My album of Bernard Hughes’s piano music, Bagatelles, is out today on the Divine Art label. I do hope you like it!
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The official launch date for my forthcoming album, Bagatelles: piano music by Bernard Hughes, is fast approaching.
The album goes on sale on June 9th, but you can pre-order your copy now.
I am thrilled to announce a new publishing project, which will be launching this month — the complete solo piano music of Adolf Jensen. Over the next two years, I will be releasing a completely new critical Urtext edition of all the known solo piano works, based on first published versions and manuscript sources (where they exist). Individual works will be released as well as a three-volume collection in paperback and clothbound hardback formats.
I first came across Jensen’s music in an old collection of student pieces that I picked up in a second-hand bookstore in York, England. That piece is probably the one you’re most likely to have encountered, ‘The Mill’ from Wanderbilder, op. 17. Straight away, I was charmed and intrigued, and made it my mission to find more of Jensen’s music and to learn more about him.
It seems to me that Jensen is one of those figures against whom the various Fates of music history conspired, ensuring that plans never quite came to fruition and dreams never quite came true. One of the first things about his music that struck me was the affinity with Robert Schumann (one of my absolute favourite composers), evident in, for instance, the contrasting intermezzi in the Präludium und Romanze, op. 19, which reminds me of Schumann’s op. 28 no. 3, or the Ländler aus Berchtesgaden, op. 46, whose use of shared connective tissue and cyclical techniques within the sequence of movements puts one in mind of the Davidsbündlertänze, op. 6, or Carnaval, op. 9. It came as little surprise that Jensen intended to take lessons with Schumann, and at the age of 19 took a teaching post in Russia with the hope of earning enough money to do so. He started the job in 1856, so never got to study with Schumann. I think this would have been an interesting possibility for the Schumanns, too. Despite nurturing many young talents, and promoting the cause of ‘new music’ as a critic and writer, Schumann the composer never really had a disciple; even if he had a protégé in Brahms, Brahms’s music shows no discernible trace of Schumann’s compositional influence. Admittedly, while not getting to meet the young acolyte from Königsberg is hardly the most tragic event of Schumann’s final years, it is a poignant footnote to them. Destiny had an even crueller blow in store for Jensen, allowing him little more than a decade following his return to Königsberg, via three years in Copenhagen, before he became seriously ill, dying from tuberculosis not a fortnight after his forty-second birthday.
This is one of the leitmotifs, as it were, of delving around in the dustier corners of music history. While a lot of the history books, particularly those venerable tomes written in the early twentieth century under the heady intellectual influence of Darwinism, present a steady stream of Great Men running a pan-European relay race beginning with Monteverdi and ending with Mahler, the reality is that the flow of music history, indeed any history, is far less monodirectional, far messier, than this. This narrative leads us often to misunderstand the composers that ran with that baton for a leg, and to miss entirely all those figures who for one reason or another weren’t in the squad that day. It’s a mistake to believe that we know only the music that merits knowing, and that the rest is deservedly forgotten.
It isn’t a surprise to me that ‘The Mill’ is the one piece of Jensen’s that is encountered most often in pedagogical anthologies, for the simple reason that it’s the easiest. While his compositional ideas owe much to Schumann, his approach to writing for the piano is distinctly Brahmsian. Shortly before his death, he worked as a teacher at the school of advanced piano run in Berlin by Tausig, who was himself regarded as the most accomplished of Liszt’s students, and was therefore probably able to select his staff from the absolute cream of his generation’s more-than-abundant crop of keyboard virtuosi. While Jensen’s lighter works are manageable for advanced hobbyists and students, there is plenty of much heartier fare on offer too, providing ample evidence of his own prowess at the keyboard. He made no contribution at all to the enormous body of beginner-level pedagogical music that was the bread and butter of many composers’ creative endeavor — and most publishing houses’ business — during this period.
So, back to the edition. Each piece will be available separately for sale in the site shop as it is released, and shorter works are also available bundled together. Right now there are also superb pre-order packages available in the site shop, which save you at least 10% on the total value of the series, and entitle you to free expedited shipping anywhere in the world on all volumes before they go on general release. If you pre-order the three-volume complete set, you will also receive a copy of my companion book, Adolf Jensen: Music for Solo Piano, which I might even sign for you if my wrists are still functioning after all this editing — boy, it’s a lot of notes! These pre-order deals will only be available until the end of January 2023. If you purchase a pre-order package up to this point, you will receive everything that has been released so far in one delivery, and your deliveries thereafter will follow the schedule below.
