publishing philosophy 


PPE is celebrating just over five years of publication, and is here responding to various comments, in particular how they differ from editions which first appeared about the time of their composition. Apart from being able to start afresh with an excellent score-writing application and a completely clean palette, I was able to redesign the layout without any limitations, including  paper economy, a non-negligible cost in the past. Always with respect for composers’ wishes I aim to produce clear working texts, and list below some of the basic principles which define it :

  • barlines — sometimes modified to draw attention to changes of metre — use of dotted barlines to show phrase lengths
  • beaming and time-signatures — sometimes modified to facilitate reading and memory
  • key-signatures — sometimes modified to reduce or eliminate accidentals 
  • phrase marks — often eliminated to avoid overloading the page — I believe that these curved lines should serve a more meaningful purpose than mere legato
  • spelling of accidentals — sometimes modified to reduce their number
  • note size — modification to underline melodic or harmonic importance
  • staves — use of one or three instead of the automatic two, generally with a maximum of five per page to improve spacing and clarity
  • page turns and repeats — layout planned to make this easier
  • changes of clef on a single stave — avoidance if possible
  • articulation signs — avoiding overload
  • rests — avoiding the unnecessary
  • fingering — avoiding overload by omitting the obvious
  • dynamics — there are sometimes too many — I believe that artists need more freedom to inspire individuality
  • sustaining pedal — only indicated when not obvious. As Debussy once said… “pedalling cannot be written down. It varies from one instrument to another, from one room, or one hall, to another.”
  • sostenuto pedal — First shown in Paris at the Industrial Exposition of 1844, the invention was not immediately taken up by piano builders. In 1874, is was perfected and patented by Steinway, soon to be fitted on all their grands and better uprights. One obvious commercial reason for not including the sostenuto pedal in musical scores must have been the thought of excluding buyers whose pianos didn’t have it. Debussy and Ravel certainly played such Steinways in the Paris salons. One could say that it took over 100 years for it to become widespread, and PPE suggests its use whenever possible — always within the confines of “good taste”.

Ray Alston  

February 2023

Chopin Études Op 10

An upload of the third volume (9 — 12) now completes the first book of studies.

PPE has completely redesigned the layout, spreading out the text for easier reading. Each étude has a short introduction and includes for what it is worth my personal fingering and ‘arrangements’. There is also an appendix following in the footsteps of Cortot, with a few preparatory exercises and ideas to help solve technical and musical problems posed throughout these amazing works.

Ray Alston

Ravel Ma Mère l’Oye

Many thanks for all the useful feedback; I have recently revisited my 2019 revision of Ravel’s Mother Goose, making significant corrections and improving the layout. This fascinating exploration resulted inevitably to a new two-hand arrangement, which I believe will make an exceptional addition to the composer’s solo repertoire. There is extensive use of the sostenuto pedal and glissandos can be found in a wide range of dynamics. Le Jardin Féerique is an excellent study for the magical timing of arpeggiated chords. My favourite is no doubt Les Entretiens de la Belle et de la Bête, an eloquent waltz with unusual phrase lengths, indicated with dashed barlines; it also features a ravishing and pertinent coupling of the two themes. 

Ravel often preferred the company of the young to that of adults and said : “Writing music to describe the poetry of childhood encouraged me to simplify my style and to refine my means of expression”. The contrast between Ma Mère l’Oye and Gaspard de la Nuit, from the same year 1908, is staggering, yet the fundamentals — melodic design, exquisite harmony and the evocation of enchantment — is evident in the two works.

Ravel — Daphnis et Chloé

l’Aventure de Pan et de Syrinx

I must thank a kind Ravelian sleuth for having discovered a small number of errors; a serious revision of the composer’s transcription published today includes the corrections.

I must admit that the piece sounds more complete with Ravel’s extraordinary orchestral palette, but it is nevertheless pianistically challenging and gratifying, with echoes of Valses NoblesOndine and Jeux d’Eau. In under 7 minutes of gorgeous music, there is some bitonality and 24 changes of key, and who cannot be seduced by Pan’s exquisite flute solo? 

Schumann Three Preludes in Counterpoint

a transcription for solo piano by Ray Alston

Nº 2 mit innigem ausdruck A minor page 1

Nº 5 nicht zu schnell B minor page 7

Nº 4 Innig A flat page 13

These are taken from Six Studies in Canonic Form Op 56, whose unfortunate academic title hides music of great beauty and originality. In an effort to publicise their worth they have been sexily renamed Preludes in Counterpoint. I have transcribed three personal favourites for solo piano — the two outer pieces, both lyrical and romantic, frame a mischievous staccato canon in the style of Mendelssohn.  

Schumann Humoreske Op 20

As you probably know, there is an early short section where a third stave shows an innerer stimme, an inner voice not to be played, just heard in the mind. However Richter, competing in Formula 1, does play the secret melody, and this version is included — it works rather well, methinks.

Debussy Preludes book 2 Nº 7

A reliable source has provided additional editing information; a new revised version of this divine prelude has been uploaded today.

Moments of exaltation evoke a distant land, shrouded in legend, saturated with exotic overtones — a subtly elusive and ethereal scene requiring great sensitivity.