December 20, 2020
The Barber Violin Concerto is a relatively short concerto with a performance time of c.22minutes for the three movement work. A young Samuel Barber was commissioned by Samuel Simeon Fels to write a piece for his ward Iso Briselli, who - like Barber - was a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music. In 2010, letters between the three parties became available for public reading and revealed quite a story for the work.
Barber started working on the first two movements in Switzerland during the summer of 1939. He hoped to complete the concerto in the early fall to meet the October 1st deadline but his plans were interrupted due to the impending war when all Americans were warned to leave Europe. In late August, he travelled back to the USA through Paris arriving in early September. After spending a short time with his family in West Chester, PA, he went to the Pocono Mountains to continue working on the concerto. The first two movements were presented to Briselli in mid-October and they were met with great enthusiasm and ,after suggesting a substantial and virtuosic third movement, he took the unfinished work to his coach in NYC, Albert Meiff. Meiff, however, was less impressed and (with Briselli’s best interests in mind) sent as letter to Fels explaining that the work would need serious work, that the embellishments were not those of a modern violinist, and that if Briselli were to play the piece his reputation would be seriously hurt. He then claimed he was going to re-write the work to make the violin part more acceptable and that he, Briselli and Barber should meet to discuss changes. Barber obviously took Briselli’s criticism to heart and proceeded to write one of the most challenging pieces innthe violin reperatory.
When Barber finally completed the work, Briselli was disappointed with the final movement Briselli asked Barber if he would rewrite the finale; he could premiere it at a later date to give Barber more time if needed. He suggested possible ways in which the movement could be deepened or expanded; perhaps even changing its form altogether such as a sonata-rondo; that perhaps he might expand the third movement while possibly retaining the Moto perpetuo as the middle section and giving it more clearly defined structural parameters. Briselli felt that only then would it be a complete, first-class concerto.
Despite Briselli’s prodding, Barber was dismissive of his suggestions and declined to alter it. This was a big disappointment for Briselli, who believed that with a substantial third movement, the work could stand as a great American violin concerto. Briselli decided to hold his ground regarding the finale and chose to forego the concerto’s premiere and relinquish his claim on it. On December 14, Barber wrote Fels that, as he probably already knew, Briselli had decided the piece was “not exactly what he wanted, and has given it back to me.”
Then ensued a debate of pay between the two parties. Fels claimed that the third movement was far too difficult and impossible to play, and Barber claimed that despite this work being difficult it was only 4 minutes and he had another violinist from Curtis to play it and check the playability and practicality, finding it was playable. It is in debate as to whether the playthrough was meant to be a “demonstration play-through”, however Barber’s letter suggest it was for his own personal reassurance. What do you think?
Find the Sheet Music here
July 24, 2019
One of the questions we are asked most regularly by classically-trained pianists is “how can I get into jazz?” Someone uniquely qualified to answer that question is Tim Richards, who is not only a distinguished international jazz musician in his own right but one who, unusually, can explain his approach to the uninitiated. While many jazz musicians claim to have no idea how they do what they do, Tim runs regular jazz courses for classical pianists and piano teachers in London, examines and contributes to the syllabus for ABRSM jazz exams, and has written a number of popular and critically-acclaimed books on the subject, including Exploring Jazz Piano, winner of the prestigious Music Industries Association Award for Best Pop Publication.
We were therefore very excited to welcome Tim to Forsyth for a workshop on “Getting into Jazz, Blues and Improvisation” (Sunday 21 July 2019). In this inspiring, free, two-hour session, Tim covered some basic harmony and showed how it can be applied to constructing bass lines and jazz chords. He also gave tips to help with developing improv skills, using jazz standards and tunes from Improvising Blues Piano, Exploring Jazz Piano, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, and his more recent books such as the Blues, Boogie & Gospel Collection, all published by Schott.
More than 35 pianists and teachers took advantage of this brilliant opportunity to learn from such an experienced and engaging musician and educator, and left both with signed copies of his books and with a feeling that proficiency in jazz was now within their grasp – some even daring to have a go at improvising in front of everybody else!
We have two more fantastic, free workshops for pianists and teachers over the summer with Susan Bettaney of the European Piano Teachers Association, and Melanie Spanswick, acclaimed author of Play it again: PIANO – join us if you can!Below: participants improvise on Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues”, Tim’s own “Funky Two-Five”, and the Mixolydian and Dorian modes.
June 4, 2019
We’re delighted to tell you about two fantastic charity lunchtime recitals coming up at Forsyth next week!
On Tuesday 11 June (12.30pm), pianist Fiona Morganhauser plays a very personal selection of works by Bach, Chopin, Brahms and Debussy in memory of her mother Kathryn Whelpton, with a retiring collection for music therapy charity Nordoff Robbins. For more information and bookings, click here!
On Friday 14 June (12.30pm), Alex Winkcup plays a fusion of classical and jazz piano styles, including Earl Wild’s spectacular Gershwin arrangements, with a retiring collection for the Albert Kennedy Trust, which supports LGBTQ+ people at risk of homelessness. For more information and bookings, click here!
