This website has been created by Ray Alston to promote practical and innovative rehearsal editions of challenging piano music, working texts which are the very antithesis of urtext, expressing reflections which have been developed over a number of years. They try to eliminate awkward page turns and textual inaccuracies, with new thinking in the presentation of printed music for advanced pianists; often radical and controversial, they could also have been called Piano Interpretive Editions as they are unlike the traditional copies to which we are used. With original ideas for use of the sostenuto pedal, they are free of charge and seem to work well with tablets.
Why do we need more editions? After all, there are quite a few available since these composers are now in the the public domain. It is proposed that many major works need a thorough reappraisal and that pianists and teachers might appreciate a fresh look at the layout together with some pertinent ways to solve musical and technical problems.
In the rush to submit a written work, a composer can hardly be blamed for not paying painstaking and thorough attention to the general presentation of his work, and it has to be said that editing and proofreading can be extremely tedious. How much more rewarding is time spent on the new composition!
The score can only ever be an imprecise representation of music — a truly complicated and intricate art — and it is so easy for errors and inconsistencies to slip through undetected. In reviewing these pianistic masterpieces Piano Practical Editions has been tempted to cast an objective eye at fundamental principles of music editing, and has been somewhat audacious in changing some key signatures (to eliminate accidentals and demonstrate key structures) and alternative time-signatures (to help memorising or to clarify metre). Some fingering has been added and hand positions redistributed to make passages easier to perform, or more persuasive — reference to which will be found in the appendices. Inevitably, by including tricks of the trade, there will be some “alterations” of the score, the adding or elimination of an octave, a slight change in the order of notes, using the pedals in novel ways — craft secrets in recreating music from the “dots”. Important changes of notation and spelling have been undertaken but always keeping rigorously to the spirit of the composer’s original intentions.
Although the sostenuto pedal had been patented by Steinway as early as 1874, it was only available on grand pianos and the most expensive uprights and the editor suspects that publishers and composers were loth to exclude music-buying patrons, use of this rare device possibly dissuading them from buying the score. However, in conjunction with the sustaining pedal it can be used with great orchestral effect — so much of the music of Ravel, Debussy and Albeniz, demands a bass “pedal point”. Apparently, the American pianist Abram Chasins played for Ravel and in response to his pedal effects in the Sonatine (presumably the Menuet coda) said: “Why didn’t someone show me that such effects were possible with a sostenuto pedal… how many more possibilities it would have suggested to me! Ravel certainly had the disposition and curiosity to explore limits of all the instruments for which he wrote.
The project will eventually include works by Ravel, Albeniz, Debussy, Schumann, Rachmaninoff and others.
Please help yourself to as many of these files as you wish… they are free to download; and do leave feedback and inform the site of inaccuracies of which there will no doubt be several !