Sheet music for sale

Why couldn’t I decide on which sheet music to keep earlier? Then I’d be able to find proper homes for each kind of sheet music. FOR SALE: SHEET MUSIC & 400 CDS & OTHER BOOKS Saturday 1st September at the Monument House, Utrecht

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Books on bookshelf for sale
Books on bookshelf for sale

When Robert told me a few weeks ago that he had packed my sheet music into 12 moving boxes, I mentally switched off. What he really meant was, “What are we going to do about your 12 boxes of sheet music?”

These books and scores were stacked in 3 huge Ikea book cases. Every time he mentioned my music, I fell silent. Already I had to let go of 400 CDs. sheet music was even more precious. I was not ready to decide.

To make space to photograph the house for sale, he declared that he’d move the boxes into the bicycle shed. Out of sight, out of mind.

I have nowhere to put those 12 boxes in Maui. I don’t want to pay for shipping. I simply don’t want to deal with it. Why not?

I had gone through my music in London before I decided to pack them into boxes and move them to the Netherlands in 2003 and 2004. Thereafter I continued my curious hobby of visiting music bookstores and music libraries to select sheet music to buy or copy. This unusual pastime of a person who loves to sightread started a long time ago. It accompanied my travels. Every time I visited a city that had a music book store, I would treat myself to buying sheet music.

Houston. New York. London. Amsterdam. Paris. Milan. Prague. Taipei.

I began by collecting music for piano solo. When I discovered the joy of piano duets with my piano teacher at Duke University, I started collecting music for 4-hand, 1 piano and then 4-hand, 2-piano. When I discovered the joy of chamber music, I started seeking scores for piano and other instruments whose players I befriended: clarinet, flute, bassoon, oboe, French horn, violin, viola, cello, harp, guitar, recorder. I bought the music so that I could play them by myself or with others.

Once at conservatory, I reasoned that it was important to learn about different instruments so that I could compose for them. While pursuing my teaching diploma in piano, I began collecting piano pedagogy, methods, techniques, and other related books. Collecting sheet music was no longer merely to feed my insatiable thirst for sightreading. It was necessary for teaching piano, my composition degree, and performance. I discovered the buzz of performing long before composing and teaching. In the Netherlands, the world of getting paid to perform with guitar, French horn, cello, and voice opened up — as did the need to expand my chamber music repertoire.

I knew that I was the most loyal client of second-hand sheet music stores. There were two I visited on a regular basis: one in London and the other in Amsterdam. I also knew that the owners regularly scanned the obituary column in local newspapers, looking for famous musicians that had died. They knew that they could get their sheet music for next to nothing. They’d get them in bulk and price each piece individually.

Second-hand sheet music are typically cheaper than newly printed scores. However, often second-hand sheet music is no longer in print and thus no longer available. As a graduate student in London, I’d go after second-hand sheet music. As a full-time magazine editor traveling between London and New York, I’d go for first-hand music books and collections. Over time, I built a sizable library of sheet music that included composers from A to Z.

With less than 2 weeks before Robert’s return to Boston, I finally gave in. “Let’s take a look at those boxes,” I said.

There were now 15 boxes stacked in the garden house bicycle shed.

The first box took half an hour to go through. The second box a little less than half an hour. By the 3rd box, we had gained momentum and criteria. Say good-bye to anything that can be found on the Internet, too hard to play, boring, old, falling apart, or duplicated. Keep the really interesting pieces that I can’t get anywhere else, including out-of-print editions and those I paid dearly for.

We are now half way through my music. I’m letting go of all chamber music except for piano & guitar duos that we’ve yet to try but want to. I’m parting with that collection of Dutch composers, piano duets, piano methodology and technique books, easy piano for students, and countless binders full of photocopied sheet music — which Robert said is illegal to sell.

Out of 15 boxes, I expect to extract enough for just 3 boxes to ship over.

That’s a lot of music to say good-bye to. A lot of music I won’t be playing. A lot of time spent choosing and acquiring the music.

I just hope what I don’t keep will find a home very soon.

FOR SALE:
400 CDs and sheet music for piano, duets, piano methods, piano technique, chamber music with piano, dictionaries, travel guidebooks, and more!!

