Album: Favorite Piano Classics for Students

Album Notes

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This album was created for my piano students, friends, and family in November and December of 2013.  The tracks in this album are piano pieces I remember learning and enjoying when I was studying piano as a young girl.  It is my hope that as you listen, you will experience some of the same joy that I experienced when I first discovered this music — and again as an adult as I revisited this selection of classical pieces.

In self-recording and self-publishing this album, it was my goal to learn the basics of microphone placement, audio mastering, and syncing audio and video files.  The album has been self-recorded using the Samson Zoom H2 digital recorder on my  5’7” Kawai grand piano.  The tracks were mastered minimally using SoundTrack Pro.  The video files (for YouTube) were taken with my Nikon D7000 and synced with the audio tracks in Final Cut Pro.  The skills I have gained while working with this equipment and software are ones I hope to put to good use in future projects with my piano students.

This album has also been a journey in perfection and expression.  Music is said to be one of the few professions where perfection is not only expected, but assumed.  The digital recorder is unforgiving, particularly when one’s audio editing and audio mastering skills are less than par (as mine are).  My recordings are certainly less than perfect, but fortunately, music is about more than accuracy.  Music is also about communication and expression.  As I prepared these pieces, I spent much time considering how to get “beyond the notes” in order to create a meaningful, communicative performance.  It is my hope that my renditions of these pieces enable the composer’s music to move you or speak to you in some way.

It is an honor to be able to share this album with you.

Note: Many thanks to my dear husband, Paul, for tolerating my hours of practice and providing me with many mugs of hot chocolate.

Listen

Feel free to download the tracks below.

