & North American Ballad) (ATCL)
Julian Anderson – Piano Etudes (LTCL)
Petr Eben – Sonata (LTCL)
Iain Hamilton –  September and October or November and December (from Months & Metamorphoses) (LTCL)
Fazil Say – Paganini Jazz [without final ‘extra’ variations] (LTCL)
Einojuhani Rautavaara – Passionale (LTCL)
Clement Slavicky – Variations on a Silent Chord (LTCL)
Robert Stevenson- Peter Grimes Fantasy (LTCL)
Carl Vine – Bagatelles (LTCL)
Toru Takemitsu – Rain-Tree Sketches no. 1 and/or no. 2 (LTCL)
John Corigliano – Etude Fantasy (FTCL)
Francois Morel – Étude de Sonorité no. 2 (from Deux Études de Sonorité) (FTCL)
Kazimierz Serocki – Nos. 5, 6 and 7 from Suite of Preludes (FTCL)

John Adams – China Gates (ALCM)
Miriam Hyde – Water Nymph (ALCM)
Pierre Sancan – Mouvment (ALCM)
Milton Babbitt – Three Compositions for Piano (LLCM)
Henryk Gorecki – Sonata No. 1 (LLCM)
Nikolai Kapustin – Concert Etudes (FLCM)

Image: Shutterstock

Recommended Piano Resources for June 2016

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Another month is upon us, although we have yet to see much of the Summer here, as it’s been freezing this week in the UK! I’ve really enjoyed writing about June’s suggested piano resources; there’s a mix of new Contemporary and older more familiar educational piano music. Whether you’re a teacher, student or piano lover, I hope you find these recommendations of interest.

Beginners and Elementary

Piano Magic

Piano Magic CoverMy little piano pieces were published at the end of May – and I couldn’t leave them out of this month’s resources list, could I!? Piano Magic is part of the Piano for Fun series published by EVC Music Publications Ltd., and consists of 10 pieces for the elementary player (Grade 1-2 ABRSM exam level), and they are essentially designed for the young pianist (although older players may like them too!). Each piece evokes a fantasy world of witches, wizards, ghosts and fairies, and they also address various aspects of technique such as staccato, syncopation, the sustaining pedal, quick coordination between the hands, and complete use of the whole keyboard. You can listen to the pieces here and purchase them here.

Easy Jazzin’ About The Year

JazzinA new publication in this highly successful series by popular British composer Pamela Wedgwood, published by Faber Music. Suitable for either keyboard or piano, and ranging in level from around Grade 1 (ABRSM exam) or Elementary standard to approximately Grade 3 level (early intermediate), these pieces are bound to be a hit with young (and older) pianists everywhere. The volume includes a mixture of original and favourite pieces all on various themes such as Christmas, Halloween, Bonfire Night, Festivals and Holidays. An accompanying CD with a demo track for every tune will no doubt be a helpful addition. Find out more and purchase here.


Grooves for Piano Dudes


An interesting and definitely ‘cool’ collection of modern style pieces from British composer Heather Hammond, published by EVC Music Publications Ltd. This volume contains 11 pieces for intermediate players (between Grades 4-6 ABRSM) and would provide a welcome break or ‘alternative’ repertoire choice for teenagers between taking piano exams. Adult learners will also find much to enjoy here too; the works are energetic, lively, dramatic, and are sure to inspire students. Jazz, rock, ragtime, blues & boogie grooves are guaranteed to get feet tapping and fingers flying. You can listen to some of the pieces and purchase the book here.

12 Piazzolla Tangos for Easy Piano

TangosThese lovely little works, written by Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla (1921 – 1992), have been arranged by Rachel Chapin, and published by Boosey and Hawkes. They contain all the expected tango inflections, incorporated alongside elements of classical music and jazz. The works would suit those of Grades 3 – 5 (ABRSM), and also provide excellent sight-reading material for more advanced players. The selection ranges from Libertango and Milonga for Three, to Vuelvo al Sur and Sin Rumbo. You can find out more and purchase here.

Piano Recital Solos

PIano-Recital-Solos-by-Elena-Cobb-768x1077This volume contains four pieces written by British composer Elena Cobb, published by her company, EVC Music Publications Ltd. They range from approximately Grades 5  to 6 standard (ABRSM) or around Intermediate level. Star Dust, Lavender Haze, Peony Pink, and Babylon, are all slow lyrical pieces with a distinct nod to the Blues and Jazz style, perfect for pianists wanting to explore or hone their skills in this genre. You can listen to some of the pieces, find out more and purchase here.

Celebration Suite

RocherolleCelebration Suite is a new set of original duets (one piano, four hands), written by American composer Eugénie Rocherolle and published by Hal Leonard. The volume contains three duets; Across the Years, In Defense of Liberty and Journey in Space, and would be suitable for intermediate level players (around Grades 3-5 ABRSM). Also containing performance notes, these pieces are ideal for concerts or festivals. I’ve enjoyed discovering Eugénie’s work over the past few months and am sure students will find much to inspire here. You can find out more here.

A Hebrides Suite

A-Hebrides-Suite-Piano-Donald-Thomson-768x1077A new group of 5 piano pieces by British composer Donald Thomson, published by EVC Music Publications Ltd. Inspired by trips to The Hebrides (a large collection of islands off the West Coast of Scotland). These islands are beautiful, wild, windswept places, battered by the Atlantic ocean and supporting a wide range of wildlife –  otters, seals, and important colonies of seabirds such as puffins. A Hebrides Suite takes some of the musical styles and inspiration from the islands themselves, and weaves them into a delightful set which have a real Scottish flavour; the book forms part of the Celtic piano series. Find out more and order your copy here.

Late Intermediate and Advanced

Mindfulness: the piano collection

MindfulnessPublished by Faber Music, this new anthology of 20 piano pieces has been selected specifically to promote calm, tranquility and reflection. Mindfulness ‘is a simple practice of meditation that is proven to break the cycle of unhappiness, alleviate stress, and anxiety and help people find their way’; this collection concurs with this sentiment, and offers a truly meditative quality featuring piano favourites such as Satie’s Gnossienne No. 1, I Giorni (Einaudi), Pavane Op. 50 (Faure), Rêverie (Debussy), and Prelude in E minor (Chopin). Some pieces are original whilst others, arrangements; works by Dame Evelyn Glennie and Howard Goodall rub shoulders with J S Bach and Alexander Scriabin, providing an electic mix, great for late intermediate and advanced (Grades 6-8) players. Find out more and order your copy here.

Piano Village

Piano VillageThis selection of original compositions has been written by Australian composer Elena Kats-Chernin and published by Boosey and Hawkes. Consisting of 25 works, this generous volume takes us on a journey from the composer’s homeland (Kats-Chernin was born in Tashkent), where she remarks that she spent most of her time playing and improvising on her piano; ‘My piano works are sometimes a little like diary entires for me. Many of them written in a single day’. The pieces range in difficulty, but are generally for more advanced players, and are often highly rhythmic, patterned and Minimalist in style. As a lover of this genre, I must add that I thoroughly enjoyed listening and playing through many pieces in this volume. Highly recommended. To find out more, hear some the pieces and purchase your copy, click here.

The Virtuoso Pianist

HanonThis collection of 60 studies written by French composer Charles-Louis Hanon has been newly published by Schott Music, and are occasionally viewed as a controversial set of piano studies. Rather like Marmite, you either love them or hate them! However, if practised carefully and with real purpose, these famous finger training exercises can be very beneficial and have helped pianists the world over to improve finger strength, dexterity and independence. Schott’s clear notation and modernized texts will no doubt prove crucial when practising. Find out more and purchase here.