Max Humphrey
Piano & keyboard specialist

Max’s top 3 beautiful piano pieces

"...it’s like this peace comes rushing into your soul, and I found that the more eloquently I played it, and the less I structured it, the more that peace was able to come flooding in".

Hi everyone. I’d like to give you some personal insight into 3 of my favourite beautiful piano pieces to play. Watch my video where I play all three pieces below.

15m
Video

Watch Max play his top 3 beautiful piano pieces

The first piece you heard me play in the video, is called ‘Forbidden Colours’, and it’s by a Japanese composer named Ryuichi Sakamoto. You may have heard this piece played in the film ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’, as that is what it is most famous for, and that’s the original reason the piece was composed.
I first heard this piece on a classical radio station about a year and a half ago, and it instantly caught my attention as I began listening. I fell in love with its beautiful harmony on the treble end of the piano at the beginning of the piece, as well as its perfect blend between contemporary slow jazz and various influences of classical.
Right from that first F#major7 chord at the very start, you can really tell that this piece is something special. I always find that when I play the piece, everything else I’ve got going on in life seems to fade away and I can completely relax and just play. I really hope that as you listen, you find yourself in a similar place.

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For me this piece really allows me to emotionally connect to the instrument so effortlessly, and I found that after a while of playing it, I was actually learning how to play it in such a way that I was putting across what I was feeling, through the piece, almost as a way of speaking through the instrument I suppose. Let me show you what I’m talking about…
As the piece begins, it’s like this peace comes rushing into your soul, and I found that the more eloquently I played it, and the less I structured it, the more that peace was able to come flooding in, regardless of who or where you are!
Then as it approaches the next section of the piece, it really helps fill out the lower bass section of the piece that you were originally missing in the beginning, almost like the two ends of the piano are having a conversation with each other.
Then as we enter this ‘jazz’ section of the piece with a key change from C# to F#, I feel it could be interpreted as though a third party were getting involved in this conversation, as the atmosphere completely shifts when this section of the piece begins, and for me this feels as though Sakamoto was trying to connect the two ends with this interesting mid section, at least that’s the way I like to picture it when playing…
…and then it enters this intense building section as if the two ends have been brought within arms length of each other, which then perfectly leads you to one of the last sections of the piece, where the two ends have finally been brought together and it has resulted in this beautiful, melodic explosion, an eruption of emotions all flying out of the keys. This indicates how they have had this sort of conflict as they have had to interact with each other.
This ‘eruption’ moment in the piece lasts a short while, before it all calms down so suddenly again, with a soft moment, giving you a chance to breathe as the intensity eases off. Only to finish off with a fiery harmonic minor ending. I made up the ending myself, as I felt it perfectly describes the ending for the way I have interpreted this lovely piece. I hope you have enjoyed it.

The next piece on my repertoire is called ‘Nuvole Bianche’ by Ludovico Einaudi.
Much like the last piece, this piece has become a part of my self-expression on the piano, and will definitely stay close to my heart for a long time.
It’s repetition, and sense of deep longing throughout the piece, really make it relatable to anyone listening.
I felt that as I played it, I was able to create a space for the listener to connect with the music in their own personal way. Which is exactly what I aim to do with any piece of music, so I hope you find that you are able to do this!
I love this piece, mainly due to its intensity and constant flow of simplicity throughout, which really adds to the depth and emotion hidden within it, only to be unlocked when you truly sit back and listen to the piece from start to finish.
I travelled all the way to Hastings to play this piece on my Grandmother’s beautiful grand piano, which really helped capture the emotion and feel of the piece, and was definitely worth the trip!
As you listen on, towards the end of the piece, you may notice, if you’ve heard the original, that I made some small tweaks to the notation, which then in turn slightly adjusts the feel and atmosphere of the whole piece, this was so I could fully capture everything that I felt was necessary for me to be able to express myself through this piece.
My additional feature becomes most recognisable as you enter the main ‘chorus’ section the second time through, Einaudi is a master at creating those catchy melodic lines through the piano, and his pieces, and so I thought I would emulate that by adding my personal touch to it.
The ending of this piece captures the entire emotion built up throughout so well, and continues to leave it where it started, which is one thing I find particularly amazing about it, is that there is so much depth and volume to it with all its different sections, yet it never fails to lose its rhythm nor its deep emotion, holding onto its original statement right until the very last note.

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Lastly, I have decided to play a piece by a lesser-known composer named Amelie, from France, with her piece, ‘Comptine D’un Autre Et’.
This piece has been with me a long time, being one of the first pieces I learnt, when I started teaching myself 2 years ago.
It holds to a very similar atmosphere and feel that the Einaudi piece has, but expresses it in a slightly different way. This is partly due to the different keys they are in, the Einaudi piece is in F minor, and this piece by Amelie is in E minor.
Though they differ in that sense, and some others, they relate very well in terms of the emotional direction throughout the piece and its similar rhythm and flow throughout. I believe this is to capture the same sort of approach that Einaudi had when he wrote ‘Nuvole Bianche’.
The piece starts off in a very ‘upset’ kind of state. Right off the bat, it is telling a story, perhaps a love story, but not the jolly kind, almost as if something tragic had happened in the relationship. You can really tell that as you play the piece, you have to be so delicate with each subtle movement from one chord inversion to the next, to really capture the intense imagery that Amelie must have been going for when she wrote it. I love to create the slow pauses in between its chord change to really add to that feel, as you will hear in the video of me playing the piece.
Gradually, the piece begins to build in its intensity and the atmosphere starts to rise. Until eventually there is this burst of melody which you will hear, the fast triplet section of the piece, and this is where the climb reaches its peak and everything is let out in one moment. I personally love to play this part of the piece, I remember it was one of the best feelings when I learnt how to play it, as I taught myself and had only just started playing at this point, so it was great fun to play. At the same time, learning this piece had also become a new way for me to let out my emotions through the piano, and this was a great starting point for my journey in piano playing!
Once this burst of colour has ended, the piece then does a full repeat on the next octave up, which I really feel adds to the point Amelie is trying to make with this piece, I love being able to feel and go through what the writer must of, and I hope I am able to give off those same feelings to you who are listening!

This has been my insight into my three current favourite piano pieces, I hope it gives you some enjoyment and entertainment throughout your day, wherever you are, I also hope it can give you some time to just sit back and breathe, and soak in some great music! Thanks for listening.

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