The ten pieces in the collection entitled Play Piano Play
are designated in the score as ‘exercises’ (‘Übungsstücke’ in German). Gulda originally designed the series for didactic purposes as one of the steps within what he once called ‘the long road to freedom’, i.e. a progressive forsaking of all the stylistic strictures of conventionally notated music, along with a freer stylistic approach. One can understand them as ‘exercises’ if one considers that they are very useful in providing classically trained performers with the means to learn how to ‘swing’, and in teaching them how jazz inflections differ from classical music. However, Gulda’s designation of them as ‘exercises’ is overly modest, and should not deter pianists from attempting groups of them in recitals, despite the fact that some of them require a certain amount of improvisation. These ten pieces are wonderfully refreshing, and demand to be much better known.
from notes by Marc-André Hamelin © 2008