Saturday 1 September 2012 from 1 to 4 pm
Keulsekade 25, 3531 JX Utrecht
or by appointment (REPLY BELOW)

Post-concert recordings

Nearly a month after the concert, people are still raving about it. The CD recording brought back fond memories of that evening of standing room only on Maui.

A CD arrived in the post about 4 weeks after the concert. Listening to it brought back memories of that action-packed, full-house evening. The guests started arriving more than an hour before the concert. Half-an hour before it began, the hall was full. Minutes before the concert, I saw the “reserved for pianists only” seats taken by two ladies who read the cards but ignored the request.

It was every concert producer’s dream: standing room only.

Perhaps it was the rigor of concert promotion effort or the success of previous year’s piano concert or both, the outcome was impressive. Nearly a month later, my hairdresser mentioned that she heard about this concert though she was not able to attend herself. One of her customers raved about it.

I was warned that seats would be taken early for the 7:30 pm concert at Maui Music Conservatory, on the second floor of the Queen Ka’ahumanu Mall in Kahului, the capital of Maui County. “Piano Synergy” was the name of this concert, which, for us 6 pianists, actually began 4 months earlier with Sunday afternoon group rehearsals.

On Saturday 14th July at 7:30 pm, Ebb & Flow Arts, the non-profit arts organization on Maui, presented that one-hour concert (without intermission) of original works for many pianos, including the premiere of a new piece it commissioned for this occasion.

The composer Thomas Osborne was not only present for this premiere but also played one of the parts: Piano 1. Aptly titled “Canyons,” it began with Piano 4, nearly always in forte or fortissimo and definitely always the loudest of all 4 pianos. Piano 3 echoed Piano 4 but slightly softer. I played Piano 2, even softer. Piano 1 was nearly always pianissimo. This method of imitation in terraced dynamics continues until an augmentation, a spacing out of the repeated passages. Listen below.

Canyons as performed by Beatrice Scorby, Robert Pollock, Anne Ku, and Thomas Osborne (mp3)

The last work to be performed that evening of the celebration of French independence on Bastille Day was none other than Darius Milhaud’s 4-piano work “Paris.” Wearing my dry-cleaned black silk dress purchased in Paris in summer of 2009, I stood up to introduce this 6-movement work. It was, without doubt, one that required the most study of all works selected for this concert.

“And now, for the piece d’ resistance, Paris, which is the raison d’etre for tonight!” There were French-speakers in the audience who were glad to help my pronunciation. Before each movement, I introduced that part of Paris and what to listen for. After Montmartre came L’isle St Louis. On a foggy day, you can hear the church bells of Notre Dame and nearby churches. Sometimes you can hear they are out of tune!

L’isle St Louis from Paris by Darius Milhaud (mp3)

Longchamp refers to the race courses. The composer chose a fugue to represent that. A fugue literally means a chase. You can hear it getting faster and more intense.

Longchamp from Paris by Darius Milhaud (mp3)

The recordings were made by John Messersmith for Ebb & Flow Arts.

Many hands and pianists on one piano – Elizabeth Lauer

Elizabeth Lauer’s Pischna Polka is written for 5 pianists, one hand each. Five men tried it in San Francisco while 2-men, 2 women tried it in Utrecht only to find that a 5th person was needed. Lauer also sent two arrangements (Berlin & Gottschalk) for multi-hand piano duets that were sightread in Netherlands.

One of the most enthusiastic responses to my Call for Scores of Multi-hand Piano Duets came from composer Elizabeth Lauer. She responded to the multi-hands aspect of a duet.

“What about one piano, five pianists, one hand from each?  The one in the middle should be, preferably, a hipless wonder.”

I replied, “That’s exactly the sort of fun duets we’re looking for – playable, many hands, and fun!”

