classissima.com, E.L. Lancaster, holiday piano arrangements, holiday piano music, Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, piano pedagogy, The Nutcracker Suite

A winning collection of Nutcracker selections arranged for piano!

An inquiry at the Facebook Art of Piano Pedagogy forum drew my immediate attention. A supermom pianist/teacher and mentor to her grandson, was eager to feast the youngster on Nutcracker delights and wanted some guidance. She had noted the child’s enthusiasm to notch himself into a challenging musical arena, so why not recommend a colorful potpourri of holiday arrangements produced by Gayle Kowalchyk and E.L. Lancaster, Alfred Publisher. (Designated for “Intermediate to late Intermediate Pianists.”)

The Nutcracker Kowalchyk Lancaster

Three samples from this collection of 8 compositions, I found particularly delightful:

“March” captures Tchaikovsky’s colorful orchestration in its opening choir of voices–just the right range in its showy TRIPLETs display! In addition, the selection has significant pedagogical value in the arena of supple wrist development and staccato technique. (A lovely light interlude is perfectly delightful) Add in an exploration of dynamic contrasts and a teacher can be pleased to top the menu with this holiday serving.

“Dance of the Reed Flutes,” is equally charming, particularly in its mid-section transition to F# minor. The rhythms are captivating, while a forward flexible, wrist motion is well applied here.

“Russian Dance,” in vitality alone, is a show-stopper, wooing most students to practice by increments to completion. It’s popularity is an instant springboard to learning, though it clearly falls into the “LATE INTERMEDIATE” level category.

The balance of pieces, “Miniature Overture,” “Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy,” “Arabian Dance,”(Definitely Intermediate level); “Chinese Dance” (needed inserted trills), and “Waltz of the Flowers” are nicely flavored musical desserts that should arrive just in time for Christmas, so why not indulge your students!

DISCLAIMER: While I’m not usually a partisan of ARRANGEMENTS re: the Classics, I’m a tad more tolerant of orchestral music transcribed to piano, that is, if it’s done artfully.

But were I to consider Beethoven’s “Fur Elise,” transposed and reduced to one page, I would not embrace such a journey.

Enough said,
Happy Holidays, and Enjoy the Music!

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