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24 Mar 2020

Musicians At Home: Things To Do In Isolation

Planet Earth

It’s impressive how an entire world can change within just a few months. Economies fall, health systems collapse and people get locked down for weeks. And all that happens not because of some huge extraterrestrial invasion or Godzilla attack but because of a tiny yet forceful virus.

While people worldwide have already learnt to wash hands well, keep the social distance and not panic, most of them have faced a problem of self-organizing at home. It’s not that easy to give up all the usual activities at once and get isolated in a limited space for an unknown period of time that is still quite vague in predictions. In order to alleviate this consequence, a lot of companies and organizations re-arranged the way of providing their services. Some TV streaming or educational platforms, for example, offer a month-long subscription free of charge to all their customers stuck at home. 

Now that most gigs and concerts are cancelled, big artists and concert halls try to transfer the performances into the digital format. Thus, noted pianist Denis Matsuev gave a live concert in Tchaikovsky Concert Hall in Moscow with zero viewers in person but thousands of viewers online. A lot of music bands and solo artists that also have to keep the quarantine do online streams of some songs or entire gigs. Common people in Italy and Spain get on the balconies to play music in unison with other musicians of the street block.

Fortunately, today if you have a PC and Internet connection, a lot of useful activities become available to you right in your room. Musicians are no exception to the rule of self-isolation but they have a little bonus with them – creative work. If you are a player, composer, arranger or music enthusiast of any kind, there’s quite a lot to do at home. Why not try to spend this time with profit?

Now that you’ve probably slept for as long as you hadn’t slept in a long time, time to start fighting procrastination and get down to doing things. We’ve made a short list of ideas you could use as guidelines to a rewarding quarantine time. 

Practice/Compose. Your major activity, of course. When else will you have so much time for it? You could also do joint Skype rehearsals and even little concerts with your colleagues (we hope your neighbors won’t hate you too much for that). There’s a chance that by the time it all ends, you will emerge as a different-level player already! Composers can focus on long-time works and commissions and finish minor pieces they had been putting on a shelf.

Advanced pieces. Remember that nasty complicated movement you could never handle? Time has come to conquer it. What about learning a few challenging etudes you always liked but feared?

Update CV. Having your resume neat and ready is always a good thing. Check if it needs updating.

Personal website. Take care of the main sections – categorize sheet music, update texts at the main page or bio, share your thoughts in an article, add more pics to the gallery and of course, upload more scores and audio samples. If you don’t have a personal site yet, consider getting one, it can be easily done for free.

Old scores. Check your earlier music works to fix the scores that often seem to have some little issues to correct. You’ll have plenty of time for editing those.

Recordings. Now anyone can become a successful YouTube blogger. Why not make a recording of a piece? Even if it’s not about blogging, it’s great for performers to have a look at themselves from the side, and for composers – to find someone who would perform their work on video.

Grants and contests. Search the web for interesting music happenings in the world to consider. Now most competitions hold the eliminatory stage in absentia by video applications. Visit our Music Competitions section for some options too.

Online collaborations. Enjoy communication in various music theme forums to find support and maybe even creative collaboration from fellow-stuck colleagues.

Artwork. How about learning to draw or to play a new instrument? Maybe you always wanted to add ukulele or a recorder to your skills? Now that delivery services work at maximum to help you out, you can think of a new hobby to take up.

Read. People often complain about the complete lack of time for reading. Now it’s there.

Tidy up, after all. Remember all those tasks you were eternally busy to deal with at home? Clean environment is believed to make a positive influence on the work process, even if it’s a ‘creative mess’, it’d better be fresh.

Now that you look up on the list, the labour day already seems quite busy, doesn’t it. We hope our little pieces of advice will make your quarantine more fruitful and joyful as well. Share your ways of making home time productive in the comments. 

Stay healthy and take care!

14 Feb 2020

Three Love Triangle Music Stories

Valentine's Day

Every year on February 14, we keep seeing a lot of music recommendations or make up playlists ourselves for the Day of Love. One could easily get lost in the variety of romantic ambient music for the occasion but sometimes you don’t need to overwhelm yourself in the quantity. 

On this day, we decided to focus rather on the stories behind the pieces that were composed ‘because of’ and ‘for’ love, picking three pieces that speak the universal language of love. Let’s have a look at them and get inspired right now. It’s time!

Franck: Piano Quintet

No doubt many of you played this piece but how many played it without knowing the story? Franck’s quintet is one of his most intense works in terms of emotion. Learning what lead to its creation brings more meaning and awareness to the performance. The Piano Quintet was composed when César Franck was 57 years old. At that time, he worked as professor at the Paris Music Conservatoire and that’s where he met Augusta Holmès. Augusta used to be his student attending organ and composition classes. Being a young attractive woman, she was quite popular among men who surrounded her with lots of attention and care, so Franck had a lot of competitors. One of them, was another talented composer – Saint-Saëns (44 at the time) – who even proposed to the young lady a few times. Being married, Franck was definitely out of luck on that battlefield. All the emotions he felt were poured right into this piano quintet, which is dedicated not to Augusta by the way, but to his rival Saint-Saëns.

