Preludio: 130 Easy concert pieces from 6 centuries. Edited by Martin Hegel.
Published by Schott. ED 22626
Prefaces are good places to start books. They help reveal the intended purpose behind the didactic material. Martin Hegel explains that his anthology contains all the best-known pieces for beginners in the simplest arrangements possible.
Well it’s true it contains much music we have all seen before and it immediately invites a question of why Schott thought this was a necessary book. They have already published fabulous anthologies of the Romantic and Baroque music, as well as books of Studies and Etudes across the centuries. Other publishers have done the rest. Since pretty well all this repertoire is to be found elsewhere, a book of this nature needs to be able to offer us a fresh perspective. I’m not convinced it does.
It arranges the music in sections of Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern and the idea is that as we progress through each section the music gets progressively harder up to a level for students who have been playing for four years or so.
Starting with the positives, it is typical of Schott’s exemplary style of typesetting with everything clearly set out and well fingered. This book is, on the whole, well edited with a methodical approach to what fingering is needed and which is superfluous. I did not read every single note in the book but managed to spot only one chromatic mistake (there is a missing B natural in Carcassi’s ‘Sauteuse‘).
Furthermore, there are some really good pieces in here. There’s some unfamiliar Cesare Negri and a great piece called ‘Chiara Stella‘ by Fabritio Caroso with five and seven-bar phrases. Both were unfamilar but better known pieces make a welcome reprise such as Ernst Gottlieb Baron’s ‘Trio‘, Ribayaz’s ‘Canarios‘, Cimadevilla’s ‘Vals‘ and Fossa’s ‘Lecon, no 127‘ with its campanella-like textures. As well as Smith-Brindle and Rak, there are some good new pieces too like Bruno Szordikowski’s ‘A View To The Aran Islands‘ and Leslie Searle’s ‘If I should give you my love.‘ There’s plenty of the usual: Giuliani, Diabelli, Carulli, Bach, Logy, Sagreras… it’s a roll-call of all the writers of that era who we have watched our students play countless times. It’s tempting, but perhaps with Bach, just a few dozen pages away, and frankly their music is not sufficiently meritorious to be included.
I had a few issues with with how some elements were notated, and saw odd grammatical rhythmical errors. Bormann’s ‘Broken Clouds‘ has syncopations incorrectly notated across the half bar and even Aguado’s 6/8 rhythms suffer from inaccurate expression which makes reading more difficult. I took issue with Martin over his decision to re-write ‘Lagrima‘ with open strings, thus losing the legato of Tarrega’s tune. I see why he did it – to make it easier, but it removes a key feature of the piece. It’s one thing to intercede with lute music, but taking liberties with guitar writers of this renown is dangerous; I would have omitted the piece rather than re-arrange.
I also thought the huge reliance on open bass strings opened a Pandora’s box of difficulties for students – already a repetitive nightmare for teachers. To so do and not even suggest where over-ringing is or is not permitted means that this book, without the guidance of a teacher, will receive all sorts of blurred readings.
As a one-book solution to an anthology covering such a wide epoch, it falls short on its promise. It is stronger in the earlier eras and weakest in the latter Modern section. By avoiding a chance to source better new material or finding existing arrangements of the best 20th and 21st century writers, this section is an anthology of missed opportunities. Those who have already purchased the excellent Romantic and Baroque anthologies won’t find much to add here. For those who have not, the first four sections are definitely worth a look, and there are seventy-seven pages of it.