The Online Resource for Piano Ensemble Music

Victor Gomes

Victor Gomes is a Portuguese musician who studied piano at the Conservatório Nacional de Música do Porto with Fernanda Wandschneider, Carlos Cebro and composition with the acclaimed composer Cândido Lima. He now teaches both piano and instrumental groups at the Curso de Música Silva Monteiro and other private Conservatoires around Oporto. Alongside his teaching career, Victor Gomes performs as a soloist and with ensembles, and is also busy as an arranger, composer and producer, mostly for educational purposes. He has written more than 100 compositions for various music ensembles (including Orff instruments), which have been performed in many parts of Portugal. He is currently writing piano arrangements based on compositions by Christopher Norton, for 4, 6 and 8 hands. He also works as an educational adviser for Roland Iberia and was one of the main people responsible for introducing ABRSM and Rockschool grade exams into the Portuguese music educational system.

 

Vladimir Gurin

Vladimir Gurin has taught music theory, harmony, aural training, conducting, music history and piano at the College of Arts in St. Petersburg and is on the faculty at Powers Music School, Groton School and Boston Conservatory. He is the winner of the 1998 "Unleash the Sound" Competition in the U.S. and the 1988 All-Union TV Competition for Composers in Russia.

 

John Kinross

(b. Edinburgh 1848, d. London 1890)

John Kinross’ music has become not merely neglected – it has become virtually invisible. Contemporary reports tell that he was, firstly, an extremely talented and successful piano teacher in Dundee, then a freelance composer and pianist in London.

He wrote a substantial number of compositions for the young pianist; these works display a consistent charm and naturalness, all the more remarkable for the severe (and astute) self-imposed compositional limitations required when writing for the young pianist, especially in the five-finger position.

There is real invention in both hands when they become independent, and the teacher parts explore a remarkably sophisticated harmonic range. The expressive nuances in his music give the young pianist an early taste of genuine musical gesture, and cultivate a musical confidence rare in such novice music.

 

Andre Caplet

(b. Le Havre 1878 d. Paris 1925)

Andre Caplet is now a virtually forgotten composer, yet his early career was given a real boost when, aged 23 years, he was awarded 1st prize in France’s most distinguished musical composition prize, the Prix de Rome, in 1901, relegating a certain Maurice Ravel into 3rd place.

History’s cruel judgment records a different verdict on the two men’s subsequent place in musical history, yet Caplet’s music possesses a most definite French imprint. Claude Debussy held Caplet in high esteem, and entrusted Caplet with much arranging and conducting of his own music.

The two beginner duets chosen for this volume display striking harmonic invention, and are chosen precisely for their non-Germanic character. The duets come from the set of five pieces entitled ‘Un tas de petites chose’, amusingly subtitled ‘Pour les enfants bien sages’ (‘For well-behaved children’)!

 

John Kember

(b. London 1935)

Born in London, John studied at Trinity College of Music, London, firstly as a Junior Scholar then as a full time student. Since then he has enjoyed a full and varied career in both performing and academic spheres with activities ranging from teaching, composing and arranging to working as a pianist and conductor in concert halls, theatres and recording studios across the UK.

He currently has over 70 publications available with Faber Music and Schott Music in London, including many for the jazz pianist including his ‘Jazz Studies’ and ‘On the Lighter Side’ series, and more recently two new series for Faber Music – ‘The Jazz Piano Player’ and the ‘Pop Piano Player’. Additional projects are to be published by Music Sales Ltd.

He has a busy private teaching practice in south-east London and tutors students at the Kent Music Academy. He has been a regular contributor to ‘Piano’ magazine and writes articles for ‘Music Teacher’. He examined for the Associated Board from 1989 until 2005.

 

Christopher Norton

(b. New Zealand 1953)

Christopher Norton is an established composer, arranger, educationalist and producer. Best known for the world-famous Microjazz series (published by Boosey & Hawkes), as well as his award winning Essential Guides to Pop Styles, Latin Styles and Jazz Styles, he is universally regarded as the leader in his field: ‘Piano’ magazine captured his achievement when it wrote that it is “testimony to the brilliance of Norton that it is now unimaginable to have a festival competition without a Norton piece in it.”