We’re also pleased to bring you pictures from last weekend’s wonderful piano teacher workshop with Philippa Topham and Adult Piano Adventures (Saturday 1 June) – read more about it here!
January 17, 2019
Ahead of our free workshop with acclaimed pianist, composer, author and educator Melanie Spanswick on Saturday 26 January, we take a closer look at her new series of books, Play it again: PIANO. While it is primarily aimed at those who are returning to the piano after a break, it is also a perfect course for intermediate and advanced pianists, who have had to make do without modern, structured method books until now…
FORSYTH RECOMMENDS… Play it again: PIANO by Melanie Spanswick
Not just “the perfect way to rediscover the piano”, but also a much-needed, structured course for the intermediate and advanced pianist, for use either with or without a teacher.
With so much modern piano tuition material available at the elementary levels, teachers and learners have often been surprised at the lack of similar publications for more developed pianists. Although an experienced teacher can guide a student through a suitable selection of repertoire and studies gathered from various publications, many would still prefer to work through a single curated course – and for the self-learner the need for such method books has gone unfulfilled until now.
Melanie Spanswick’s new Play it again: PIANO offers a careful selection of 49 pieces, printed in progressive order from Grade 1 to Grade 8, each making different technical and musical demands, which the author discusses in her detailed accompanying texts. For each piece, she offers guidance on suitable warm-ups and the most effective practice techniques, including tailor-made exercises, as well as advice on interpretation.
Those returning to the piano after a break may wish to refresh their technique by working through Book 1, while players who are already in practice could choose to begin with either Book 1 or Book 2. A third book, due for release in March, will offer continuing support for players from Grade 8 up to Diploma level.
And teachers, parents and learners who would like to work on their technique with the author in person can sign up for the Piano Workshop with Melanie Spanswick at Forsyth on Saturday 26 January! Book now via [email protected] or 0161 834 3281, ext. 204.
October 11, 2018
A post has become available in our sheet music and recorded music department. The deadline for applications will be Friday 26th October and interviews will take place on Wednesday 31st October and Thursday 1st November.
Further details about the role and how to apply can be found here.
June 26, 2018
They offered their insights into teaching and learning from Trinity’s new Piano 2018-2020 syllabus, with demonstrations, performances and training on pieces – including the option for candidates to play their own compositions – plus technical work and supporting tests.
Our thanks to John, Peter and Trinity, and to everyone who attended: it’s great when members of the audience actively participate in discussions as you did, and several even volunteered to perform the featured pieces, often from sight!
You can browse the new books of Trinity Piano Exam Pieces and supporting publications (scales, sight-reading, aural, etc.) here.
If you would like to join us for future events, keep an eye on our Events pages or sign up to our newsletters at the bottom of this page!
April 9, 2018
Get 15% off when you spend £30 or more on titles from the ABRSM Piano Exam Pieces 2019-2020 series in one transaction!
These new titles - comprising individual volumes for Grades 1-8, with or without CD, and the accompanying book of Teaching Notes - will be available from 7 June 2018 and valid for examinations from 1 January 2019.
Pre-order them from us now to take advantage of this fantastic pre-order discount and you will receive them as soon as they are published!
For more information, select any of the volumes from the 2019-2020 series here.
April 19, 2017
LET’S PLAY THE PIANO!
with Ben Richards
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Hosted by Forsyth
Saturday 29 April 2017
11.30am – 1.30pm
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We are delighted to be welcoming Ben Richards and his Meetup group Let’s Play The Piano! to Forsyth for the next in their popular series of events, which provide invaluable opportunities for adult pianists to perform – and for music-lovers to hear – a wide variety of music in a friendly, supportive environment.
This will be the group’s first session at Forsyth but they are set to be regular guests with events here every couple of months. If you would like to be involved now or in the future, whether as a performer or a member of the audience, you can read more about the group and this event on our Events page.
March 21, 2017
We were excited to welcome Mike Jackson - author of the Uke’n Play Ukulele series and one of the most popular Australian children’s entertainers and music educators - for a very special free ukulele workshop on Sunday 19 March, in which he had an enthusiastic capacity crowd of all ages from 4 to ‘mature’ playing along with him in only 40 minutes!
If you missed it but would like to join us for future events, please contact us on 0161 834 3281 or [email protected] to sign up to our mailing list.
March 7, 2017
We are very grateful to Elena Cobb and Andrew Higgins for spending the day with us on Sunday and inspiring so many of our customers to shed their inhibitions and start improvising!
Two of the UK’s finest practitioners in this field, Elena and Andrew are both pianists, teachers, composers and publishers who believe that improvisation is not a specialist activity for a few advanced musicians but an essential part of everyone’s musical development from the outset.
If you were unable to attend these wonderful workshops, you can discover their insights in their books, both of which are among our most popular titles:
– Andrew Higgins - So You Want to Learn to Improvise?
– Elena Cobb - Improv Exercises for Classically Trained Beginners
And if you would like to receive updates about our upcoming events by email, please contact us on 0161 834 3281 or [email protected] to sign up to our mailing list.
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