Program Notes

  1. C. Petzold: Minuet in G Major, BWV Anh. 114 — This popular minuet was originally found in a 1725 music copybook known as the “Notebook for Anna Magdelena Bach.”  Anna Magdelena was Johann Sebastian Bach’s second wife.  Bach assembled this notebook containing pieces composed by various composers for his wife.  In those days, music was copied by hand and composers did not always get credited for their work.  This particular minuet was for many years attributed to Bach; however, musicologists have in recent years credited the work to Christian Petzold.  Keyboard music from this time period, known as the Baroque Era, would have been performed on the harpsichord.
  2. R. Schumann: The Happy Farmer, Returning from Work, Op. 68 No. 10 — This piece is from a collection of pieces called “Album for the Young.”  Robert Schumann composed this collection of pieces in 1848 with his three daughters in mind after deciding that most of the music available at the time for students to play was of poor quality.  Album for the Young was the first of its kind, being a published collection of character pieces (as opposed to etudes or exercises) intended for children to play.  This was the beginning of an entirely new genre of music which inspired many future composers.  The tenth piece in this collection, “The Happy Farmer Returning from Work,” is a cheerful piece that depicts a German peasant and his son singing as they return from their work in the field.
  3. F. Haydn: Allegro from Sonata in G Major, Hob. XVI:8 — This cheerful piece is the fourth and final movement from Haydn’s Sonata in G Major, Hob. XVI:8.  Franz Joseph Haydn was a musician and composer from the Classical Era, a time period when clarity, balance, and restraint were appreciated.  Haydn’s sonatas, or “divertimenti” as they are sometimes called, are light-hearted pieces intended for entertainment and informal settings — as opposed to serious concert music.   Haydn wrote over 60 sonatas for the keyboard!
  4. J.S. Bach: Minuet in G Major, BWV Anh. 116 — This minuet is from the same “Anna Magdelena notebook” as described in the program notes for track #1.  This one, however, is attributed to Bach himself.  When I had the idea to center this album around my favorite childhood pieces, this piece was one of the first to come to mind.  I loved learning this piece and still enjoy playing it today.
  5. L. Beethoven: Ecossaise in G Major, WoO 23 — An “ecossaise” is a dance in a Scottish style that was popular in France and Great Britain during the late 1800’s.  It is usually in 2/4 time with lively rhythm.   Musicologists believe that Beethoven originally composed this ecossaise for wind band around 1810; however, the music score has not been found.  The piano version is actually an arrangement composed by Carl Czerny.
  6. F. Burgmüller: Ballade, Op. 100 No. 15 — Friedrich Burgmüller was a composer who lived during the Romantic Era of music history, a time when drama and virtuosity were valued in music.  This piece is from a collection of pieces called “25 Easy and Progressive Studies, Op. 100.”  There are many gems in this collection, but this Ballade certainly stands out as a personal favorite.  It features a fiery ‘A’ section followed by a charming ‘B’ section.  The piece concludes with the return of the ‘A’ section and an added Coda section.
  7. W.A. Mozart: Contredanse in A Major, K. 15L — A “contredanse” is a French name for an English folk dance that became popular during the late 1600’s in which couples danced in two facing lines.  Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) is a famous composer who lived during the Classical Era, somewhat later than Haydn.  This piece is in ABA form, where the B section is an a contrasting minor key.
  8. G. Benda: Sonatina in A Minor — Georg Anton Benda (1722-1795) was a Bohemian composer who lived at the same time as Mozart.  Benda’s sonatinas are mostly one-movement works, originally composed for the harpsichord.  In Benda’s music, the listener can hear folk elements mixed in with classical elements that were typical in his contemporaries’ works (such as Domenico Scarlatti, C.P.E. Bach, and Mozart).
  9. L. Beethoven: Russian Folk Song 
  10. L. Mozart: Minuet in F Major, from Notebook for Nannerl — Leopold Mozart is the father of the famous Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  This minuet is from the “Notebook for Nannerl” — a music book of pieces that Leopold composed for his daughter, Maria Anna (fondly nicknamed “Nannerl”), to play.  The notebook also contains a few of Wolfgang’s first compositions from age 6.  Leopold traveled across Europe with his two children, arranging concerts that showcased their talents.
  11. R. Schumann: First Loss, Op. 68 No. 16 — This piece is from the same “Album for the Young” collection mentioned in the notes for track #2.  Many of the pieces from “Album for the Young” were composed to commemorate events that happened in the Schumann family.  Schumann composed “First Loss” after the Schumanns’ pet bird died.
  12. F. Burgmüller: Progress, Op. 100 No. 6 — This piece is from the same collection mentioned in the notes for track #6.
  13. J.S. Bach: Prelude in C Major, BWV 939 — A “prelude” is a free-formed piece that often sounds improvised.
  14. F. Burgmüller: L‘Orage (The Storm), Op. 109 No. 13 — “L’Orage,” which is French for “The Storm,” is a piece from a collection called, “18 Characteristic Studies.”  The collection was published in 1858.
  15. D. Turk: Miniature Rondo in F Major, No. 17 from Kleine handstücke für angehende klavierspieler — Daniel Turk (1750-1813) was a composer of the Classical Era.  Turk published his “Klavierschule” as a teaching guide for the keyboard.  This rondo is a piece from that piano method book.  A rondo is a piece with alternating sections (usually ABACA or ABACABA; however, this miniature rondo is simply ABA).
  16. J.S. Bach: Musette in D Major, BWV Anh. 126 — This piece is from the same “Anna Magdelena Notebook” mentioned in the notes for track #1.  A “musette” was a piece designed to imitate a small bagpipe known by the same name, which was popular during the Baroque Era.  The notes played in the left hand during this piece are intended to imitate the drone of the bagpipe.
  17. M. Glinka: Polka in D Minor — Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857) was a Russian composer who is often regarded as the father of Russian classical music.  Glinka influenced future Russian composers, including the members of “The Five,” a group of Russian composers who were instrumental in forming a distinctive aural identity for Russian classical music.
  18. J.S. Bach: Prelude in C Major, from BWV 846 — This prelude comes from a collection known as the Well-Tempered Clavier, a collection of paired preludes and fugues composed by Bach to celebrate the tuning system that was becoming standard during his day.  “Well-tempered tuning” is a system of tuning that “averages” out the tuning so that music can be played in any of the 12 keys without sounding overly out-of-tune in any of the keys.  The previous system of tuning resulted in the key of C being tuned perfectly, but the other keys sounded increasingly out-of-tune the further the key was from the key of C.  The Well-Tempered Clavier is published in two volumes which feature pieces composed in each of the 24 major and minor keys.