The Boston Music Company,
172 Tremont St., Boston, MA 02116.1992
10 pp., $3.95.

SPLASHES OF COLOR is a wonderful set of short pieces that challenge the intermediate-level piano student in many ways. Janet Mittelstaedt successfully presents these challenges with keen musicality in the three miniatures --"Periwinkie Blue," "Raspberry," and "Teal Green" that make up this collection. Her music summons the images her titles name, imagery that is illuminated in the cover illustration of a painter's palette full of color with a brush painting music, by artist Candice Lin. The scores are well printed, easy to read, and tastefully notated in fingering, dynamics, articulation, phrasing, and pedaling. (However, there is one mistake in "Raspberry": inverted numbers in the fourth measure, left hand). The challenge most obviously addressed throughout this set of pieces is left-hand dexterity: although the left hand remains the right hand's accompanist (with a momentary exception in "Raspberry"), Mittelstaedt promotes three distinct techniques. All three pieces demonstrate contrasts in mood, texture, and meter.

"Periwinkle Blue" is a dreamy, Satie-like waltz. Using parallel fourths in a steady, quarter-note accompaniment, the piece uses the full range of the keyboard (the left hand dropping from the middle to the lowest keys of the piano on downbeats while the right hand utilizes the full expanse of the "above middle C" keys in a soaring, more rhythmically complex melody). Since it is in C major, there are only a few accidentals. However, the composer has notated the pitches such that the student must read ledger lines for the lowest keys, octaves for the highest. The musical structure is simple and clear: a 16-measure melody repeated with slight variations (in choice of octaves, dynamics) with an extended final cadence. Students should find this piece easy to memorize and rewarding to learn, both musically and technically.

"Raspberry" is technically the most difficult of the three pieces. This rondo seemingly should have been written in the key of E minor, as the A section establishes that key. However, "Rasp-berry" turns out to be a rather refreshingly unpredictable work, with freely varying modes, textures, and dynamics. The left hand gets a good workout at a tempo "with spirit," executing various broken-chord techniques, with emphasis on developing the fourth finger. These are combined with scales and large leaps over the right hand to play high treble chords. This piece, written in 4/4, has a fairly difficult 12-measure section in C# minor that should test the student's reading abilities.

The set concludes with a Chopinesque beauty - "Teal Green." Continuing the tonality of "Raspberry" (E minor), this piece begins with slow, rolling arpeggios in the left hand, soon joined by the right hand's simple melody embellished with cascading 16th-note runs. The second section contrasts boldly in tex-ture, melody, and meter. (These meter changes are especially challenging to the student in that they occur while the left hand is involved in the rolling arpeggios - the pianist must change accents to affect the correct meter.) Now firmly in 4/4 (from the opening 3/4), the left hand retires from the eighth-note arpeggios to simple quarter-note broken triads and scales against a more active melody. The climax to this romantic miniature is the return to the triple-metered opening, where, with the help of una and tre corda, the music grows from pianissimo to fortissimo in a matter of two measures. And, as the meter returns again to 4/4, the music ends in a graceful climb to the highest E.

Rae Imamura

© Copyright 1993 by Piano and Keyboard magazine. Used with permission.

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