Recent Reviews

Latest Review:

Cosmic Wheel of the Zodiac CD
Margaret Brandman

Cosmic Wheel CD

Cinemusical Review

"The music here is beautiful and quite accessible."

"The current release is a very postmodern one that explores how music's quality can be subtly shaped by changes in the ensemble, namely from solo or duet songs, to choral settings of similar texts. The astropoetry of Benita Rainer serves as the texts for this transversal through the zodiac exploring the unique characters of each astral sign .....

Navona has together a beautiful little compact release that includes a beautiful booklet with the texts. The recording is well balanced here as well. The solo performances are quite beautiful ... both soloists present compelling, and often stunning tone in these often touching little pieces. The chorus sometimes feels a bit tentative in the dissonant components of the score, but otherwise provide some beautiful moments as well. Petr Ozana, who is the accompanist in both settings, proves to be the perfect collaborator. The music here is beautiful and quite accessible."
Cinemusical review - Steven A. Kennedy

Click here to read the full review by composer, educator, and music critic Steven A. Kennedy.


Sonograma Magazine Review

Una bona proposta, en la qual els músics s’impliquen i dibuixen espais sonors on hi brilla la creativitat de dues dones, Brandman i Rainer, que creuen en la força de l’amor.

Click here to read the full review.


Album Review Published in MTA NSW Studio Magazine

Review by Rita Crews

Earlier in the year, members may remember that Margaret Brandman's Cosmic Wheel of the Zodiac was premiered in Prague at the Czech Music Museum and featured in 'News from Members.'

The CD of these 12 art-songs is now available. Each song is devoted to a sign of the zodiac and there are two settings of for either solo or duet and the other in a choral setting. This extraordinary collection has been described as "a universal span, from each sign's deepest motivation for love, to each soul's most heartfelt desire for spiritual expression." This can be seen in the lyrics, written by Benita Rainer which describe the various characteristics of each star sign.

Gemini has "a mercurial desire for freedom"; Scorpio "will take you to depths you've never experienced" whilst Pisces is "the final resolution of the human spirit." The voices are clear so it is easy to understand the lyrics and the compositional style various according to those lyrics, from jazz to swing to classical, utilising modal and tonal resources with the songs being mostly through-composed.

The solo and duet performers include the melodious voice of mezzo-soprano Barbara Polásková and baritone Matěj Chadima accompanied by pianist Petr Ožana. Jiří Petrdlik conducts the Prague Mixed Chamber Choir in the choral settings.

Highly recommended for concert performance as well as for eisteddfods and vocal competitions for the choral versions, this is a delightful collection by one of Australia's best-known composers and music educators.


The CD is available from


Review from Studio Magazine
Vol. 24, No. 4, pp. 45-46
Nov 2018
Reproduced by permission Music Teacher's Association of NSW.

Sensations CD
Margaret Brandman

Sensations CD

Click here to read a four-star review of SENSATIONS by the Infodad team.

Rhapsodies to Rhumbas
Margaret Brandman

Review by Michael Morton-Evans, OAM
Presenter, Fine Music FM
Rhapsodies to Rhumbas 2014 performersAugust 2014

"This year I had the pleasure of compering one of Margaret Brandman's concerts at the Zenith Theatre in Chatswood. This was the first time that I had heard Margaret's music and I was amazed at her versatility across both the classical and jazz genres, not to speak of the apparent ease with which she moved into bossa nova mode for two works for the Mexican/Venezuelan Duo Deconet. Her solo piano works were reminiscent of Cecile Chaminade nearly a century earlier, and her works for both voice, saxophone and flute - both singly or together - were a delight. Personally I'm surprised that Margaret Brandman isn't better known or more widely played. All I can say is that she should be!"

Spirit Visions for Two Pianos
Margaret Brandman

Review by Meriel Owen
for ‘The Studio’ quarterly magazine. MTA NSW August 2010
Vol. 16, No. 3

For piano students of all ages, practicing is mostly a lonely, self-disciplined occupation, with the weekly lesson, occasional eisteddfod and/or examination performances being the highlights of sharing the joy and satisfaction of accomplishment. With these days of tightly organized school or work commitments, playing for pleasure is a welcome respite, even a luxury.