She e-mailed. “Well, I cannot find the Pischna Polka anywhere, but I’ve sent out e-mails to anyone who might have the score.  The basis of the piece is one of the Pischna piano exercises, which roams around the five hands, while whoever is NOT playing this is participating in a rather atonal polka.  It’s fast and about 2.5 minutes long. ”

While she was looking for the polka, Elizabeth Lauer sent me her 8-hands on 2 piano arrangement of Gottschalk’s Grande Tarantelle, the first 10 pages of which I sightread with three pianists last Sunday in Utrecht, Netherlands. It’s the subject of another blog post — how we started with two pianists on one piano, three on one, 4 on one, and moved eventually to two pianos on a rainy day in July in Holland. The Gottschalk was a lot of fun, stopped by my hesitation to print the remaining 53 pages from a home printer that was starved of paper and toner.

Lauer also sent me her arrangement of Irving Berlin’s “I Love a Piano” for 4 pianists on one piano in which some had to recite “I love a piano.” We tried that arrangement here in Holland and discovered that pianists can play but not necessarily recite.

At the Sightreading Workshop and Piano Soiree in San Francisco, five men stood in front of a grand piano and sightread the “Pischna Polka.” When I tried it with the three pianists (seated) here in Holland, I discovered that you really need five pianists (one hand each).

The Pischna Polka by Elizabeth Lauer: Five men on one piano in San Francisco, May 2011
The Pischna Polka by Elizabeth Lauer: Five men on one piano in San Francisco, May 2011

From Lauer’s programme notes on “The Pischna Polka” written in 1978 and refined in 1998 and dedicated to Walter Hautzig.

My original intent was to compose a piece (using one of the Pischna exercises throughout, wandering up and down the piano, with a spiky polka in — how shall I say? — counterpoint) for piano duet. There was such clamoring for participation that I had to change that cast of characters to five pianists, one hand apiece (with the middle person being a hipless wonder). I ventually gave up my position as player, and did the page-turning for the (then) hand-written score.

The 11-page polka moves along quite fast at quarter note = 68. The challenge is getting all the 16th note scales in sync. Imagine getting all five pianists to play together — with one hand each!

Extract from The Pischna Polka by Elizabeth Lauer
Extract from The Pischna Polka by Elizabeth Lauer

Piano duets of Loren Jones

The three piano duets of San Francisco-based composer Loren Jones are a delight to play although not immediately sight-readable. Nevertheless they are worth studying for a performance.

For my Call for Scores of Multi-hand piano duets, I received three piano duets from Loren Jones, a composer based in San Francisco. Unfortunately we didn’t get to try them at the Piano Soiree cum Sightreading Workshop in San Francisco in May 2011.

“The Man with Four Hands” (2005) was his first piano 4 hands piece, written for his CD “Woodward’s Gardens.”

“The Secret Door” (2007) originally written for someone else but not performed until 2010 by the piano duet ZOFO.

“The Mt Eyhan Gabriel Caves” is Loren Jones’ newest duet, recently premiered by two teenage brothers in The San Francisco Composers Orchestra in June 2011.

When Karyn Sarring and I sightread “The Mt Eyhan Gabriel Caves” in April 2011 on electric pianos at the University of Hawaii Maui College, we thought it would fit well as a good first piece in the second half of a concert to welcome the audience back. We loved the nice colours, kind of jazzy.

We found “Man with 4 Hands” satisfying, steady, and well-written. The small 32nd notes in upwards arpeggiated motion seemed hard at first, kind of like being the first to swim on a cloudy day. Once you dive into the cold water, it acclimatises to your body temperature and you realise it’s not that bad. Perhaps a larger font would make it easier to read. Readability helps playability. In bar 23, we assumed that the sixteenth notes in 6/8 time equaled the sixteenth notes in the previous bars in 4/4 time.

Initially we were intimidated by the 358 bars of “The Secret Door” which spanned 25 pages and lasted over 7 minutes. Nevertheless I was so curious that I had to try it with Brendan Kinsella in my home in Utrecht, Netherlands. It was not exactly sightreading for we had to figure out the pattern of the 16th notes beforehand.

The Secret Door piano duet by Loren Jones
The Secret Door piano duet by Loren Jones

We managed to record the first 50 measures. The rest, we concluded, we had to study to give it the sound it deserved.

