Today marks the first day P Plate Piano is available for sale in Australia, and I’ve been too sick to drag myself out of bed, let alone get into a shop to see how they might have this beautiful looking series displayed. [If you want to see the cover design it’s currently up as the splash page for the still-under-construction website http://www.pplatepiano.com.au]
But I think I might have enough energy (having been asleep most of the day, and having Tom at his grandparents’ place), to write up a quick piece about the composers who are included in P Plate Piano Book 2.
Of course, I’ve used many of the composers whose work featured in P Plate Piano Book 1, so I won’t detail these composers, except to list them: Anita Milne (yes, my mum, who now has her pieces in 4 publications), Jane Sebba (pieces from her fabulous Piano Magic method books), Daniel Gottlob Türk (composer from the Classical period who wrote a piano method nearly 200 years ago), myself (that was my job!), Karin Daxböck/Elisabeth Haas/Martina Schneider/Rosemarie Trzeja/Veronika Weinhandl (the five co-composers of the sensational 70 Keyboard Adventures with the Little Monster), Elias Davidsson (Palestinian-born composer and human-rights activist who has lived in Iceland for most his adult life), Feliks Rybicki (Polish composer who wrote educational piano music in the mid-20th century), Bill Boyd (US composer whose works have been included in the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library books), Helen Caskie (New Zealander, with music published by Boosey & Hawkes), and Fritz Emonts (renowned German piano pedagogue, writer of The European Piano School).
So who is new?
First up is Rainer Mohrs, with a piece Fritz Emonts included in his second volume of The European Piano School. Rainer Mohrs has worked with Fritz Emonts on a few Schott publications, and has a smattering of works included in The European Piano Method. I’ve not been able to learn any more about him.
Carol Klose is a composer who has contributed arrangements and compositions to the Hal Leonard Student Piano Library since its inception over a decade ago. She lives in Wisconsin and we met on a visit I paid to Milwaukee in 2005. A piece from the HLSPL Solos Book 2 is included in P Plate Piano Book 2.
Larry Sitsky (b.1934) is an Australian composer, and possibly an Australian music institution! He migrated with his family to Australia in the early 1950s, having been born a Russian-Jewish emigré in China. Larry Sitsky has always been a pianist as well as a composer, and he has a collection of teaching pieces, Century, from which the piece used in P Plate Piano Book 2 has been drawn. The Australian Music Examination Board’s new piano syllabus in 2009 listed many of his works in this collection as examination pieces throughout the early grades, and he is now the best represented Australian composer by far in that syllabus.
Walter Carroll (1869-1955) is a different kind of institution altogether, with his educational piano pieces being widely used in piano lessons for the a century or so. His easiest collection of repertoire was Scenes at a Farm, most pieces of which I learned when I was a piano student in the 1970s. What I particularly loved about them as a student was the inclusion of lyrics in the shape of a poem included just underneath the title, which I would sing away with my own playing whenever I was practicing these pieces. As a teacher I can see just how wonderful Walter Carroll’s writing was, such simple pianistic language creating such sophisticated musical results. Two of the Scenes at a Farm pieces are included in P Plate Piano Book 2, but I would have loved to have included two or three more!
Back in 2000 I spent the best part of a week in Paris, taking advantage of the fact I had a friend living in Paris at the time. One of my most important tasks in my Parisian stay was to visit music shops, to try to find new material that might be hard to access from Australia. One of the books I picked up at my visit to La Flute de Pan on the Rue de Rome was a collection of pieces by Thierry Masson (published by Henry Lemoine) called Mes Premiers Pas (My First Steps), and at last I’ve had a chance to incorporate one of these pieces into a collection! How one teaches a piece can be the absolute difference between a student enjoying or despising the experience, and hopefully the teaching ideas I’ve included in P Plate Piano Book 2 for this clever Thierry Masson piece will make Baby Blues one of the students’ favourites.
And to conclude this list of ‘new’ composers, we have Kevin Wooding, whose 1997 composition Lydia’s Sandwich is really one of the most exciting compositions at this level that I’ve ever come across. Kevin Wooding is unafraid of flats and sharps, and this allows him to create a composition which is terribly simple to execute, but does appear somewhat daunting to a student who has the music plopped in front of them. To this end, Josephine Lie, the illustrator of the P Plate Piano series, has designed a keyboard map students can consult to check out the various hand positions needed to perform Lydia’s Sandwich. This is a piece I’m sure students will learn very rapidly (in a single week) if they are taught by rote, but it might end up being a 5 week experience for students sent home to nut out the notes for themselves. This piece comes from a collection published by Oxford University Press called Spooky Piano Time.
More about Kevin Wooding another time – he is no cookie-cutter musician, and is involved in all kinds of fascinating projects.
Next: the final 8 new composers we get to meet in P Plate Piano Book 3.