Watch demo videos of select pieces from our repertoire list here. The order follows by level of difficulty. Accompanying text provides guidance on technical approaches and performance practice.
"Moon Jelly" by Lisa Neher is an attractive piece for early grades that explores dreamy, watery soundscapes with plenty of pedal. Despite the reliance on five-finger patterns, the technique is surprisingly challenging and requires students to practice smooth, delicate fingering along with wrist and forearm rolls. I discovered that this lightness is more easily achieved by allowing the fingers to remain on the keys with each roll (rather than articulating each individual finger separately as is usually taught). Experiment with pedal changes to achieve the most seamless sound!
"Aegean Dance" by Ilhan Baran is an excellent choice for introducing early grade students to Turkish music. This original piano piece consists of five phrases of 9 beats - 3 measures of 2/4 and one of 3/4, a typical Aegean dance rhythm. Students enjoy the solid rhythm and heavy steps of the piece and also the modal sound, using the D natural minor scale. The video focuses on the left hand which moves between different octaves in the bass range.
The first piece from Mummer Sun's Country Colors is also an excellent choice for early grades. Though the character is slow and sombre, I've found it appeals to students of all ages. In addition to reading accidentals the student learns to hear and follow the imitation of voices between the hands.
It is a mystery to me why "The Pony Express" by Louise Talma has not become part of the standard teaching repertoire for intermediate students. Composed in 1974 as part of her cycle Soundshots, this piece has a fun galloping rhythm with 'kicks' on off-beats in the LH. The LH also introduces descending major and minor scales with challenging rhythm patterns in the RH. The contrasting lyrical middle section relaxes the tempo a bit, but explores the same major and minor sonorities of the opening section. An excellent teaching moment is provided by the accelerando leading back into the exciting gallop of the opening but with hands switched! (Published by Henshaw Music and Hildegard Publishing)
"The Birth of Bernoulli" by Francis Kayali is one of my new favorite teaching pieces. Composed in the style of a chorale, it lacks any time signature or bar lines, giving the player freedom to explore phrasing and pacing. It is also an excellent piece to work on chord voicing, dynamic control and pedaling. While not a conventional "etude" aimed at finger dexterity, it is a kind of forearm and wrist etude as it helps to develop the controlled and fluid movements necessary for subtle dynamic changes and the phrasing of chords. It is the last piece from Kayali's set of Winter Pieces.
Watch this performance of Godwin Sadoh's "Nigerian Wedding Dance" performed on organ! The piano version is available here.
Digging through her library, Kathryn found Children's Album by Eduard Chagagortjan which includes very attractive pieces for students. Most pieces are at the intermediate level, and she has chosen a few to add to the suggested repertoire lists. "Funny Friend" starts in a simple manner but is quickly complicated by rapid triplet figuration and also irregular beat patterns in the middle section. View the demo video here "Count to 9!" introduces students to an irregular 9-beat meter and also a range of keyboard modes employing augmented seconds. View the demo video here
Similar to "The Birth of Bernoulli" above, this piece by Dai Fujikura is notated differently than most students are accustomed to, in a single clef (with a view exceptions). In "Crossing Paths" the player has to master legato technique and to plan subtle dynamic changes that help form the long phrases in the piece. Pedal is only used occasionally for contrasting sonic effect.
"Para Lisa" is a beautiful waltz-bagatelle by Juan Maria Solare. This piece requires attention to multiple voices in each hand and careful pedaling. The rich harmonies are coupled with subtle rhythmic variations in the melodic line, which I find make it an attractive alternative to the standard waltz repertoire.
The fourth piece of Gyimah Labi's "Dialects in African Pianism" is titled "Pappoe- Pineapple" and is a wonderful lyric piece for late-grade students. Not as technically challenging as the other pieces in the set, this piece still requires a nuanced sense of phrasing from the player and a mastery of 3:2 hemiola in 6/8 time. I find the opening phrase to be the most challenging technical element with its flourish of ascending quartal harmonies.
"Giguembito" from Manuel Matarrita's Partita Mestiza combines the 6/8 figuration of a Baroque gigue with the dance rhythms of the tambito, a dance from Costa Rica. I actually hear the beginning of the gigue fast than how I play it here, but the parallel octaves and chords are quite challenging at the end of the piece. I also like to hear the cross-rhythms clearly between the left and right hands. So this is my conservative interpretation for you to get a feel for the piece. I think it's a fun and challenging piece and goes well with a program that includes other baroque dances.
Ivan Bozicevic labels his piece "Summer in the World" a toccata and it was originally written for harpsichord. The right hand figuration is certainly reminiscent of Baroque toccatas but Bozicevic's harmonies are unmistakably jazz-oriented, making this an attractive piece for study and performance.
Ulvi Cemal Erkin's Impression No. 1 is suitable for higher grades with its fast-paced irregular meters (7/8 & 5/8) and rapid shifts to all ranges of the keyboard:
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Learn about Ottoman composer Leyla Saz and listen to her Victory March from 1908 in several arrangements. This work is featured on ...And We Were Heard in a performance by Jacob Wallace and the South Dakota State University Wind Ensemble (also available in the audio player below). Peruse instrumental arrangements available for purchase here