Standard piano repertoire: What am I missing?

Yesterday I received an Amazon shipment that included piano books collecting pieces by Debussy and Satie. When these were added to my collection, I felt fairly satisfied with my holdings in terms of “hitting the bases.” Along with those two, I have a book of Beethoven sonatas, a Chopin anthology, Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, Gershwin’s preludes, the Peanuts theme, and a couple miscellaneous anthologies. What should be the next addition to give me access to a well-rounded selection of piano repertoire? Shostakovich’s Preludes and Fugues strike me as an attractive option, as do Schubert’s piano sonatas. But what do you think?

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Posted in music. 23 Comments »

23 Responses to “Standard piano repertoire: What am I missing?”

  1. Wilson Says:

    I would suggest a collection of Schumann and/or Brahms. I end up returning to Schumann again and again. They both cover the latter half of the 19th century rather well.

  2. Chris Says:

    Yes, definitely get Schumann and Brahms. Also, get the Dover book that has Bach’s three sets of suites, inventions, sinfonias, and Goldberg Variations—the music in there is more fun to play and (some of it) is more sight-readable than the WTC. Likewise, it’s easier to sit down and have fun with the Mozart or Haydn sonatas than with Beethoven. Schubert’s sonatas are a nice choice as well. With all of these, Dover has excellent editions for cheap.

  3. Adam Kotsko Says:

    How do the Dover editions do in terms of staying open easily?

  4. E S Says:

    You need something atonal. Schoenberg’s Suite for Piano or, if you’re feeling ambitious, Stockhausen’s Klavierstück. You might have to send away for that one.

  5. Adam Kotsko Says:

    I was eyeing Schoenberg’s Five Piano Pieces — do you think the Suite for Piano is a better option?

  6. E S Says:

    I’m not sure I know the five
    piano pieces. The Suite though is one of my favorites. I have a recording of Glenn Gould playing it that was taped from a radio broadcast and at times you can hear voices from other stations in the background. It’s really cool.

  7. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Yes, I love Glenn Gould’s performances of all the atonal stuff. I’m listening to the Suite now, and it sounds manageable, though I’m interested to see how the lack of traditional structures affects my ability to learn the pieces (particularly if I’m ultimately able to memorize them or not).

  8. Dave Says:

    For something contemporary, Philip Glass, ‘Solo Piano’ is a fun book to work through. It’s much more challenging than it appears.

  9. Adam Kotsko Says:

    Seeing the “Metamorphosis” titles in the Glass, I was excited about a possible Ovid connection — but turns out it’s Kafka. BLAST!

  10. Chris Says:

    The Dover editions are fine at staying open—or at least, about as good as other music volumes. You have to handle them a bit roughly until the spine has loosened up. I don’t find them to be much worse than Henle or whatever.

    If you want to play atonal music, Schoenberg’s piano pieces Op. 11 and 19 are better known in the piano repertoire and more fun to play than the Suite (which is a beast). A playable 12-tone classic is Webern’s Variations for piano. Another extremely enjoyable (and playable, and well-known) 12-tone work is Dallapiccola’s Quaderno musicale di Annalibera.

  11. Beau Jarvis Says:

    As an aside I recommend the website IMSLP.org. An excellent place to browse for thousands of pieces of sheet music in PDF form. It’s a standard website for musicologists and music nerds in general!

  12. E S Says:

    I think Schoenberg’s Suite actually does follow traditional structures. A lot of his twelve tone works do.

  13. Craig McFarlane Says:

    Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice.” It’s the only way to balance out the Peanuts. And both keep it moderately respectable having been key parts of the imagery of Arrested Development.

  14. Calvin Says:

    The above suggestions are good, but I’d also recommend looking into some Russian composers outside of Shostakovich; piano music really takes off there in the early 20th century. Rachmaninov wrote a couple sets of preludes and etudes-tableaux that are fairly manageable (and are published by Dover in one volume). Scriabin and Prokofiev’s late piano sonatas are also very beautiful (but pretty difficult). If you’re looking for some atonal music, you should check out Roslavets. He’s fairly unknown, but he pretty much pioneered atonality in Russia. I think his short pieces are slightly easier than Schoenberg’s, but they’re a lot more rich in sound.

  15. martin Says:

    Gyorgy Ligeti’s ‘Piano etudes’. Probably unplayable outside the dream state, but otherwise magnificent in their scope.

  16. erin Says:

    Liszt, ‘Years of Pilgrimage’

  17. Larry Bierman Says:

    A collection I enjoy is ‘FOUR EARLY 20TH CENTURY PIANO SUITES BY BLACK COMPOSERS’ from Schirmer’s Library of Musical Classics.

  18. ben Says:

    I suppose this is not really “standard piano repertoire” at all, but William Duckworth’s “Time Curve Preludes” are beautiful.

  19. Bill Benzon Says:

    Some Bartok, Mikrokosmos?

  20. Larry Bierman Says:

    Also, for survey collections I highly recommend the four volumes: The Baroque Period, The Classical Period, The Romantic Period, and The Twentieth Century, edited by Denes Agay, They are from Yorktown Music Press, Inc. and should be available at music stores, as well as Amazon.com. They have been a standard for years. Working through them you may discover directions for your own particular repertoire. At about twenty dollars each they are reasonably priced.

  21. Jacob Says:

    The Real Book or (my fave) “The Ultimate Jazz Fake Book”

  22. William Bell Says:

    Definitely some Brahms and Liszt. And maybe some Rachmaninoff preludes. I recently purchased a book of Mendelssohn’s “Songs Without Words” and have really enjoyed working my way through them (Op. 67 no.2 is my favorite).


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