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Solo Piano

Australian piano works for young players and students

The eight works listed here as suitable repertory for student performers have been selected for various reasons. Some composers write particularly well for the piano in a characteristic, pianistic and idiomatic style. This is very often the case with composers who are pianists themselves, or piano teachers, and understand the idiosyncrasies of the instrument. In other cases, the composer may write with a very individual language regardless of the instrument. Obviously with so many works available (probably now numbering at least 2,000) selecting just eight works gives only a glimpse of the repertory.

This list has been prepared and written by Jeanell Carrigan.

See also: representative Australian works for piano with orchestra

Representative works

  Work Notes
Piano games (1973) by Nigel ButterleyThis set of six pieces uses alternative techniques which stretch both the technical capabilities and imagination of the performer, while being aimed at an intermediate standard of ability. One piece has an aleatoric dimension (no. 5 'Choose for Yourself'), another invites the player to discover harmonics by silently depressing chords (no. 2 'Echoes'.) Written by a composer who is also a pianist, the works are rhythmically quite challenging.
Mantras and night flowers (2001) by Ross EdwardsRoss Edwards has a unique and recognisable language. Each of these nine short pieces (including some of the 'Mantras') is dedicated to a friend. The most pianistically simple of the series – 'Emily’s Song' - was written for his daughter and now appears on the AMEB syllabus for fourth grade. It is lyrical but with a lilting rhythmical flow. Most of the other eight pieces in the series are more technically and rhythmically challenging.
Digital sheet music sample Water nymph (1987) by Miriam HydeMiriam Hyde was a brilliant pianist and performed in public well after her 80th birthday. She was a teacher and examiner and knew how to write music that would develop technical and pianistic skills at all levels. Water nymph is a short work – one of many individual pieces – and like all Hyde’s works, it is comfortable for the pianist to play. The work uses the whole tone scale.
Red blues (1999) by Carl VineA great deal of the piano music written by Carl Vine (e.g. the three sonatas) is very difficult. This set of four pieces is aimed at a more intermediate standard of student performer. The pieces are quite different in style and character. 'Red Blues' is a jazzy number,' Central' is very controlled, 'Semplice' has many changes of meter, and 'Spartacus', with cluster chords played in a driving rhythmical pattern, is the most challenging of the set.
8 Australian birds discover the music of the 20th century (1989) by Andrew FordThese eight short and humorous pieces are aimed at a student who is not yet very advanced. Ford cleverly gets to the core of the musical language of eight well-known 20th-century composers, simplifies it, and then attributes it to an Australian bird. So we get – for example – a 'Brolga behaving like Bartók'. The pieces are sometimes quite rhythmically challenging and use a wide range of the piano. Some of the chordal writing is thickly textured which may prove demanding for small hands.
Red hot rhapsodies (1997) Sonny Chua's piano music lends itself particularly well to teaching purposes because of the uncanny way he relates to children in the themes. Red Hot Rhapsodies contains three short works ('Transylvanian Romp', 'Siesta' and 'Jamaican Fumble') which are aimed at a more advanced level of ability. They are pianistically appropriate but nonetheless quite difficult to perform because of the technical demands and also the sense of jazz style which is an integral part of the interpretation.
12 one page piano pieces (2001) by Elena Kats-CherninThe title of this work is misleading, as none of the twelve pieces is only one page long. They are attractive, basically tonal and very pianistic works. The pieces become more difficult towards the end of the series. The eleventh piece, 'Drums', is a rhythmical glissando exercise in which the pianist can also practice leaping from the middle of the piano to the outer extremes. The last piece ‘Cinema' is virtuosic and bombastic, suggesting music created for a silent film.
Moments of plastic jubilation (1999) by Matthew HindsonThis single-movement work was composed in 1999 and lasts around five minutes. It was written for the brilliant pianist Michael Kieran Harvey and consequently consists of some very virtuosic writing in a contemporary idiom. It is technically demanding and requires strength and endurance rather than beauty of sound. It is definitely a piece in which the player can display many skills and also a piece which, due to the originality of its compositional language, is entertaining for the audience.

Broader categories of Solo Piano

Sibling categories of Solo Piano