Extract from The Secret Door piano duet by Loren Jones, sightread by Brendan Kinsella & Anne Ku

It’s exhilarating to play passages that are pianistically fun. Look at the way the left and right hands follow each other, and the way the primo and secundo dance around each other, as if the sequences are nested within each other. The right hand (RH) follows the left (LH). The primo follows the secundo. This is “Ocean” tempo marked fast with quarter note = 152.

The next section is a waltz “Flying with the birds” — very programmatic — as our curiosity begs the question, “when will we get to the secret door?”

Indeed these three duets lead me to look for an opportunity to study and record them in Maui (where I’m destined next) and meet the composer in San Francisco (before I land in Maui).

Piano duets on five Greek tunes by Harizanos

The most interest piano duet from the set of 5 Greek tunes by Nickos Harizanos is Here Comes the Swallow played and recorded by Anne Ku and Brendan Kinsella.

Something about 5/4 time breaks us out of our expected symmetry of being two-legged individuals.

Like Henk Alkema’s 2nd piano duet, the fourth piece in a set of 5 duets by Athens-based composer Nickos Harizanos also uses 5/4 time. I can’t say Brendan Kinsella and I did it justice in this recording below, but it gives you an idea of the unusual meter.

IV Here Comes the Swallow piano duet by Nickos Harizanos

Here Comes the Swallow piano duet by Nickos Harizanos
excerpt from Here Comes the Swallow piano duet by Nickos Harizanos

Harizanos’s 5-piece set definitely met my criteria in my Call for Scores for Multi-hands Piano Duets for Sightreading: readable, playable, and sightreadable. Short but fun. They are characteristically Greek and interesting to play and listen to.

What a difference it was to play and listen and judge on electric pianos vs acoustic grand pianos. When Karyn Sarring and I tried these on electric pianos in Maui, we thought they had potential. When I tried them with other pianists in San Francisco and Utrecht, we thought they were interesting and fun.

Hopefully I will get a chance to record all five duets. But recording these is not the ultimate objective. I simply want to share good and fun music in my travels.

More importantly, communicating and interacting with another musician through duet-playing is like the way children play with each other. There’s no need for extended conversation. We just play.

Five Piano Duets by Nickos Harizanos:

  1. Out there in the valleys
  2. Down there at the seaside
  3. We have a wedding day
  4. Here comes the swallow
  5. Corfu Dance

 

Piano duets by Henk Alkema

Good piano duets are meant to be played and shared. A good piece of music travels like a virus. Henk Alkema’s piano duets are a delight to play.

Last autumn I asked Dutch composer Henk Alkema if he had any piano duets I could use for a sightreading master class before our duo concert in San Francisco in November 2010. He e-mailed me 7 duets, which he had written for his students in conducting class.

[I had taken his arrangement and conducting classes at Utrecht Conservatory several years back. We’d start with a duet and then split or allocate the lines to different instruments for conducting.]

My first impression was that the duets looked too easy. Most, save one, were written for 2 pianos. There was just one Steinway Grand at the loft apartment in San Francisco. But we never got around to trying his duet for 4-hands one piano.

Piano Duet 2 by Henk Alkema - 4 hands 1 piano
Piano Duet 2 by Henk Alkema - 4 hands 1 piano

During the 6 months I lived in Maui, I sightread some 42 new duets from my Call for Scores with Chicago-born Maui-based Karyn Sarring on electric keyboards at Maui College. To my surprise, Henk’s Piano Duet number 2 was a gem of a piece. While it looked too easy to attempt, the music in 5/4 time seemed to echo a familiarity that was refreshing. Sad yet soothing. Addictive.

On my return trip to the Netherlands, I introduced this duet to Chong Kee Tan, the founder and developer of the concert reservation and management system High Note Live. Once was not enough. We decided to practise it a few times to play at the Piano Soiree & Sightreading Workshop which Chong Kee had organised to lure me back to San Francisco.

With proper recording facilities here at the Monument House, I sightread the duet with Brendan Kinsella who had given a spectacular concert to standing ovations only days before — on the same Steinway Grand. Click below to hear the audio recording (mp3).

