Gifts for... Pianists and piano-lovers | Presto Classical
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 Favourites, Gifts for... Pianists and piano-lovers

We've selected some perfect presents for the pianist, or piano lover, in your life. From the best books about the instrument, its history, and its performers to deluxe sheet music editions - plus a selection of outstanding recent piano recordings from artists including Víkingur Ólafsson, Daniil Trifonov and Paul Lewis, there's plenty to choose from.

New piano recordings

Víkingur Ólafsson (piano)

Our overall best-seller of the year to date, the Icelandic pianist’s ‘conversation between two composers across almost two hundred years’ won the Piano Category at this year’s Opus Klassik Awards and is highly likely to rack up a fair few more prizes in the coming months, with The Times observing that ‘each piece sounds a brightly polished jewel’ and my colleague James pronouncing that ‘this may be his finest recording yet’.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC, Hi-Res+ FLAC

Jean-Efflam Bavouzet plays Sonatas by Clementi, Dussek, Hummel & Wölfl

One of the more unusual contributions to this year’s Beethoven anniversary celebrations, Bavouzet’s programme of sonatas by the composer’s contemporaries was praised in Gramophone for his ‘keen intelligence and pristine musicianship’ and described by BBC Music Magazine as ‘a brilliant idea, brilliantly carried out’.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Stephen Hough (piano)

A finalist at this year’s Gramophone Awards, Hough’s recital of the Fantasies, Intermezzi and Klavierstücke Opp. 116-119 was deemed ‘one of the finest accounts of Brahms’s late piano works on record, one that stands head and shoulders above most contenders in an ever-growing catalogue’, whilst The Times declared that ‘this is never just a recital of beautiful music; it also offers precious consolation’.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Some absolutely jaw-dropping pianism here, as Hamelin celebrates the rivalry which sprung up between these two great composer-virtuosos in 1830s Paris and reached its apotheosis in 1837, when the Italian countess and activist Cristina Belgiojoso invited them to fight a pianistic ‘duel’ in her salon. The programme includes the multi-composer Hexaméron as well as Thalberg’s Fantasia on Themes from Rossini’s Moïse and Liszt’s Réminiscences de Norma.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC, Hi-Res+ FLAC

Bertrand Chamayou (piano)

Inspired by his quest to find music to soothe his young sons at bedtime, Chamayou’s unexpectedly varied programme includes plenty of rarities as well as old favourites, taking in miniatures by Balakirev, Lyapunov, Alkan, Bonis, Busoni, Janáček, Martinů and Lachenmann as well as more familiar fare by Chopin, Grieg and Brahms. A beautifully-woven musical comfort-blanket for insomniacs of all ages.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Alexandre Kantorow (piano)

This one offers more of an adrenaline-kick: on his first recording since winning the Gold Medal and Grand Prix at the International Tchaikovsky Competition last year, the French pianist plays Brahms’s Rhapsody No. 1 and Piano Sonata No. 2, Bartók’s Rhapsody Op. 1 and Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody No. 11, prompting Gramophone to praise his 'ability to maintain clarity and poise at breakneck speed'.

Available Formats: SACD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Trifonov pays thrilling homage to three of the composers who flourished under the patronage of Sergei Diaghilev in the early twentieth century, with highlights including music from Stravinsky’s Petrushka and The Firebird (despatched with what Katherine described as ‘Nijinsky-like grace’ in her recent review), Prokofiev’s Sarcasms, and Scriabin’s Piano Concerto from 1896, which rounds off two-and-a-half hours of riveting music-making in a blaze of glory.

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Hélène Grimaud (piano), Camerata Salzburg

This rich and strange new recording from the French pianist takes its title from the Ukrainian composer’s memorial to his late wife Larissa Bondarenko and explores the connections between his music and various minor-key works by Mozart, including the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor and the Fantasia in C minor K475. Silvestrov’s Two Dialogues with Postscript completes the programme.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Just over a decade on from his multi-award-winning cycle of the Piano Sonatas (the final instalment of which was Gramophone’s Recording of the Year in 2008), the British pianist radiates wit, warmth and wisdom in the three sets of Bagatelles, plus three under-recorded, opus-less Klavierstücke in a recital which won Katherine over back in April thanks to Lewis’s ‘evident affection and respect’ for these ‘trifles’.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Grigory Sokolov (piano)

Recorded live during the elusive Russian pianist’s 2019 tour of Europe, this 2-CD set includes three Beethoven sonatas and the Bagatelles Op. 119, a selection of Brahms’s late piano pieces, Mozart’s Piano Sonatas K 457 and K545, and encores by Rameau, Schumann, Chopin and Debussy. There’s also a bonus DVD of a 2017 recital from Turin, which as James pointed out in his review back in May ‘all adds up to four hours of unfailingly riveting, stunningly eloquent, and powerfully moving piano playing’.