Playing duets is a lovely way to share musical skills, as is any ensemble exercise, and can be implemented from early years of study, developing sight-reading, aural and co-ordination skills.

Playing on two pianos is an even more exciting and sophisticated experience, learning to listen and achieve good balance of sound. The opportunity of working with two instruments is rarer too.

Margaret Brandman’s Spirit Visions is an appealing work, of intermediate difficulty, with contemporary harmonic subtlety, syncopation of Latin-American dance rhythms, and a wide range of timbre. Antiphonal passages make musical conversation, and the entertainment value for performers and audience is positive. Opportunities for sensitive inflections and nuances abound,

This is recommended as a useful and enjoyable addition to the ensemble repertoire, and would be ideal for HSC candidates.

The copy provided has a duplicate for the second player, and provides analytical notes as well as historical information inside the front cover.

Used by kind permission MTA NSW

Seriously Good Resources - for the Serious Jazz Student
by A. Cytrynowski

The life of the typical piano teacher is far from easy these days. Trained in the classics as most of us have been, we are now required to prepare students for examinations that welcome the modern and jazz repertoire - either as part of the prescribed list of exam pieces or as “free choice” pieces. More challenging still is the prospect of teaching improvisation.

Students are progressively seeking guidance in these areas, as modern sheet music becomes ever more skeletal and lean, requiring “fill-ins” to create added textures and harmonies for the music to come to life.

The challenging part for teachers facing this repertoire revolution is finding appropriate pedagogical resources that focus on the “how- to” of contemporary and jazz pieces. Which books exactly, best explain the vagaries of modal scales, of suspended 4ths, of chord extensions and substitutions in a style that both teacher and student can understand and work on together at lessons?

The good news for teachers and students alike is that there is a treasure trove of material, both theoretical and practical, for those wanting to explore the contemporary idiom.

Margaret Brandman, renowned Australian music educator, has again delivered!
Her books on contemporary music are a one-stop shop for anyone interested in the modern repertoire, but they are essential reading for the budding jazz musician.

Brandman establishes the fundamentals of contemporary music theory in the first books of her comprehensive library, The Contemporary Piano Method, Contemporary Theory Workbook and Contemporary Chord Workbook. Right from the start students are introduced to modern chord structures, chord extensions and symbols, to the Cycle of 5ths, to a range of modern genres such as Boogie, Blues, Bossa Nova, syncopation, and so on. All this is so refreshing and exciting for students who can finally start de-mystifying the music which they spend so much time listening to.

The more advanced jazz student is sure to discover pure gold in Brandman’s
Contemporary Theory Workbook, Bk 2, where for example Modes are explained simply but also in great detail. Nothing is overlooked: which modes are most suited to which jazz chords, how to quickly remember structural features of each mode, how to identify characteristic mode “moods”, (eg. the Phrygian tone colour is “darker” than the Dorian, the Lydian is brighter sounding than the Ionian etc.) These characteristics are eloquently demonstrated in Brandman’s Contemporary Modal Pieces. So many jazz tutors on the market present the modes with all their corresponding chords but fail to say a word about the tone colour of each mode. For the jazz student then it is often just hit and miss, as to whether the Dorian, Phrygian or Aeolian is used over a minor chord in any given context.

The deeper intricacies of jazz harmony are unravelled in books 3 & 4 of The Contemporary Piano Method. For example, the altered dominant 7th chord is deconstructed, re-constructed, illustrated and put to work in a range of effective exercises. All the indispensable tools for the working jazz musician are explored and explained in clear, plain English: root progressions, chords with complex extensions, the modal 7th substitute chord, chromatic progressions, polytonality and polychords, quartal harmony and much more. These topics seem to be woven very naturally into the contents of the various books like little threads of silver and gold. Revelations about jazz progressions and harmonies abound, and as connections are made, the language of jazz becomes less remote and mysterious, and far more accessible.

Brandman’s Contemporary Piano Method, Contemporary Theory Workbook and Contemporary Chord Workbook are a great resource collection for all students. They are indispensable for the jazz student and also a must for teachers who are seeking enlightenment in the area of jazz and contemporary music generally.


