The Essential Piano

40 Popular Classics

Various pianists

ABC 476 3383 (2-CD pack)

TPT: 77’18”/ 76’16”

reviewed by Neville Cohn

This would be ideal as a gift for young people who might just have begun piano lessons and wanting to sample the repertoire. The vast majority of these are keyboard evergreens, pieces that will be instantly recognised by anyone even remotely interested in piano music: Beethoven’s Fur Elise, Chopin’s Raindrop Prelude, Sinding’s Rustle of Spring, Debussy’s Clair de Lune and Schumann’s Traumerei.

It was the invention of the radio and its universal presence in millions of homes that put paid to the until-then very widespread practice during social visits of bringing piano sheet music to play after tea time. The writer recalls how, as a child, he would accompany his parents on visits to elderly relatives where, invariably after afternoon tea, one or other of those present would play piano favourites such as Debussy’s Girl with the Flaxen Hair, the adagio from Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata and, for players with a more robust technique than usual, pieces such as Grieg’s Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, Chopin’s ‘Military’ Polonaise, the timeless Liebestraum in A flat by Liszt and Bach’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring in Myra Hess’ famous but maddeningly elusive arrangement. All these much loved pieces are included in this compilation.

As well, there is the Prelude in C sharp minor from Rachmaninov’s opus 3, the universal popularity of which drove the composer to despair as audiences simply would not let the great man go after piano recitals unless he offered as encore a piece he came to loathe. (It earned him a fortune which may have soothed his exasperation).

ABC Classics has drawn on the recordings of some of Australia’s most prominent pianists for this collection, among them Roger Woodward, Donna Coleman, Stephanie McCallum and Gerard Willems. For many listeners, one or more of these pieces will trigger feelings of nostalgia.

A thoroughly rcommended compilation.

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