The Okanagan Opus Series
By Ernst Schneider
The Okanagan Opus Series draws on the life and music of renowned Canadian composer, Ernst Schneider. The works within The Okanagan Opus Series have been organized by level and/or themes; a broad range of styles have been included. The pieces within the series demonstrate Schneider’s creative genius and his response and love of both his musical and natural surroundings – especially his beloved Okanagan Valley.
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- Opus 1 or The Five Moods of Ogopogo are teaching pieces for intermediate pianists aimed at developing independence of the two hands through various forms of touch and shifting of melodic lines. While the pieces contain some contemporary idioms such as fragments of different modes, polytonality and small chord clusters, they are relatively conservative, intending to provide an introduction to contemporary music. Image the feelings Ogopogo is experiencing in each of these wonderful character pieces and strive to capture this that mood as you play.
- Opus 2 or The Piano Solos for One (either) Hand includes 4 delightful works for one hand which are also unique in that each work may be played by either hand. Titles include: Osoyoos, Cradle Song, Adagio for One Hand and No. 3 (students are encouraged to create the title for this work) from Twelve Easy Pieces.
- Opus 3 includes 5 charming elementary piano solos in a broad range of styles and modalities. Students will love the folksong arrangement of If I were a Little Bird, as well as creating the titles for 2 works from Twelve Easy Pieces. Other works include: A Little Story (character piece), On the Move (etude) and Dreaming (a dreamy and appealing character piece).
- Opus 4 includes 5 delightful late elementary piano solos in a broad range of styles and modalities. Students will love the animal themes of Swans on the Okanagan Lake and The Little Gray Mouse, as well as creating the titles for 2 works from Twelve Easy Pieces. The collection also includes Hiking to the Skaha Bluffs a scampering character a piece.
- The Opus 5 collection includes 3 wonderful piano solos in a broad range of styles and modalities. The Little Brown Frog is an appealing character piece filled with energy – a real crowd pleaser! Waltz is an excellent introduction to this romantic style – all ages will love it! A Little Game rounds off this collection in a virtuosic yet approachable toccata style.
- The Opus 6 collection includes 3 wonderful piano solos for intermediate students. Bavarian Cradle Song is an appealing arrangement of a Bavarian Cradle song. The folk song melody is completely retained and set against leggiero triplet figures. The second lullaby, A Cradle Song, is charming with gently rocking features to lull the child to sleep. The final work is a relaxed, easy-going work with changing metre. The varied articulation, syncopations and appealing harmonies combine to create an attractive and expressive work. Excellent performance or examination material.
- The Opus 7 collection is a set of 2 wonderful piano solos for late intermediate pianists. Visiting the Mountain King Nine is a delightful nod to the Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg, who wrote two orchestral suites called Peer Gynt Suite I and Suite II. The second solo is another work for which the performer should create the title. It is an attractive, energetic, dance-like piece which gallops about the keyboard. Both works are ‘must-play’ pieces.
- The Opus 8 collection is a set of 2 contrasting piano solos for early advancing performers. The March is a virtuosic toccata style work – an excellent recital piece! The Prelude is a slow, very expressive and beautiful work.
- Night (Opus 9) is an advanced piano solo which should be played with a good deal of flexibility. Night is an excellent work for recital, festival and examination with its beautiful imagery and technical requirements.
- Jasmine (Opus 10) is a beautiful piece written for one of Schneider’s students (her name was Jasmine) who was preparing her grade 10 examination. Jasmine requires careful voicing and balance, and should be played with expression and flexibility.
- Homage to S.R. (Opus 11) was written in response to Schneider’s admiration and love of Sergei Rachmaninoff’s music. Rachmaninoff was a Russian composer, virtuoso pianist, and conductor of the late Romantic period. He was born in 1873 and died in 1943. His music is full of many beautiful melodic lines and bold, big chords. If you listen to some of his music, you’ll soon recognize some themes in this piece. Play Homage with conviction and some rubato, while the Adagio requires expression and gentleness.
Acknowledgement: Special thanks to the SOCAN Foundation for financial support in the production of this series.