|JPW1||Innere Stimmen, op. 2||perfect-bound booklet|
|JPW2||Valse brillante, op. 3||saddle-stitched booklet|
|JPW3||Fantasiestücke, op. 7||perfect-bound book|
|JPW4||Romantische Studien, op. 8||perfect-bound book|
|JPW5||Berceuse, op. 12||saddle-stitched booklet|
|JPW6||Jagdszene, op. 15||saddle-stitched booklet|
|JPW7||Der Scheidenden, op. 16||saddle-stitched booklet|
|JPW8||Wanderbilder, op. 17||perfect-bound book|
|JPW9||Präludium und Romanze, op. 19||saddle-stitched booklet|
|JPW10||Four Impromptus, op. 20||perfect-bound book|
|JPW11||Sonata in F𝄰 minor, op. 25||perfect-bound book|
|JPW12||Valse-Caprices, op. 31||perfect-bound book|
|JPW13||25 Klavier-Etuden, op. 32||perfect-bound book|
|JPW14||Lieder und Tänze, op. 33||perfect-bound book|
|JPW15||Deutsche Suite, op. 36||saddle-stitched booklet|
|JPW16||Impromptu, op. 37||perfect-bound book|
|JPW17||Two Nocturnos, op. 38||saddle-stitched booklet|
|JPW18||Alla Marcia, Canzonetta, und Scherzo, op. 42||saddle-stitched booklet|
|JPW19||Idyllen, op. 43||perfect-bond book|
|JPW20||Erotikon, op. 44||perfect-bound book|
|JPW21||Ländler aus Berchtesgaden, op. 46||perfect-bound book|
|JPW22||Waldidyll, op. 47||saddle-stitched booklet|
|JPW23||Erinnerungen, op. 48||perfect-bound book|
|JPW24||Scènes carnavalesques, op. 56||perfect-bound book|
|JPW26||Shorter Piano Works, volume 1 (opp. 3, 12, 16)||perfect-bound book|
|JPW27||Shorter Piano Work, volume 2 (opp. 19, 36, 37, Ricordanza)||perfect-bound book|
|JPW28||Shorter Piano Works, volume 3 (opp. 38, 42, 47)||perfect-bound book|
|JPW29||Collected Works for Solo Piano, volume 1 (opp. 2, 3, 7, 8, 12, 15, 16, 17, 19)||perfect-bound book|
|JPW30||Collected Works for Solo Piano, volume 2 (opp. 20, 25, 31, 32, 33, 36, Ricordanza)||perfect-bound book|
|JPW31||Collected Works for Solo Piano, volume 3 (opp. 37, 38, 42, 43, 44, 46, 47, 48, 56)||perfect-bound book|
Way back before Covid, I spent many enjoyable hours in the Henry Watson Music Library in Manchester, looking at the manuscript known as ‘Anne Dawson’s Book’ (which, let’s face it, is a much catchier name than GB-Mp BRm710.5Cr71). One of the jewels in this particularly exceptional 18th-century musical crown is a set of solo keyboard arrangements of twelve of Antonio Vivaldi’s concertos, from L’estro armonico, op. 3, and La stravaganza, op. 4. Vivaldi is not known to have composed any original music for keyboard, so these arrangements are a valuable addition to the collection of any keyboard player who admires Vivaldi’s music (as I do).
Although next to nothing is known about Anne Dawson, she must have been an extremely gifted musician, if the contents of her ‘Book’ are anything to go by. While it was common for eighteenth-century students of keyboard or voice to compile their own collections of miscellaneous pieces for performance and private study, the change of medium is far less usual. What’s more, these arrangements are idiomatic and effective, and certainly bear comparison with Bach’s (with which there is some overlap). For me, exploring these pieces in more depth was one of the things that made lockdown bearable, and I’m thrilled that I will now be able to share them.
I’m currently in the final stages of cross-checking, proofing, and checking again. Anticipated release date is towards the end of December, but we’ve put them on pre-order now (which is helpful for planning the print-run). I’ll add some sample pages once they’re ready. In the meantime, my thanks to Ros Edwards and the team at the Henry Watson Music Library!
I’m proud to announce that my book Productive Practice has just been released in paperback.
For a long time I have wanted to write a book that sets out what I believe to be the fundamental principles of good practice. Over my years of teaching, the one thing that has struck me repeatedly is simply that students, regardless of their age and level, rarely understand how to manage their practice time. The question people ask most often about practice is how long they should spend doing it. Of course, there is no single right answer to this, but I’m certain that most people actually spend more time than they need to, but achieve less than they could.
This book isn’t so much about how to practise, in terms of technical or musical advice, but rather about how to approach goal-setting and time-management in your practice sessions, how to adjust your thinking about what practice is about, and how to put together manageable and achievable practice plans that will guide your short-term practice and structure your long-term progress.
Although the book obviously sets out the kind of thinking that underpins my ways of working with my own students, I didn’t want this to be a book just for pianists, so the majority of the thoughts and ideas that I discuss here apply equally to all instruments, and also to players of any age and standard. With sections on—amongst others—mindset, diagnostics, evaluation, focus, flow, perfectionism, and persistence, I hope this book offers a different perspective on an activity which is essential to all musicians, but also too often dreaded, endured, or avoided.
The paperback edition is out now on my webstore, and is available from your favourite online and bricks-and-mortar bookstores. The product description also carries links to the eBook edition.
Members can read an excerpt of the book for free here!
I’m excited to announce that I will be recording the (so far) complete works for solo piano by my good friend and colleague, Bernard Hughes. Covering a period of over 25 years, the album, which will be released on the Divine Art label, will feature pieces dating back to Bernard’s student years at Oxford, occasional pieces written for students and his children, and Bagatelles, of which I gave the first complete performances way back when we were both doctoral students. I am honoured that the most recent work is a brand new, specially-composed Suite, in which he deftly replaces traditional Baroque dance forms with an eclectic range of folk-inspired equivalents.
Bernard Hughes studied music at St. Catherine’s College, Oxford and Goldsmiths College, London. He received a PhD in composition from Royal Holloway, University of London and was then appointed as Composer-in-Residence at St. Pauls’ School. Bernard’s music has been performed around the world, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 and across Europe. His latest commission, Birdchant, was premiered by the BBC Singers at the 2021 Proms; he has composed operas, choral, and vocal works, as well as piano music, to great acclaim. Recordings of his choral music were issued on Signum Classics in 2016, and in 2022 on Delphian Records. You can find out more about him and his music here.