If there was ever a volume of piano music that could offer material for every student, at every age and every stage of their learning from virtual beginner to Grade 8+, then this is it. The Mikrokosmos were composed between 1926 and 1939 and are normally published in six volumes. This new edition publishes them all in one volume although they are kept in six sections and the order has not been changed. It also includes a short bibliographical introduction about Bartók and some information on the six volumes and their music. Bartók composed the pieces for his son Peter Bartók to learn the piano but Bartók‘s publisher also encouraged this collection, hoping to replicate and continue the collections of teaching material by J. S. Bach and Carl Czerny. With pieces inspired by Hungarian folk music and song, a new generation of pianists was given the 153 Progressive Pieces for the Piano.
Volume 1 begins with simple eightbar pieces in unison, hands in a five finger position but not with thumbs on Middle C. The pieces are so well thought out and teach rhythm, pitch and technique through musically expressive and versatile pieces. Each one will introduce something new, perhaps a new five finger position giving a minor pentachord, dotted notes, repetition, inversion, open and closed phrases, canons – the list really is endless. The music encourages the student to examine not just what the music says but how it says it and what the musical effect is. There are no dynamics written in the first 21 pieces but, if your student is able to, you can explore different expressive ideas, or leave this aspect of playing for the later pieces. Each piece also offers the opportunity to use new elements creatively in your students’ own compositions or improvisation.
Continuing through the Volumes, students will learn about different modes and scales, different touches and sounds, simple and compound time signatures as well as irregular ones such as 5/4, and intervals and chords, leading to the final group of pieces, Six Dances in Bulgarian Rhythm. These are an exciting group of pieces, the first of which was dedicated to the English pianist Harriet Cohen, and as a group they serve as an excellent finale to the six volumes. There are so many imaginative and good pieces in Mikrokosmos that it I simpossible to single out just a few. The Hungarian influence can lead to some unusual sounds, strange ways of writing key signatures and odd phrase lengths but embrace these and make them talking points you can teach from. Highly recommended. Each of the six volumes normally retails at around £11, so the cost of £24.99 for all six seems a bargain!
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