The Ice Palace (Two Pianos, Four Hands)

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by Ernest J. Kramer. 8pp. each part, $4.95. Appalachian Rhapsody (two pianos, four hands), by Randall Hartsell. 4pp. each part, $3.95. 12th Street Rag (two pianos, four hands), by Euday Bowman. Arranged by Geoff Haydon and Jim Lyke. 7pp. each part, $4.95. Alfred Publishing Co., Inc. (16320 Roscoe Blvd., P.O. Box 10003, Van Nuys, CA 91410-0003), 2002. Intermediate-late intermediate.

'Tis the season to shrug off some of the responsibilities of the conscientious teacher. Festivals, competitions and exams have given way to warm summer months. All the hard work focused on the "well-balanced diet" of technique, sight reading, ear training, theory and standard repertoire from the baroque and classical and "other" periods has been valuable and rewarding; however, enough is enough. This is the time of year I like to go out in search of new and fun ensembles: duets, quartets and two-piano works to give my students the opportunity to let their hair down and just "play around" with music.

These three new two-piano works for intermediate to late intermediate students are wonderful samples of this type of lighter fare. The Ice Palace is a lovely work by Ernest J. Kramer. Simple harmonies and a waltz-like tempo immediately bring to mind the image of ice dancers or a festival held in a magical ice palace. Playful articulation with staccato, legato, slurs and the shape of the rising first-theme melody in C major create a bright and fresh mood. An effective contrast is provided in the middle section with a lush, flowing melody beginning in A minor. There are plenty of opportunities for young students to explore color shadings, dynamics, articulation touch, shaping and character. A dramatic climax at the end of the middle section brings the listener back to the lighter mood of the beginning theme. …