Pedagogical works for piano by Samuel Adler
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Many new musical styles evolved during the twentieth century. The disjunct melodies, harsh dissonances, and irregular time-signatures, phrasings, rhythms, and notations featured in much music of the twentieth century were foreign to those accustomed to the tonal harmonies of the major-minor system. Consequently, new techniques and guidelines to performing and teaching this repertoire were in great demand. Samuel Adler is a prolific composer whose works include operas, symphonies, concertos, chamber music, vocal music, and piano music. Adler wrote the Gradus and The Sense of Touch to provide young students with a solid theoretical and technical introduction to the performance of contemporary music. The purpose of this study is three-fold: to analyze the pedagogical piano pieces of Samuel Adler in terms of their musical and pedagogical content; to compare these compositions with the works of important twentieth-century piano pedagogues, Bartók and Kabalevsky; and to propose Adler's works as worthy additions to the pedagogical canon. The study of Adler's Gradus set (1971 and 1981) and The Sense of Touch (1983) shows that these sixty-eight pieces are short in length but rich in musical content. The flowing melodies, driving rhythms, coloristic sound effects, and clarity of texture of Adler's piano pieces are appealing to students. They are recommended by music scholars, piano teachers, and pedagogues. A comparison of Adler's collections with Béla Bartók's Mikrokosmos (1926, 32-39) and Dmitri Kabalevsky's Pieces for Children, Op. 27 (1937-38) and Twenty-Four Little Pieces, Op. 39 (1943) shows that each has its own function. Nevertheless, Adler introduces a greater number of innovative twentieth-century techniques than either Kabalevsky or Bartók. Adler's Gradus and The Sense of Touch are valuable teaching materials. They contain a diversity of contemporary styles and systems. At the same time, these works exemplify Adler's expressive and eclectic compositional style. They are instructive piano works of high quality that deserve a wider circulation among piano teachers and students.