Available Format: 2 CDs + DVD Video

Igor Levit (piano)

Featuring some of the repertoire which the pianist performed during his extremely popular live-streamed lockdown concerts from his home, Levit describes Encounter as a selection of ‘works in which questions about love and death, loneliness and the possibility of real love for others are examined’. The programme comprises Busoni’s Chorale Preludes after Bach and Brahms, Reger’s transcription of Brahms’s Vier ernste Gesänge, Julian Becker’s arrangement of Reger’s Nachtlied, and Morton Feldman’s Palais de Mari.

Available Formats: 2 CDs, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC

Pavel Kolesnikov (piano)

‘Just when you think there are enough recordings of Bach’s Goldberg Variations, here comes one that makes the music sound fresh off the page’: The Guardian awarded five stars to the young Russian pianist’s first Bach recording (the product of a collaboration with choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker), describing his interpretation as ‘softly spoken but also extraordinarily eloquent’.

Available Formats: CD, MP3, FLAC, Hi-Res FLAC, Hi-Res+ FLAC

New collections

Wilhelm Kempff (piano)

Kempff recorded almost exclusively for Deutsche Grammophon throughout his six-decade career, and in addition to his many recordings for the Yellow Label this set also includes a near-complete Beethoven cycle licensed from APR and made between 1925 and 1934. The collection is divided into four ‘chapters’ – Concerto Recordings, Chamber Music, Solo Repertoire, and Shellac Recordings – and is supplemented by a 160-page booklet including new liner-notes by Gregor Wilmes and many original photos.

Available Format: 80 CDs

The Remastered Columbia Recordings

Drawn from the mammoth Glenn Gould Remastered collection issued in 2015, this 30-CD box brings together all of the Canadian pianist’s Bach recordings for Columbia, opening with the original remastered version and re-channelled for stereo version of the 1955 Goldberg Variations; includes facsimile LP- and CD sleeves, and full discographical notes.

Available Format: 30 CDs

A limited-edition 38-disc set featuring the Portuguese-Swiss pianist’s landmark Mozart and Schumann concertos with Claudio Abbado, an extensive selection of Schumann’s solo piano and chamber works, the complete Beethoven violin sonatas with Augustin Dumay, rare fado recordings, and music by Bach, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Ravel and Debussy. Pires’s chamber-music partners include António Meneses, Jian Wang, Ricardo Castro, Renaud Capuçon, and Gérard Caussé.

Available Format: 38 CDs

Rudolf Serkin (piano)

The great American pianist signed with Deutsche Grammophon relatively late in his career, and this 15-CD original-jacket collection brings together three of his major recording projects for the Yellow Label: 15 Mozart concertos with Claudio Abbado and the London Symphony Orchestra, Beethoven’s last three sonatas, and the Brahms cello sonatas with Mstislav Rostropovich.

Available Format: 9 CDs

This is Barenboim’s fifth complete cycle of the 32 piano sonatas, recorded during lockdown shortly after his live-streamed concerts from the Pierre Boulez Saal in Berlin – the pianist observes that ‘at no point during the last fifty years has there been a period when I’ve had time to spend three whole months just playing the piano’. Two bonus discs are also included, featuring the young Barenboim’s Westminster recordings of the Pathétique, Moonlight, Appassionata, Waldstein, Hammerklavier, and Op. 111 sonatas.

Available Format: 13 CDs

New Books about the Piano, Pianists and Performing

James Rhodes; Quercus; Hardback

Learn to play one of Bach's most exquisite preludes in just six weeks, even if you have never played the piano before. Pianist James Rhodes promises that it gives anyone with a piano or an electric keyboard and just 45 minutes a day the tools they need to learn to play Bach's Prelude No. 1 in C Major, even if they have never even touched a piano before. This inspirational book is guaranteed to soothe the mind, feed the soul and unleash creative powers we didn't know we still had.

Available Format: Book

Stephen Hough; Faber & Faber; Paperback

In this new paperback edition, one of the world's leading pianists writes about life as a musician, from exploring what it is like to walk out on stage or to make a recording, to tips from inside the practice room. He also writes about people he's known, places he's travelled to, books he's read, paintings he's seen, and touches on more controversial subjects, including the challenges involved in being a gay Catholic.

