During the recent Australasian Piano Pedagogy Conference in Wagga Wagga, I was lucky enough to attend a lecture/recital by American-based pianist Jovanni de Pedro who introduced an enthusiastic crowd to the exciting and fun music of French “crossover” pianist Friedrich Gulda.
I’ve already promoted a couple of youtubes of his music, but I wanted to explain why I like Gulda’s work so much now that I’ve had a chance to play some of it.
Gulda, who only died 11 years ago, was a 20th Century Austrian concert pianist. He was classically trained and performed on the concert platform to an extremely high standard before stumbling upon American jazz piano in the 1950s.
From then, he was hooked on jazz and shifted his focus to combining elements of jazz with classical music, infuriating many of the traditionalists.
In the 80s, he played with Chick Corea and Herbie Hancock and even faked his own death in order to enjoy the party and become famous while he was ‘still alive’!
His music is likely to strike a chord (pardon the pun) with many young pianists and I highly recommend his set up etudes, “Play Piano Play” as a great starting point to his music.
This is a work designed to introduce improvisation to classical pianists and he does so in quite a sequential and accessible manner. I’ve been working through my two favourite etudes – No 9 and No 6. Have a listen to them here:
No 9: “Allegro, dolce”
No 6: “Presto Possibile”
How cool are they?! Hopefully I’ll be able to post my own performances of these in due course!
The sheet music is available from Weinberger Publishing in Austria.
I highly recommend having a listen to his other music on YouTube as this is just one of a vast collection of works. I’m finding that the “Play Piano Play” etudes are just as useful for improving classical technique as they are for learning about jazz; in the very least, students are likely to love having them as something light and fun (but still very challenging) to play on the side while they continue their classical studies.
Tim Topham is the founder and director of TopMusic. Tim hosts the popular TopCast show, blogs regularly at topmusic.co and speaks at local and international conferences on topics such as pedagogy, business, marketing and entrepreneurship. Tim has been featured in American Music Teacher, The Piano Teacher Magazine, California Music Teacher and EPTA Piano Professional. Tim holds an MBA in Educational Leadership, BMus, DipEd and AMusA.