Maurice Hinson is probably the most widely published creator of and best known editor of piano music anthologies. In the post-James Bastien world, it seems like half of the printed collections of classical music have the Maurice Hinson stamp on them. And who is better to curate these collections? Hinson, creator of the Guide to the Pianist's Repertoire has a vast knowledge, not only of pieces, but also of their relative difficulties and places within the canon.
One of the reasons I've always appreciated Hinson is for his love of American music as well as 20th century repertoire. Pianist's Repertoire is beautiful resource to turn to when looking for contemporary composers and he even includes composers who may not be proven yet, but who are contributing valuable works to the repertoire. Most pianists who have gone to a big university for their education should recognize at least one name in the book as a professor they either had, or saw roaming the halls of their school. That kind of meticulous upkeep is something to marveled at.
I saw Hinson speak as the keynote at the 2009 Minnesota Music Teachers Association Conference. He talked a lot about the importance of rags in the education of young pianists. He spoke of the many pedagogical reasons for teaching rags as well as their place in the history of American piano music.
I was a little to surprised I didn't find more rags in the collection he edited for the Alfred Masterwork Edition of Anthology of American Piano Music. It's got the "Tiger Rag" arranged by Teddy Wilson, and two pieces by Joplin (one of which is a waltz) but not much beyond that. In fact, this entire collection was a disappointment for me. If it had been labeled "the roots of American piano music" or "the heart of jazz" or something along those lines I would have been more on board. Maybe it was problems with publishers, but this collection is sorely lacking in the field of American romanticists, serialism, and the avante-garde, all of which are crucial points along the timeline of American piano music. Beside a number (too many) of pop-jazz pieces by Leroy Anderson, there are arrangements of "Somewhere over the Rainbow", "Blue Moon", and "Old Folks at Home" as well as four songs by George Gershwin, two from Ellington and Fats Waller, and arrangements of songs by Beiderbecke and Rodgers. Other composers who made the cut over some of the American greats include Stan Kenton, Nevin Ethelbert, Raynor Taylor and Euday Bowman. Copland is represented by "The Cat and the Mouse" and Romantic composers Beach and Griffes both get a piece. Barber's got a single un-engaging "Love Song" and Edward MacDowell has his obligatory etude-like character piece. Some interesting and welcome inclusions are Zez Confrey, Ross Lee Finny and Blind Thomas Wiggin's hard-to-find "Battle of Manassas".
This anthology prevents a skewed view of American composition as overly-reliant on rag motives, and obsessed with patriotism. I'm not trying to diminish the importance of musical theater writing or jazz on art-music but there are far too many pieces that hinge on quotations (and not in an Ives kind of way) or song and not enough that show the originality of American composition.
In stark contrast stands the Anthology of 20th Century Piano Music, also edited by Hinson and published by Alfred. I felt like American composers were given a better representation here than in the above volume. There are some duplicates, such as Finney's piece, and one of Griffes' pieces. Luckily this volume includes different Copland pieces as well as Cowell, Emma Lou Diemer, Lou Harrison, and Leonard Bernstein. Other non-American composers include Prokofiev, Poulenc, Ravel, Debussy, Villa-Lobos, Ginastera, and Schoenberg. I'm sure Shostakovich was a difficult exclusion due to space, although I wonder at the choice to go with so many French composers over Russians.
If I had to choose between the two, I'd go with the 20th Century book over the American one. They are labeled intermediate-early advanced although both include pieces on the more difficult end of the spectrum. Their printing is crystal clear with excellent editorial marks by Hinson, who helps to decipher some of the difficult and unusual markings along the way. The books also contain notes in the front with information about the composers and pieces as well as a breakdown of their forms.