This wide ranging collection traces the development of the piano from its 18th century beginnings to the modern grand that eventually emerged in the 20th century.
1. Chopin - Minute Waltz
While it might seem like Chopin's title refers to the passage of sixty seconds of time, the 'minute' waltz actually lasts between one and two minutes. It's actually 'minute' as in 'small', after being nicknamed as such by the publisher.
2. Mozart – Rondo alla Turca
Mozart's sparkling textures, structural clarity and unstoppable flow of indelible melody thrillingly combine to produce the very epitome of a classical composer in 'Rondo alla Turca'.
3. Beethoven - Für Elise
'Für Elise' is undoubtedly one of Beethoven’s most famous works. It seems almost strange then that, at the time it was composed, the piece was relatively incidental.
4. Liszt – Liebestraum
The gentler side of Liszt’s nature is reflected in the floating textures of ‘Liebestraum No. 3’, a song transcription so sublime that it sounds like a piano original.
5. Debussy – Clair de lune
Debussy’s Suite bergamasque is made up of four movements, of which his beautiful Clair de lune is the third. The relaxing music is inspired by a poem, written by French poet Paul Verlaine.
6. Debussy – The girl with the flaxen hair
Balmy and relaxing, The Girl with the Flaxen Hair is the eighth piece from his Préludes for solo piano. The recording from the late Dame Moura Lympany is gorgeous, bringing out the warm tones of the music.
7. Satie - Gymnopédie No. 1
'Gymnopédie No. 1' paved the way for hundreds of similarly exquisitely detailed miniatures in which the smallest of gestures assume the greatest importance.
8. Dvořák – Humoresque
Bohemia’s most celebrated composer Antonín Dvořák, is at his most enchantingly domestic in his famous Humoresque.
9. Mendelssohn – Venetian Gondola Song
The gentle rocking ‘Venetian Gondola Song’ is an example of what is possible with more subtle responsive hammer and pedal mechanisms emerging in the Romantic era.
10. Schumann – Traümerei from Kinderszenen
Schumann’s Kinderszenen are a bittersweet collection of piano miniatures covering themes like games of chase, night-time terrors and bedtime stories. ‘Traumerei’ paints a musical picture of peaceful childhood dreams and has become one of the composer’s best-known works.
11. Schubert – No. 3 from Six Moments Musicaux
The balletic ‘Moment Musical in F Minor’ hints at the exotic Near East.
12. Schubert – Impromptu Op. 90 No. 3
If you listen to the chords of Schubert’s Impromptu No.2, you’ll hear that they follow the same progression – admittedly a fairly common one – as those from the classic 1950s song. They were both part of a set of four written just a year before Schubert died.
13. Brahms – Rhapsody in G minor
‘Rhapsody in G minor’ hints at the ziguener ‘gypsy’ style that was then, in the 19th century, all the rage.
14. Chopin – Nocturne No. 2 in E flat, Op 9 No. 2
As with the concertos, this particular nocturne was composed around 1830, when Chopin was in his early twenties. It was a hugely productive time for the young composer, when his creative juices were at full spate.
15. Grieg – Wedding Day at Troldhaugen
Norway’s principal torchbearer Edvard Grieg distils the very essence of this home country in the indelible ‘Wedding Day at Troldhaugen’
16. Rachmaninov – Prelude in C sharp minor
Sergey Rachmaninov belongs to a slightly later period, the Romantic impulse is no less strong in the music. His ‘Prelude in C sharp minor’ is one of the most famous pieces of piano music ever written.
17. Moszkowski – La Jongleuse
This colourful miniature made Moszkowski the toast of the touring virtuoso circuit in his late 19th century heyday.
18. Albéniz – Sevilla
The great Nationalist composer Isaac Albéniz’ ‘Sevilla’ oozes Hispanic authenticity in Sevilla.
19. Liszt – La Campanella
Literally meaning ‘little bell’ in Italian, La Campanella borrows its melody from the final movement of Paganini’s Violin Concerto No.2, in which the tune is accompanied with a handbell.
20. Debussy – Golliwog’s cakewalk
Debussy lets his hair down, most memorably in the ‘Golliwog’s cakewalk’, a knockabout miniature which brings his enchanting Children’s Corner to a hilarious conclusion.
21. Rimsky-Korsakov – Flight of the Bumble-Bee
The darting colours and fleet-fingered fantasy of Flight of the Bumble-Bee encapsulates Rimsky Korsakov’s distinct brand of Russianness to a tee.