The Virtuoso Pianist was only one volume in Hanon’s four-part piano method. Elementary Method for the Piano, written after the first printing of The Virtuoso Pianist, was designed to teach basic elements of notation, rhythm and technique. The second part of the method was a collection of 50 pieces first published in 1872, entitled Extracts of the Masterpieces of the Grand Masters for Piano, Organ or Harmonium. An assortment of works (mostly transcriptions) by Mozart, Beethoven, Dussek and other composers, the literature is for the most part unfamiliar to modern audiences.
The third volume of the method was The Virtuoso Pianist itself. And for the final part, Hanon collected his original piano pieces and titled the anthology simply Thirty-one Pieces in 4 Volumes. Each book was designed to be studied with specific parts of The Virtuoso Pianist: volumes one and two of the solo pieces corresponded to the five-finger exercises (numbers 1 through 31), and volumes three and four of the solo pieces with the rest of the technical studies (scales, arpeggios, octaves and so on).
The 12 short studies entitled The Delights of Young Pianists (originally published in 1866) comprised the first volume of the Thirty-one Pieces. Rougier wrote of them that “the insignificance of their content is matched only by the vacuity of their titles.”(7)
Despite this harsh assessment, Hanon’s The Dawn—the first of The Delights, the full score of which was published with Timbrell’s article—is virtually indistinguishable from the hundreds of other teaching pieces by his contemporaries. Simple, descriptive titles and naïve musical content are typical of similar pieces in collections by Burgmüller, Gurlitt, Heller and Streabbog.
The second and fourth volumes of the Thirty-one Pieces consist of his remaining previously published solo piano works dating from the 1860s and early 1870s. The third volume is devoted to his six transcriptions of arias by Bellini and Rossini originally published in 1871.
(7) Rougier, “Hanon,” 823.
This article is reproduced with permission from the authors.