Piano Duet 2 by Henk Alkema performed by Anne Ku and Brendan Kinsella in Utrecht, Netherlands

That same Friday 8th July, I introduced this duet to pianist Huub de Leeuw, who reacted in the same manner as others. “Let’s play it again.”

A few days ago, I finally tried the remaining 6 piano duets of Henk Alkema with pianist Liesbeth Spits on two pianos. They are all lovely. Some are playful and quirky like Poulenc. We agreed that we had to play them again. This Sunday we will sightread these duets together with others in my Call for Scores multi-hand duet collection with Huub and my friend Ahti from Helsinki.

Good duets are meant to be played and shared. A good piece of music travels like a virus.

Sightreading new multi-hand duets for one piano

First attempt at getting pianists in Utrecht, Netherlands to sightread new multi-hand piano duets has ended in showing off solo works of dead composers. Why?

I am blogging the experience of trying to get pianists to sightread, choose, and commit to studying the new piano duets I collected from the 30 living composers who answered my CALL FOR SCORES. In Maui, I had gone through all 42 new works with Karyn Sarring, an excellent sightreader at University of Hawaii Maui College. On electronic keyboards however, the duets didn’t sound quite the same as on real pianos as I later experienced with Chong Kee Tan in San Francisco.

This afternoon in Utrecht, Netherlands, the first in a series of small get-togethers in my CALL FOR PIANISTS, we three pianists gather in the home of Tom who had just bought a new Yamaha grand piano.

After coffee and a green bean coconut soup dessert, we approached the black piano with a few pieces I shortlisted to try. I showed them pieces that worked in San Francisco — they were easy to read. I showed the pieces that no one dared to try — the notes were too small. But there were other reasons why some pieces were not attempted.

“What happened to tonality?” cried Thera after trying to figure out the beats and pitches of a few duets that required rigorous counting.

“There’s so much wonderful literature of romantic piano music that I have yet to play! Why would I spend time trying to read new music?” exclaimed Tom.

After several attempts to read and decide who was better at the secondo or primo parts, we gravitated to showing off solo works we had studied individually and memorised. Thera played a moving work by Mendelssohn.

“I like to close my eyes and play — much easier than reading,” said Thera.

As soon as it was over, Tom gently pushed her aside and said, “It’s my turn now.” He played a virtuosic work of Haydn followed by Scarlatti Opus 11 no. 11.

How many hours of music have these two pianists got memorised in their heads? How long have they spent studying these pieces?

How can living composers compete with the dead ones who have a head start? Whose music are heard and published and readily available?

On 15th May 2011 in San Francisco, when I tried to get pianists to sightread these duets, one pianist reasoned as follows:

“Composers have to try much harder to get us to play their music. There is so much beautiful music we want to play — music we have heard of. To play music we haven’t heard of, it better be good and worthwhile.”

Perhaps such pianists prefer to play music they have committed themselves to. People, in general, for that matter, prefer the known, certain, and familiar. It’s far more comfortable to play something you’re competent at than try something that shows your incompetence (which can simply be due to lack of acquaintance or familiarity).

My attempt at getting these two pianists to try the remaining 40 duets has failed. They are now (as I write) churning out grandiose sounds of Katchaturian (Toccata), Rachmaninoff (Prelude op. 32 no. 5 in G), and Franck (Prelude, Fugue & Variations).

“It’s not that they are familiar,” protested Tom. “These old works go straight to the heart. Modern music appeals to the intellect.”

Thera added, “Yes, music IS emotional. I see in many modern compositions, the brain comes first.”

Surely there is modern music that appeals to the soul and the heart! But where is it?

“I like Martinu,” suggested Tom as he overlooked my typing. “His is mid-20th century. But he is dead now.”

Would my CALL FOR SCORES be more successful (in the sense of getting works to be played) if I had specified the music to appeal to the emotions?

We end with Liszt’s Consolation number 3. I have not given up trying the remaining multi-hand duets in the few hours left of the afternoon.

I am sure there are pianists who are eager to discover new sounds, new music that has yet to circulate or become familiar. These pianists like to sightread, try new things, work with other musicians, get to know the composers who write the music, and eventually get the composers to write music they want to play. How can I find other pianists like me?