Read the latest review of Harmony Comes Together, from the Winter 2010 edition of Music in Action Vol 8, Issue 1 (Adobe PDF required)

Used by kind permission - Music in Action



Harmony Comes Together, Book 1 by Margaret Brandman (Jazzem Music)
Reviewed by June McLean for ANZCA’s Stretto Magazine June 2008.

This book is designed to equip students with the skills to write both four-part and three-part classical harmony, and to cross the divide between contemporary popular, jazz and contemporary classical styles.

Both British and American systems of labelling degree numbers and names, cadences, decorative notes and scale terminology are covered at the beginning of the book.

Emphasis is first on understanding the cycle of fifths, major and minor chord tables, and then root chord progressions. As students move through the book from traditional figuring of chords, modern chord symbols are introduced and form a link between the old and new systems of music notation.

Students are encouraged to play and listen to the chord progressions and interpret them with modern rhythms. Colour coding and graphics, in the opening pages, make for ease of understanding and remembering chord structure and voicings.

Writing of harmony in piano style is included, and examples are given in converting Four-Part Vocal Style to Piano Style. I particularly noted in this section the introduction of the bye-tone to avoid consecutive fifths or octaves. An understanding of the bye-tone is such an aid to students, particularly those who lose so many marks in their written examinations because of consecutives.

Combining sound with the writing of harmony is so important. Students must develop the ability to hear what they are writing to achieve good marks as they move into the higher grades.

Root position chords are followed by first inversion and second inversion, and then the most suitable progression of these chords. Sequences using falling fifths (rising fourths) are also included, as are the writing and recognition of cadences.

Of particular interest are the three melodies given at the end of the book with examples of a completed harmonization for each. Both traditional figuring and modern chord symbols are included.

Book 2 will include decorative notes, harmonic analysis, progressions using second inversion chords, scale-tone seventh chords, dominant extension, substitution chords, melodic decoration, suspensions and modulation.

Congratulations Margaret on producing a book that makes harmony so easy to understand for all students.

ANZCA is a non-profit examining body of the performing arts offering an innovative, exciting examination system

Harmony Comes Together Bk. 1
Review by Jane Meggitt
for Studio July 2008
Margaret Brandman has, in her latest publication Harmony Comes Together Book One, provided a text which, whilst designed for students, will prove to be an invaluable resource for all music teachers.

Harmony Comes Together is designed not only to equip the student with the necessary skills to write effective and meaningful three and four-part harmony required for current syllabuses but also bridges the gap to include the popular, jazz and contemporary music idiom.

For teachers, Margaret Brandman’s book provides a clear and logical progression for harmony instruction, ideal for lesson planning and perfect for the time-stretched music teacher. It will have a real place on the studio shelf for teachers wanting a source of reference for revision or confirmation of harmony procedures

Although Harmony Comes Together is intended to follow the earlier publications, Contemporary Theory Workbooks and Contemporary Chord Workbooks it is able to stand independently. Newcomers will have no difficulty following the text.

The key feature of the book is the gestalt approach to harmony, fostering an appreciation of the why and how of chord progressions in meaningful and relevant terms. The early explanation of the cycle of 5ths and chord tables allows the reader to readily grasp the concept and pertinence of harmony. This transports harmony from the dry and theoretical chore necessary for exams to a fascinating and fun arena.

The conflicting, overlapping and often confusing use of British versus American terminology is addressed. The figured bass and the use of chord symbols is de–mystified. Well spaced and laid out text with effective use of colour coding and graphics will be a boon for younger students. A welcome contrast to the dry conventional harmony text.

The contents flow easily and logically from chords and inversions to more detailed chapters on chord progressions. The reasons for specific chord selection with emphasis on the resultant sound and effect are refreshing rather than just recommending “what fits”. The demons of a student’s four part harmony exercise (consecutives, augmented intervals, doubling does and don’ts , false relations and so on), are dealt with effectively in a logical manner. Highlighted “Rescue Cards” give suggestions for trouble-shooting and rectifying sticky situations - a boon for teachers marking. Two and three part writing and piano style are included, but of particular interest are the harmonization exercises for popular songs – with answers. This bounces four and three-part harmony writing into the twenty-first century for the young student. The benefits and value of such functional tasks are axiomatic.