Brahms: Intermezzo No.2 from Op. 118

In that famous tangle Schumann-Clara-Brahms, there are quite a few historical speculations and guesses that will never be entirely untangled. But a sure thing was Brahms’ deep love for that woman and the mutual respect they had. "Six Pieces Op. 118", Brahms’ penultimate work for piano solo, are officially dedicated to Clara and were published in their lifetime. Clara would read the tender lines from Brahms’ letters and listen to the virtuoso piano Intermezzo in A minor. “My Beloved Clara… I should like to spend the whole day calling you endearing names and paying you compliments without ever being satisfied…

Debussy: L'Isle Joyeuse 

The origins of another lovesong is based on another love twist that actually turned into a double triangle. Emma Bardac was a femme fatale for several men including Gabriel Fauré and Claude Debussy who she finally chose to spend the happy life with. At the time when she was married to the banker Sigismund Bardac, Fauré worked closely with her as a soprano and couldn’t help falling in love with this woman. He later composed his ‘L’Hiver A Cessé’ (from La Bonne Chanson) for her. But the woman opted to change her life in a different direction. Emma fell in love with Claude Debussy who was also a married man at the time. Well, seems that music artists were not the most faithful of people back in time. The two started seeing each other and spent a lot of time on the Jersey Island in La Manche. That’s where “The Island of Joy” was born, a beautiful lyrical work capturing the happy carefree time of Emma and Claude. The lovers got their divorces (Emma – easier, Debussy – with more drama), gave birth to a child, got married and with time purchased an estate on that beloved island of theirs. Now when you listen to or play this music work, it’s going to be much easier to envision and truly experience the joy of love together with the couple.

We wish all those celebrating Valentine’s Day a lot of mutual love, understanding and appreciation of the moment. Do not forget that going back to the history helps to live the full of a masterpiece and enjoy every note composed even more.



20 Jan 2020

Happy Beethoven Year

Beethoven 2020

January 2020 is not just the start of a new calendar round – it marks the beginning of the 250th anniversary year of Beethoven’s birth. So we can sincerely wish you a Happy Beethoven Year!

Even out of this context, Beethoven has been one the most performed composers and his music does not need much introduction. However, 2020 is about something more global, literally – the celebration will take place on the entire Planet Earth, as countries join the program and arrange special concerts, meetings, workshops and meet-ups dedicated to the great composer.

For example, Hong Kong will be featuring Beethoven music until May, performed by such acknowledged pianists as Lang Lang, Rachel Cheung, Vikingur Olafsson, Rudolf Buchbinder, and Nobuyuki Tsukii. 

It’s not only about people though. This year, the specialists are planning to use the Artificial Intelligence in order to reconstruct the famous hypothetical 10th symphony, based on composer’s sketches and Barry Cooper's version – a happening that both excites and terrifies many musicians, causing a lot of intrigue and polemic.

The House of Bonn, where Beethoven lived and worked, has created a special logo for the event, and encourages to use the hashtag #BTHVN2020 in the social networks to unite all the events that will be taking place during the entire 2020.

Below is the video about the creation of the new logo and people who have worked on making this year special. 

Video: New Logo for Beethoven Brand

MusicaNeo invites you to join the world invitation too and choose your favourite Beethoven pieces to play this year. Our catalogue currently counts over 570 works that include both original compositions and contemporary arrangements for all types of instruments.

Let’s celebrate Beethoven together!

19 Dec 2019

Contemporary Christmas Music to Explore

Christmas Music

It’s that time of the year that some have been waiting for since the last season. Holiday hassle is already upon us in its overwhelming emotions and expectations. What do you wanna hear this month? What would you like to play?

Christmas music has found its way in most genres including country, rock, pop and even reggae and hip-hop. It can already be called a separate genre of its own, uniting all music works that help to create the unique spirit of a merry holiday. No mater whether you are a carol guy, or you love losing yourself in choral classics, or maybe you can’t wait to put on Mariah Carey’s hit as your main December song, there is always a little bit for someone in the boiling Christmas kettle. 

Out of all the festive diversity we picked the pieces that are most wanted in December. In case you forgot some of your regulars, have a look at this short list to fresh it up. All widely loved while some have already become Christmas standards, and deservedly so. Some of the all-time sheet music favourites at MusicaNeo are:

  • Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! (Jule Styne)
  • Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas (Judy Garland) 
  • Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (Johnny Marks)
  • Last Christmas (Wham!)
  • Gabriel's Message (Sting)
  • The Christmas Song/Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire (Frank Sinatra)
  • Go Light Your World (Chris Rice)
  • Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen)
  • Merry Christmas Everyone (Shakin' Stevens)
  • Christmas Time Is Here (Vince Guaraldi)

These are just a few win-win compositions from our online archive that manage to keep melting the hearts and causing warm smiles when played every year, even many years in a row. The list of standards keeps growing with new titles and some of them are bound to become international bangers.