His compositions have a distinctive contemporary feel, featuring various popular styles, while his teaching method combines traditional techniques with aspects of modern technology.

 

Hermann Berens

(b. Hamburg 1826, d. Stockholm 1880)

Berens settled in Sweden in 1847 and became a teacher of composition at the Stockholm Conservatory in 1861. He was for a time piano teacher to the Queen of Sweden, Queen Lovisa.

He was noted for his piano compositions, many of which are for the young, novice pianist. The twenty-seven duets that make up the Op.62 set exploit a primo part in five finger position, where both hands move in parallel movement (an octave apart). The rhythms used progress from primarily whole note values to significantly varied subdivisions of the beat, and provide a useful source of rhythmic material for the developing pianist.

 

Cornelius Gurlitt

(b. Hamburg 1820 d. Hamburg 1901)

Gurlitt was, above all, a musical educator. He wrote for many instruments and in many forms–operas, symphonies, songs–but it is as a writer of educational piano music that he is best remembered. The youthful solo piano pieces ‘The Little Flowers’ Op.205, the six sonatinas Op.54 and the Album for the Young Op.140 have always remained in print and are an indispensible part of the novice pianist’s repertoire. Less well known are the three fine piano duos for four hands at two pianos Op.175 and the set of twenty-six piano duets called ‘Grateful Tasks’ Op.102 from which the three examples in this volume are taken.

Gurlitt’s music frequently combines a harmonic and textural sensitivity not far removed from that of Schumann, together with a real understanding of classical pianistic principles.

 

Anton Diabelli

(b. Austria 1781, d. Austria 1858)

Diabelli will forever be known for the waltz theme on which Beethoven wrote his monumental thirty-three Diabelli Variations for piano solo. He also founded a successful publishing house (Diabelli & Co.) which became the first publisher of the music of Schubert, but he is now best remembered for a large number of highly imaginative pieces for piano duet in the high classical style. These duets provide the young pianist with invaluable training in the Mozart and Beethoven style, and are an insight into the styles of these great composers, to be absorbed before moving on to their solo works.

 

Felix Swinstead

(b. London 1880, d. Suffolk 1959)

Swinstead has fallen victim to ‘fashion’ in music. His music is rarely performed now, but stays in the memory of those who learned the piano in the years either side of the Second World War. Swinstead’s music is notable for its sensitive and delicate qualities and its compositional mastery, even if the musical and emotional content has been overtaken by particularly jazz idioms for young pianists.

The thirty-four pieces that he wrote for Mrs. Curwen’s celebrated ‘Piano Method’ are fine examples of his ability to write to a ‘brief’–in this case either the Primo or Secondo part is in the five finger position.

 

Jeroen Speak

(b. New Zealand 1969)

Jeroen Speak studied with Michael Finnissy, Harrison Birtwistle, and Jonathan Harvey. He has been extensively performed and broadcast worldwide, including Darmstadt (DL), ISCM, Gaudeamus (NL) and Huddersfield (UK), BBC Radio 4, Classic FM, and ABC (Australia). He has worked with many of the world’s most important young performers and groups, including Richard Haynes (Australia), Forum Music (Taiwan), Stroma (New Zealand)  Ensemble Antipodes (Switzerland), Elision (UK),  and Nicolas Hodges (Germany/UK).  He is also an enthusiastic piano teacher, and has written many pieces for his students, many of which have been published. He is based in London. 

 

Leon d'Ourville

(b. c.1830-1850)

The circumstances of Léon d’Ourville’s life and times remain shrouded in mystery.  Although the Soirées Musicales originally appeared in print over one hundred years ago, it is, at the time of writing, impossible to find any hard evidence about when or where d’Ourville lived; indeed nothing can be presently reported concerning anything to do with his life or circumstances.  One of the more plausible (if speculative) ideas to be considered is that the name d’Ourville may be a nom de plume, but it will take further research to take the story forward.  The villages of Ourville-en-Caux and Saint-Lo-d’Ourville (in Upper and Lower Normandy respectively) might offer a clue but, again, there is no evidence at present to substantiate this suspicion.