Harmony Comes Together provides ample exercises and examples for the student or teacher. Well spaced and spirax bound it is a pleasure to read and use.

I believe Margaret Brandman’s book will become a mainstay in every studio and I look forward to the release of Harmony Comes Together, Book Two.

Harmony Comes Together is published by Jazzem Music and available from good music retailers.

* * * * *
Music Teacher’s Association of NSW:



Hi Margaret,
Thank you so much for sending me a copy of your book, Harmony Comes Together. I am so sorry I won’t be able to make it to the launch. When I opened the front cover of your book, and started rifling through the pages, I almost wept - with appreciation, but also the deep ache of remembering my early years of learning Harmony – how lean and Spartan an experience that was!!

I was taught Harmony from J.A. Steele’s Harmony for Students – a criminally dull book with font size of about 3½, and so serious and constipated that if you missed a comma, or God forbid - a conjunction in the text, you’d end up drowning in a sea of consecutives. And I did just that, thanks to Steele. The other less serious tomes were still as dry as bones and acute torture to the eyes and mind. I even suffered through the much revered, Oxford Harmony – and can honestly say it would have been more interesting watching the lawn grow than trying to survive a single paragraph of that book. When it comes to 4 part harmony, there seems to have been a universal pact amongst educationalists (since the Baroque period) to be sad, drab and inaccessible.
But, you have actually thrown open the curtains!

For a start, your colours are a banquet for the eyes. The rich reds and blues demand attention and truly are very functional in highlighting important points- eg. the Sounds to Avoid section in fire-engine red, complete with evil cross-bone symbols. This section is so well set out, so easy to understand and so beautifully presented. Every detail is self-evident - given the clear diagrams and explanations: overlapping of voices, false relation, avoiding augmented intervals, doubling the major 3rd and so on. The colour-coded explanation of consecutives on p.30 is like manna from heaven! Teachers will be able to put down their red biros forever.

Your book really has the WOW factor! You explain absolutely everything, methodically and meticulously. The explanation of the different terms and labels used by both the British and American systems will be most appreciated, given the introduction of the new AMEB Music Craft syllabus.

I also really enjoyed reading the “emergency voicings” section for the problematic progressions - complete with emergency fire-truck symbols. There is something so very appealing and delicious about every page that it actually makes you want to keep browsing and picking bits from here and there. Quite a modern-day miracle for a harmony book to have that affect on anyone!

Congratulations Margaret. I will try, at some stage over the next couple of months, to write a review for publication that does justice to your ground-breaking book. It’s on my bedside table now – having just dethroned my current novel. These are obviously not normal times. When your book hits the shops, I expect traffic to stop, eclipses will transform the skies, trees will wind themselves around lampposts, and music teachers and students will be smiling all over Australia!
bravo,and best wishes,

Abe Cytrynowski


From Kerin Bailey 13/06/2008
Dear Marg
Thanks for sending me a copy of your text Harmony Comes Together. What an appropriate title!

Having long been an admirer (and promoter) of your methods – which in many ways mirror my own – I am still mightily impressed.

The presentation is superb from cover to cover, the layout clear, concise and extremely user-friendly – I especially like your colour coding and combination of traditional and modern methods.

It’s enough to make me want to teach traditional harmony again!!

Congratulations on such a wonderful effort and best wishes for the launch – sorry I can’t be there.


Visit Harmony Comes Together

Contemporary Piano Method

reviewed by Professor William Leland
New Mexico State University

reviewed for Muzine (Piano Education Page)

for Keyboard Scales and Chords

Designed as a companion scale book for all levels of the Contemporary Piano Method.

Click here to read
a full review.

The Contemporary Chord Workbook

contains information and exercises on all standard three and four note chords and altered seventh chords. Suitable for all instruments.

Click here to read
the full review

When Spirits Soar

for Soprano or Alto Sax and Piano

Click here to read
the full review