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Mastering the piano with Lang Lang, makes Gramophone's 'look at apps'

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Five years ago, apps were being heralded as a potential future for cultural publishing. Some superb standalone offerings imaginatively exploited the potential of touchscreen tablets, and the best of those still hold their head up high half a decade on. Two superb examples came from Touchpress as then was (the company is now known as Amphio). Pianist Stephen Hough's exploration of the Liszt Sonata, complete with note patterns cascading down the page, multiple camera angles and in-depth commentary, was highly praised by us when launched. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony was the subject of a collaboration with Deutsche Grammophon which placed four performances – Fricsay, Karajan, Bernstein and Gardiner – together for ease of instant comparison (and has seen an extraordinary 1.5m downloads!). We last surveyed the scene in 2014, but, despite this auspicious start, the app world has since moved in a slightly different direction. Rather than a vast new genre of boundary-pushing products, apps have tended to become access points to something else, be it scores or recordings – though we'll encounter a few impressive exceptions below. Cost is probably a factor – apps can be very expensive to produce – and so too I suspect has been device memory.

Tido, from the eminent publishing house Edition Peters is currently focused on music for piano. Scores are reproduced with clarity on a calming paper-tint background, and a purple haze (rather than a line, thus recognizing flexibility in performance) moves according to what you're listening too – or, more importantly for performers, what you're playing. Tido has also partnered with Faber Music to produce Mastering the Piano with Lang Lang. The same familiar icons of ‘annotate', ‘play' and ‘metronome' sit below the staves. Given how many children have become inspired to play by Lang Lang, I can't imagine a more appropriate virtual teacher.