10 December 2019
By Ellie Palmer
Stuck for ideas? We have some...
Christmas is upon us, and it’s that time of year when we wonder what to lavish upon friends and loved ones, piano teachers included. We’ve assembled some of the hottest items around.
Forget buying the usual socks, perfume, candle or wallet. If you know somebody who has a secret knack for composing, you have to give them the gift of Dorico’s music notation software. First launched in 2016, by German musical software and hardware company Steinberg, Dorico has been hailed as the ‘next-generation’ music software for musicians who score their own music. It’s actually very similar to use as software giant Sibelius’s notation programme – the big difference being that Dorico is trying to make scoring even easier.
So, even if Sibelius might be hard to displace as the world’s most reliable music notation software, we may see a new champion in the years to come.
G Henle Verlag is proud to publish Evgeny Kissin’s first opus – his Four Piano Pieces Op 1. Pianist editor Erica Worth has already sight-read her way through the pieces and confirms that, after some perseverance and rather a lot of wrong notes, the set is geared towards the more advanced player, even if the No 3 Intermezzo is a fair bit easier. Dodecaphonic Tango (No 2) is incredibly catchy, and you can even hear the great Russian pianist himself play it on YouTube.
Released on 29 November, Rick Wakeman’s new album arrives just in time for the present-buying rush. Lucky for us we got a sneak listening preview of the album, and we think there’s lots to enjoy. Christmas Portraits is packed with 14 classics: The First Noel, Silent Night, and Deck The Halls are all included.
‘Traditional Christmas music and songs have wonderful simplistic melodies that are perfect for adaptation to produce variations on the piano,’ says Wakeman. ‘That is exactly what this album is.’
Beethoven, Beethoven everywhere!
We are prepared! 2020 is just around the corner, and with it comes an abundance of releases featuring works by the great German composer. In the 250th anniversary year of Beethoven’s birth, there are bound to be lots of complete 32s, a cornucopia of the five piano concertos, bagatelles in their droves... in fact, some albums have already started dropping through the letterbox (lucky us). Which Beethoven interpreter would you like to wrap up and present as a gift to your loved one this Christmas? Any of these entice?
At the piano, Stephen Hough can make the smallest, most insignificant piece sound like a full-blown masterpiece. He’s a fantastic miniaturist. In this new book, Rough Ideas, he does the same, but in words, gathering together many small observations, considerations, thoughts and descriptions of the world that surrounds him.
In chapters which can be read within a few minutes each, he writes about his life as a travelling piano virtuoso, covering subjects ranging from what it’s like to walk onto a stage, to specialist tips on how to trill, to people he’s known, halls he’s played in, books he’s read, hotel rooms he’s stayed in, audiences he’s encountered, and struggles he’s faced trying to find a place to practise when away from home. His writing style is enveloping and engaging – he knows how to make his thoughts shine and his observations sparkle – as if speaking to you, and you alone. Who wouldn’t want to cosy up with Mr Hough this Christmas?
Bärenreiter’s practical pocket-size diary is designed to be your daily Beethoven companion throughout 2020, the 250th anniversary year of the great composer’s birth. The pages are peppered throughout with interesting and amusing facts about Beethoven’s life and works, quotes by the man himself plus pictures of people he knew, places he visited, paintings that were of importance to him and various autograph scores. With a week spread over a double-page, there’s plenty of room to write in your important notes (‘piano lesson next Monday… I need to practise asap!’, for example).
For a chance to win the diary, visit our competitions page.
Got a bigger budget? Browse through our Piano Buyer's Guide and find the perfect new piano for your loved one.