Expressive Etudes, Book Six.
Expressive Etudes, Book Six is the latest addition to a collection of eight books of etudes compiled and edited by Suzanne Guy. The subtitle for the series is Traditional Studies for Artistic Development at the Piano. Guy has a long, distinguished career as a renowned teacher and pedagogue, and there can be little doubt that her many years as a teacher have contributed greatly to the excellent quality of selections she has chosen. This is a most handsome collection that is beautifully edited and clearly laid out on the page.
There are nineteen etudes in the collection that cover a wide range of musical styles and are offered in an approximate order of difficulty. You will find well-known etudes, such as those from Bertini's Opus 29, Grieg's Little Bird and some pieces by Burgmuller, Czerny and Heller. But you also will find some selections that aren't nearly as well known--and these are pieces with which you will want to acquaint yourself. One of these is Nielsen's The Top, which uses, among other things, "small wrist circles pivoting around R.H. third finger." Perhaps you're unfamiliar with J.S. Bach's Prelude in G Major, BWV 902a; this is another piece you'll want in your repertoire of teaching pieces. Guy also includes a lovely etude by Czerny in G-sharp minor the only piece written by Czerny in that key.
A wonderful addition is the inclusion, right below the title of each piece, of specific technical and musical challenges found in the piece. This will be of great use for the teacher looking for that certain etude to address some aspect of a student's playing. With the Bach Prelude in G Major, for instance, Guy writes "two-part invention texture; R.H. held notes with finger substitution; contrasting articulation." Indeed, these are the very issues presented in the piece. You also will find a brief paragraph about each composer at the end of the volume. These contain some interesting information that might not be common knowledge. I've used Berrini's Op. 29 Etudes for years, but I never knew he made his own four-hand arrangements of Bach's twenty-four preludes and fugues. (I assume this is volume one of the Well-Tempered Clavier.)
At the beginning of the volume, Guy offers some practice suggestions that have no doubt come from her vast experience as a teacher. The last paragraph of these suggestions seems to be the best endorsement for why we should have our students practice etudes. She writes, "It can be frustrating to possess the desire to be expressive, to freely call upon a vivid imagination at will, and yet lack the technique to support such girls. Now is the time to hang a 'Do Not Disturb' sign on the door to your practice area. You are the master of your own evolving technique, one that leads to comfort and control when a specific expressive purpose accompanies every repetition."
I hardly can wait to get other volumes in the series, and I eagerly await the arrival of the remaining two.
Reviewed by James Litzelman, Arlington, Virginia.