Adventures & Accolades is a new collection of piano pieces for ‘the aspiring virtuoso’ composed by James Welburn. James grew up in York and studied at City University, London. As well as working for ABRSM, he is an active musician and composer, playing in a number of bands. James now has four books of piano music published by Editions Musica Ferrum with Musical Escapades, Reflections in Waltz, and Star of Wonder joining this new book.
The 32-page book contains 14 pieces for solo piano, the suggested difficulty being around Grades 2-4 level:
- Hopscotch Frog
- Magician’s Theme
- Celtic Song
- Footsteps of Pharaoh
- Rafa’s Lullaby
- Groovin’ Grasshopper
- Horseback Minuet
- Pinball Scherzo
- Aubergine in D
- Cool Cat Blues
- Last Goodbye
- Royal Anthem
- Serenata Toscana
In his introduction for players, James writes:
‘In [the book] you’ll find a range of musical styles, from classical to blues, as well as a whole host of fun characters’
In his introduction to teachers, James writes:
‘my hope is that this collection would inspire students to create their own music, which will ultimately lead to a greater freedom in musical exploration and enjoyment.’
I can empathise with James saying that growing up, he spent more time composing than anything else. I too probably spent more time composing than learning the music my teacher gave me! In that sense, this is a particularly good book for students who are also interested in composing because they too can feel part of that creative process. Some of the pieces in the book were written when James was a teenager.
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As for the music itself, then it does exactly what it says on the tin. There are a broad range of styles represented here, and like many modern collections, this isn’t merely a jazz book. The piece which really caught my attention is ‘Rafa’s Lullaby’ (p. 13) with its gentle LH accompaniment and arching RH melody. This is a beautiful piece and deserves to become commonplace in the piano repertoire. I also enjoyed ‘Last Goodbye’ (p. 26) and ‘Hopscotch Frog’ (p. 7). These pieces are well-crafted and the performance directions, markings and fingering are all useful and appropriate.
As is inevitably the case in collections such as this, not all pieces quite hit the spot. Despite its title, ‘Celtic Song’ seemed to lack an evocative Celtic feel, although the melody has a pleasing lilt. Overall though, the music is characterful, introducing players of all ages to a range of different musical styles.
On balance, I felt that the book may have benefited from a short introduction or programme note for each piece giving a little bit more background. I’d love to know why ‘Aubergine in D’ is so-called! There’s a little bit of me which wanted to know more, for instance, why Adventures & Accolades as the title? Students are often far more interested in the background to the music they play than we give them credit for.
It’s been a while since I’ve had the opportunity to review a publication from Editions Musica Ferrum, but the book is as a high a quality as ever. As with all Editions Musica Ferrum publications, the design and printing is superb. The music itself is complimented by illustrations but these aren’t childish as is so often the case in other books. This is a high quality publication, and I’d expect no lesson from Nikolas.
This is a pleasing and characterful collection of pieces which will appeal to students of all ages working around Grades 2-4 level. There are some tricky rhythms to challenge players, and maybe even four flats will push the limits of some. That said, the pieces are satisfying to play, and whilst not all of them quite make the grade for me, the standout pieces make the book a worthy addition to the piano repertoire.
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Adventures & Accolades by James Welburn, is published by Editions Musica Ferrum, ISMN 9790708147756, RRP £13.50
I was sent a review copy of this book free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.
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