Review: Five Piano Pieces for Contemporary Kids

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As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Editions Musica Ferrum publications, not least having recently reviewed James Welburn’s Adventures and Accolades. Italian composer, Andrea Granitzio has written a set of intriguing piano pieces, Five Piano Pieces for Contemporary Kids, which, according to the website, are for:

“intermediate/advanced students, with a child like feeling in the music, but none the less demanding from the performer.”

As you know, I’m sent a lot of music for review which means it’s easy to see the same kinds of things coming from different publishers, and occasionally, it can feel a little bit like, excusing the pun, ‘variations on a theme’. Granitzio’s writing caught both my eyes and ears because it really doesn’t fit into any particular genre. There are hints, but in a way much music doesn’t, these pieces feel original.

The Count and the Moon from Five Piano Pieces for Contemporary Kids

As the title suggests, five pieces are included, the last with three movements:

  1. The Count and the Moon
  2. Harlequin’s Gaze
  3. The Drunken Tightrope Walker
  4. The Dream of the Hibernating Butterfly
  5. Three Concentric Circles in the Water

The first piece, ‘The Count and the Moon’, is for me, the most accessible, an undulating lullaby in 12/8 time. At a couple of pages, it’s also one of the shortest, but it has a beguiling quality which draws both listener and player into a atmospheric landscape. It has a haunting, but peaceful feel and would happily suit a player of around Grade 5 standard. It requires some careful pedalling and a real feel for the soundscape world it inhabits. It will leave you wanting more.

Harlequin's Gaze

The second of these Five Piano Pieces, ‘Harlequin’s Gaze’, has a gentle rise and fall to it. It requires some flexibility on the part of the player, and once more, effective pedalling. Only one of the pieces in the book have a key signature, but there is no shortage of accidentals! These require real precision and there’s plenty to catch you out. Occasionally, some of the spelling of the accidentals feels a little odd, and makes some passages appear harder than they actually are. Of course, this has no impact on the music itself, but rather requires a lot of concentration on the part of the pianist. I would suggest this piece would suit a player of around Grade 6 level.

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‘The Drunken Tightrope Walker’, the third of the Five Piano Pieces, is, for me, the least successful. It has a playful quality, but I never quite got into the soundscape of this one. At five pages, it’s a step up from the first two. The composer suggests that the piece should be played ‘in unstable balance’, and at dotted crotchet=50, with plenty of demisemiquavers, the piece feels busy. There is a particularly effective ending, using grace notes fading off into the distance. Has the tightrope walker made it, or fallen off?

The Dream of the Hibernating Butterfly

The fourth of these Five Piano Pieces is a haunting soundscape, ‘The Dream of the Hibernating Butterfly. I really loved this piece, though it is by no means straightforward. Once again, the many accidentals present a challenge, as does the fragmented quality of the rhythm. It’s worth it though, as the results are mesmerising. This piece would work well for a pianist of around Grade 7 level, and at five pages, requires a good degree of concentration. It’s the kind of piece which requires real skill to pull off in performance, but audiences would be enthralled.

The last work included, ‘Three Concentric Circles in the Water’, is divided, as the name suggests, into three movements. The first has a rippling semiquaver part in the RH, contrasting with a sparse LH melody. Each movement presents its own challenges, and at eight pages, it would be easy to feel breathless by the end. The second movement, the only piece in the book to have a key signature (E major/C# minor) has a gentle, but jumping feel to it, the LH in particular moving speedily from low to high pitches. The composer directs that the piece should be played ‘like fingertips touching the water’, and it certainly requires a skilful touch. In contrast to the two pages of the second movement, there are seven in the final one, with cascading septuplets giving way to a LH semiquaver pattern in a perpetuum mobile style. On the whole, I didn’t enjoy this three-movement work as much as the other pieces, but it is useful to have a substantial work this kind which would suit a player of around Grade 8 standard.

Three Concentric Circles in the Water

Overall, I was very taken with these pieces. The first, second and fourth in particular, are enchanting and beguiling. I perhaps had two reservations. Firstly, in contrast to nearly all the other Editions Musica Ferrum publications I’ve seen, there are no performance/programme notes in the book, and the website doesn’t give much away. It would have been a real bonus if the composer had offered some insights into the pieces, and I think this would have enhanced, what is already a superb publication, further. Secondly, it is a shame that the title mentions ‘kids’ (I’m not sure what ‘contemporary kids’ are?) I think this is a mistake. Whilst I understand the intention behind this, it does limit the market. Whilst some pianists are happy to overlook this, after over 20 years teaching piano, teenagers and adults would be put off by this. I also think the use of the term ‘kids’ devalues the quality of the music inside. There are some stunning pieces here, but they are for all.

Despite these reservations, it is very useful to have works in a truly original style which suit players at the intermediate to advanced level (roughly Grades 5-8). I get the impression this book has been somewhat overlooked, but it is well worth the investment. I have greatly enjoyed playing them for my own enjoyment, and I am certainly no kid (or even a ‘contemporary kid’)! The Five Piano Pieces are well-crafted, and all draw both player and listener into an other-worldly soundscape. As ever, the publication is outstanding.

Five Piano Pieces for Contemporary Kids by Andrea Granitzio, is published by Editions Musica Ferrum, ISMN 9790801164650, RRP £12.00.

I was sent a review copy of these books free of charge; however, this review is my honest opinion as a teacher. You can find my Reviews Policy here.

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