By the way, “A Holy Night” still holds the title of the most sought-after Christmas composition in our catalogue. And it seems there is no such thing as ‘too soon’ for it as it stays in demand far beyond the holiday season.

We know it might be hard to find something completely new and exciting out there in all this variety, so we thought we’d suggest you a few interesting contemporary music works published by MusicaNeo authors that will serve a good addition for both your holiday playlist and ‘performlist’. Below are a few popular compositions in this genre to navigate at MusicaNeo.

1. “The World For Christmas” by Anders Edenroth

A beautiful original song to explore for both choirs and small vocal ensembles, “The World for Christmas” is a setting of the well-known poem “Twas the Night Before Christmas” by Clement Clarke Moore. It expresses the global concert for our planet. The song was originally recorded and presented by the Swedish a cappella ensemble The Real Group. The SATB score and piano part are offered separately and are fairly easy for most ranges.

Video: The Real Group sing The World for Christmas 

2. “Sã Qui Turo Zente Pleta” by Luís Henriques

Here is a choral arrangement of an old Portuguese Christmas song composed around 1647 in a monastery in Coimbra. Luís Henriques preserved the pitch of the original manuscript and made a double-choir version for advanced singers. The possible choir formations include SSTB(A) and SATB. Below is the recording of this Christmas work by L'Arpeggiata and The King Singers.

Video: Sã Qui Turo Zente Pleta by L'Arpeggiata and The King Singers

3. "Weihnachtliches: Der kleine Trommler" by Bernd Gehring

“The Little Drummer Boy” is an American Christmas song based on an old Czech folksong “Carol of the Drum”. In his mixed choir arrangement, Bernd Gehring added German lyrics by Resi Gehring. This is a very lively medium-difficulty five-part choral score with an audio recording. 

4. “Coventry Carol” by Joan Yakkey 

Joan Yakkey’s arrangement of the Advent “Coventry Carol” is based on the 1591 manuscript of the work. The setting offers various possibilities for choral singers (SSA, children or ladies) and instrumentalists (flute, oboe, recorder, viola, violin). The piece is scored for choir and trio and comes with a performance license and a sample recording of the work by SAB choir. You can also have a look at another interesting Christmas arrangement by Joan, just search the catalogue for her SSA version of “Riu, Riu, Chiu” if you want something upbeat and cheerful to play.

Video: Coventry Carol SSA arrangement by Joan Yakkey

5. “O Tannerbaum” by Michael Silverman 

Michael Silverman is known for his worldwide-played piano compositions in a mix of classical, jazz and folk styles. His piano version of “O Christmas Tree (O, Tannenbaum)”, which is one of the most popular carols in the German- and now English-speaking world too, is also among the most downloaded pieces at MusicaNeo. Have a listen to this pure instrumental holiday sound in the audio accompanying the sheet music. We also suggest checking out Michael’s peaceful arrangement of “Away in a Manger” also available in our catalogue.

6. “This Is The Life” by Adrian Webster

Adrian Webster composes inspirational piano solos under the name CrusaderBeach. This is one of his most popular original works that was meant to become a universal composition to embellish a number of occasions including Christmas. If you want something in the style of New Age to accompany your Christmas days, this is the solo for you.

Video: Adrian Webster playing This Is Life 

7. “Four Christmas Carols for Recorder trio” by Annie Helman

Recorder lovers will be glad to discover Annie Helman’s set of arrangements of some the most loved Christmas carols. “O Come All Ye Faithfull”, “Angels We Have Heard On High”, “Away in a Manger”, “Hark The Herald Angels Sing” – all are there ready to bring joy to your families. The songs are arranged for two soprano and one tenor recorders.

Video: Four Christmas Carols for Recorder Trio by Annie Helman

8. “Christmas Album for Piano Four Hands” by Lena Orsa

If you want to share the joy of playing Christmas music with someone at the piano, there’s hardly a better set of curious pieces to find. This is a set of 10 original pieces for piano by Lena Orsa that are not hard to learn and are a lot of fun to play with a colleague, a friend, or a family member. All pieces can be listened to at Lena’s YouTube channel and downloaded as separate music scores at MusicaNeo.

Video: Red Cat from the Christmas Album by Lena Orsa

The sheet music to these and other contemporary Christmas pieces can be found in the special section of our catalogue that already sounds over 2K items ready to become part of your holiday atmosphere. In case you might need a different score version, feel free to get in touch with the author of the music directly through the contact form at the site, they are always eager to help and provide the type of score you want along with the midi files, if needed. More contemporary Christmas sheet music selections are also presented in the Featured Sheet Music section at the main page of our website, don’t hesitate to check them out too.

We do hope you will find the necessary ingredients for a perfect Christmas season. Our team at MusicaNeo wishes you bright holidays and new music discoveries ahead! 

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Image: REETZ at Pixabay