Available Format: Book

András Schiff; Weidenfeld & Nicolson; Hardback

This stimulating account of the life and work of András Schiff takes readers on an intimate journey, discussing a range of topics including his musical training and his thoughts on technique and interpretation. More than just a memoir, this is a compilation of the thoughts and experiences of one of the greatest musicians of our time.

Available Format: Book

Ernst Hanfstaengl was pianist, and foreign press chief for Hitler, claiming to have devised the chant of "Sieg Heil". When the two men fell out he fled to Britain, where he was interned and transferred to America. There he worked on Roosevelt's 'S-Project,' informing on 400 leading Nazis. Through newly declassified documents and interviews with surviving family members, this book recounts his life.

Available Format: Book

John J. Mortensen; Oxford University Press; Paperback

Keyboard artists in the time of J.S. Bach were simultaneously performers, composers, and improvisers. This book opens a pathway of musical discovery as the reader learns to improvise with confidence and joy. Even the most complex ideas are explained in a lucid, conversational tone, accompanied by hundreds of musical examples.

Available Format: Book

Maurice Hinson & Wesley Roberts; Indiana University Press; Paperback

This revised and expanded edition is a compendium of information gleaned from a combined century of piano teaching. Users will find helpful and clear definitions of musical and pianistic terms and performance directions, as well as information on composers, pianists, famous piano pieces, and piano makers.

Available Format: Book

Piano Sheet Music - Recent Publications and Collections

Oxford University Press

Designed for pianists at early intermediate level, this book brings together eight of the composer's best-loved seasonal choral pieces as piano transcriptions, made by Rutter himself, for performance or enjoyment at home. Clearly presented and laid out, the transcriptions also include the text within the piano score, for reference or potential sing-alongs. From the composer who has become synonymous with Christmas, this versatile collection is a joyous celebration of the season.

Available Format: Sheet Music

Bring some festive cheer to your piano-playing with this collection of twenty favourite carols and Christmas songs, ranging from O Holy Night to O come all ye faithful. Designed for elementary piano students, and including lyrics, the carols in this collection are arranged by highly-experienced composer and arranger Mary Cohen.

Available Format: Sheet Music

Following the critically-acclaimed publication of the thirty-five piano sonatas in separate editions, Bärenreiter presents Beethoven’s Complete Piano Sonatas in three volumes, edited by Beethoven expert Jonathan Del Mar. Each volume is equipped with a table of contents including incipits.

Separate volumes and a critical commentary also available.

Available Format: Sheet Music

This comprehensive volume contains 134 piano pieces from early intermediate to early advanced level, including Beethoven's complete bagatelles, various dances, sonatinas, selected variation sets, popular sonatas such as the Pathétique, Moonlight, Les Adieux, and more.

Available Format: Sheet Music

Produced in association with the Beethoven-Haus Bonn for the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth, this collection presents original works such as Für Elise alongside arrangements of orchestral excerpts such as the Ode to Joy from the Ninth Symphony. Beautifully illustrated, this handsome book comes in a practical landscape format.

Available Format: Sheet Music

This collection of original compositions and arrangements for piano presents pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach that will delight any pianist. Besides the popular Prelude and Fugue in C major from The Well-Tempered Clavier, it contains arrangements of such favourites as the ‘Air’ from Orchestral Suite No. 3 and the Toccata and Fugue in D minor. All pieces are at easy or intermediate level, with fingerings and metronome suggestions.

Other volumes in the series also available.

Available Format: Sheet Music

Over fifty internationally-celebrated pianists were invited to adopt one Haydn piano sonata each and provide it with their personal fingerings. Henle now presents all of the sonatas in three separate volumes. Volume One contains Haydn’s early sonatas, very much still of the spirit of the early Classical period. The preface provides comprehensive information on new findings regarding the authenticity of individual sonatas .

All three volumes also available in hardback editions, as well as versions without fingering.

Available Format: Sheet Music

This volume is a collection of some of the most popular pieces of music, covering timeless classics, film favourites and chart hits, all arranged for the established beginner pianist. Presented in progressive order, its contents include music by John Lennon, Bach, Adele, John Williams, Beethoven, Fauré, Schumann, Gershwin, Chopin, Ed Sheeran, and many more.

Other volumes in the series also available.

Available Format: Sheet Music

Play Piano for Well-being is a collection of music from a wide variety of genres arranged for piano solo. The thirty uplifting pieces are ideal for intermediate level pianists, and include composers and artists such as Grieg, Satie, Gershwin, Max Richter, Holst, Einaudi, Vera Lynn, Howard Goodall, and many more!

Available Format: Sheet Music

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