The culmination of my efforts on the piano over the last few years occurred on my birthday a few days ago when I released the album Sunyata.
It presents 10 original tunes with a bit of rhythmic grunt for jazz piano trio.
The great crossover jazz outfit EST has been a great influence on my writing including a head entitled Gladwrap based on their much loved tune Goldwrap.
You can purchase or stream Sunyata from any of the usual digital distribution sites. Listen to Sunyata by Robin on @AppleMusic.
If you use an upright piano, the new iPhone 6 (being somewhat longer) is very useful for creating a lovely intimate source of lighting. I use it in my practice studio when it is still dark in the mornings rather than turning the lights on in an effort to save on electricity. I think it would also work very well for performances to enhance a particular piece's mood or where the lighting was not quite up to scratch.
My goal to post here much more regularly just did not happen as I had desired but, I can report that I have been busy!
I continue to play Bach and revisited and relearnt the Fugue in C Minor from WTC 1. The constant posting from the irrepressible Shirley Kirsten has opened my eyes to a couple of the more accessible movements from the French Suite V so I have been working on the Allemande and as of today started looking at the Courante too.
I have composed two new piano pieces Friday's Beckoning Seas and Zep. I have a few others on the go and have also completed a couple of arrangements for different instrumentations. I have continued to work on my improvising skills using my own pieces in the main. Those skills have improved quite a bit as my technical competence has been pushed along because of the major goal I set myself for this year which was to study 12 of Beethoven's Piano Sonatas.
I have been using an easiest to hardest list, that I secured courtesy of Phlebus on the Piano World Forum, and it has worked very well for me.
1 - Op 49#2
2 - Op 49#1 3 - Op 14#1 4 - Op 2#1 5 - Op 79 6 - Op 10#1 7 - Op 14#2 8 - Op 10#2 9 - Op 26 10 - Op 13 "Pathetique" 11 - Op 54
12 - Op 27#2 "Moonlight"
Why, you ask? Well as a late beginner, having started this journey in my late 50s, I figured that if I can get some sort of handle on all 32 piano sonatas it is likely to stand me in good stead for pretty well anything I am likely to want to explore in the repertoire. Apart from gaining more technical skills my sight reading has also dramatically improved allowing me to more easily explore other repertoire. More than useful. Could I play you a competent performance of any of the sonatas? Well no, not at this point in time, as my procedure is to get a grasp of six at a time before going back and revisiting them all. So, having just completed the second six, I have started revisiting the first six for the third time. Once I have completed that process, I will move on to the new group of six for a second revisit. Each time they are revisited more of the technical challenges fall away and I get much closer to being able to play them. However, that is not my goal. I am challenging myself to explore them to gain more technical skill for composition and improvising for performance. So I am more likely to choose one or other to learn for a performance if that is something I decide I want to do at some point.
So what has the been the main technical challenge I have faced exploring the sonatas? Arpeggios, arpeggios and arpeggios! Both Shirley Kirsten and Graham Fitch have provided excellent technical information and routines that I have taken full use of to assist gaining a better understanding of arpeggio playing.
I would like to mention that the Pianist and International Piano magazines are tremendously inspirational for a self-directed student such as myself, with the former, in particular, providing a terrific entree to the repertoire with the number of pieces to play that they include in each issue.
Well, that is it from me for another year and it is straight in to the next twelve sonatas on the list. 13 - Op 28 "Pastoral" 14 - Op 31#3 15 - Op 78 16 - Op 31#2 "Tempest" 17 - Op. 22 18 - Op 2#3 19 - Op 2#2 20 - Op 90 21 - Op 31#1 22 - Op 27#1 23 - Op 10#3 24 - Op 7
Well the pieces just keep coming. Here is another written with adolescent pianists in mind even though most have possibly never heard of Led Zeppelin before. Anyway, the riffs work pretty well here in a piece designed to assist students to gain further hand independence. The Immigrant Song riff works so well as an ostinato. The piece is available here.
Easter Sunday provided music lovers where I live with a rare treat when Georg Corall visited with his Ruckers replica for a recital. Georg is my musician mate Avril's recorder teacher at the University of WA where she is lucky enough to be studying currently.
Georg was born in Westfalia, Germany. His interest in music began at age 15 when he decided to learn how to play the recorder. He subsequently took lessons in piano at age 17, in harpsichord at age 18 and in Baroque oboe at age 20.
At the Hochschule der Künste, Berlin, he began his tertiary studies in recorder and harpsichord, and concluded studies of historical oboe instruments and recorder with Renate Hildebrand (Hamburg) at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater “Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy”, Leipzig. He also holds a teaching degree in historical woodwinds from the Hochschule für Musik, Hamburg.
He completed his practical education at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis (Switzerland) from 1996 to 1998 in Baroque oboe with Michel Piguet, Baroque bassoon with Claude Wassmer and harpsichord with Massimiliano Rasschietti.
Permanently resident in Perth (Australia), he recently finished his studies for a Doctor of Musical Arts degree at the University of Western Australia in order to formalise the conclusions reached during twenty-five years of performing research and to develop his professional life as a scholar. His academic research focuses on “Hautboisten” (wind bands in the 18th century), playing techniques (articulation, eloquence, historical reed design) and questions of balance of instrumentation within a Baroque orchestra.
Georg was awarded the John Hind Scholarship in his first year of study in Perth, and was UWA’s inaugural recipient of the Vice-Chancellor’s ‘Harpsichord Scholarship’.
With that background, I am sure you can imagine what a wonderful recital we were lucky enough to be presented with especially as Georg had the Ruckers pitched appropriately at 415 and used a well-tempered tuning. We heard music from Frescobaldi, Froberger, Couperin and Bohm including this Praeludium and Fugue in G minor by Bohm played here by Georg,
before the recital finished with his own wonderful period style composition.
There must be some truth to the story that harpsichordists spend more time tuning their instruments than actually playing them as this image shows Georg retuning the Ruckers during the interval to the delight of some interested audience members including myself. Avril informed me he had spent an hour tuning it before the recital!
Georg added to the ambience of the recital by wearing a beautiful below knee length, black sequinned, high-collared frock coat for the recital held in our quite gorgeous cedar lined local Anglican Church. I have presented recitals here myself in the past and I can vouch for it's suitability as a recital venue with a very forgiving acoustic only spoiled by extraordinarily uncomfortable pews resulting in a slightly penance like experience if the concert is lengthy. This is the first time I have ever heard a harpsichord in the flesh and it was an experience I am unlikely to forget and I look forward to Georg's promised next visit!
Completed another tune for piano recently. Tricky little thing to play and I am going to have to put a bit of work in before I can do so. It can be obtained from here where the rest of my scores are available also.