May 2018 New Discoveries

My apologies that with one thing and another, I never quite got round to writing a New Discoveries post for April, but nevertheless, here’s a bumper edition for May!

Graded Pieces for Piano (Ludovico Einaudi)

Two brand new releases here from Chester Music of pieces by Italian composer, Ludovico Einaudi. Published in two volumes (Preparatory to Grade 2 and Grades 3-5), each book contains 20 pieces that have been specially arranged with these grades in mind. Clearly, some pieces have been simplified and in other cases, keys have been altered to make them more accessible to the lower grade pianist; however, none have lost the essence of the music itself.

Each book contains 20 pieces including familiar favourites such as I GiorniLe Onde and Primavera. Although both books contain mainly the same pieces, there is some variation between both volumes. Each piece is preceded by a page of exercises and practice notes designed to prepare pupils before playing the pieces themselves. These exercises, which focus primarily on rhythm and technique, are well thought through and complement the presentation of the pieces themselves. Also included with these books is access to the SoundCheck app which allows for interactive practice.

Both books are very well-presented and designed with a wide range of learners in mind. They offer an excellent introduction to Einaudi’s music at the lower grade levels and would suit children and adults in equal measure. My only criticism is that as with so many books these days, it is almost impossible to get them to lie flat without breaking the spine! Nevertheless, they are good value retailing at just £14.99 each from Musicroom.

Rendezvous with Midnight (Barbara Arens)

If you’re pupils are fans of Einaudi’s music, then Barbara Arens’s bookRendezvous with Midnight, containing 13 ‘Nocturnes for Teens’ may offer a them more pieces in a not dissimilar genre. Aimed at pianists of Grade 4 and above, this book contains a lovely selection of tuneful, heartfelt pieces, all based on snippets of text from poems. To my mind, ‘Looking Back’, based on a poem by W.E. Henley is particularly lovely.

I think that overall, these pieces are inherently satisfying to play and will appeal children and adults alike (it’s a shame they’ve been billed as being ‘for teens’). As will all publications from Editions Musica Ferrum, they are beautifully presented, and excellent value at just £12.00. You can hear the pieces and see the scores in the video below:

Piano Star: Five-Finger Tunes (David Blackwell)

An addition to the Piano Star series is this book of pieces by David Blackwell, all of which are successfully played without changes of hand position. You may be put off by the idea of ‘five-finger position’, and it conjures up nightmares of those pupils who believe that thumbs live only on middle C, but don’t be alarmed. Although the pieces are written in five-finger position, these positions are all over the piano, and even include accidentals.

There’s a nice selection of pieces here including original works and arrangements. I’m not sure where ABRSM see this book fitting in alongside the others in the Piano Star series; I’d personally suggest it could be used before Piano Star 1, although some of the later pieces are harder than those found in that volume, so there is some overlap. Some of the later pieces are around LCM Step 1, and possibly even Step 2 level.

Piano Star: Grade 1 (Compiled and Edited by David Blackwell and Karen Marshall)

Another addition to the Piano Star series is this book of pieces aimed at pupils of around Grade 1 level. It offers a useful follow-on volume from Piano Star 3, and contains 25 original pieces and arrangements by some of today’s leading composers of educational piano works. Of particular note are Nikki Iles’s ‘Just Chillin”, Heather Hammond’s arrangement of the 15th-century ‘Agincourt Song’, and Karen Marshall’s ‘Moon Walk’. As with other books in the Piano Star series, it’s a shame that by presenting them in the way they have with fonts and illustrations, ABRSM have somewhat narrowed the market. I think this is a great shame, and ABRSM would do well to consider publishing them in editions suitable for teenagers and adults. The material is, however, of much use.

Watch below as Karen and David introduce both these new two books: