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Heartetudes: Four Intermediate to Advanced Level Piano Solos. (Keyboard).

Heartetudes: Four Intermediate to Advanced Level Piano Solos, by Seymour Bernstein. The Willis Music Company, (P.O. Box 548, Florence, KY 41022-0548), 1998. 12 pp., $4.95. Moderately difficult.

Upon first reading through this new set of new etudes by the distinguished American composer Seymour Bernstein, one is immediately struck by the beauty of these works called etudes. In fact, to a large extent, these etudes deal with problems that are more musical in nature than technical. Using the definition of an etude as "any musical composition intended as a basis for improvement of the performer," Bernstein proceeds to create compositions that ultimately test the player's musicality as much as his technical prowess. Indeed, in the introductory remarks, Bernstein states that his "overall intent was to use technique as a means towards musical ends." That's not to say that the technical challenges aren't formidable; the last etude, Of Good and Evil has some treacherous finger-twisting passages that require the skills of an advanced performer. But it would be wrong to say that the technical difficulties are greater than the musical difficulties. And to my mind, therein lies the real beauty of these wonderful new works, for Bernstein demonstrates that technique cannot be separated from music.

Heartetudes consists of four pieces, each progressively more difficult, that are studies in compositional development. A motive consisting of a descending seventh followed by a descending sixth appearing in the first piece, The Stubborn Donkey, reappears in all four of the etudes. In fact, the inversion of these intervals forms the basis of the entire accompaniment for Wistful Memories, and the bluesy Swingetude is based almost exclusively on these intervals. Although certainly not necessary, performance of these etudes as a complete set would make a wonderful addition to any recital and could be performed by students of differing levels in one's own studio.

Strong rhythmic skills and a good sense of pulse are certainly prerequisites for a convincing performance of all these etudes. This is particularly evident in Of Good and Evil which lacks bar-lines. Great strength also is required for the huge climax that occurs in the middle of the piece. (One note: There appears to be a bass clef sign missing in the left hand in the last line of Of Good and Evil.)

This new set of etudes by Bernstein constitutes a fine addition to our teaching and performing repertoire. They are certain to be successful from the viewpoint of the student and teacher, and perhaps most importantly, the audience. We are in need of contemporary music that is readily accessible to audiences.

James Litzelman, Arlington, Virginia.
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Author:Litzelman, James
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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