At the age of just 16, Alma Deutscher already has her own Wikipedia page, having composed her first piano sonata at the age of five, and a short opera at age seven. A violin concerto followed at the age of nine, and full-length opera at age 10. Since then orchestral works, chamber works, piano pieces and songs have followed, in addition to three albums.
This book, From My Book of Melodies, accompanies the third album released in 2019. It contains 12 works for piano solo, each being based on a melody which first came into her head each year of her life between the ages of four and 14. She writes:
“I should explain: the age when the melody first came to me is not always the same as when I composed the whole piece based on this melody. Very often, I would note down a melody, and then use it only later, sometimes years later, when I was composing a piece in which this melody would fit.”
As a whole, the book is well-presented. As well as a brief introduction, there are programme notes which give context to each piece. They typesetting is excellent and pages are clean and uncluttered. The music has been edited by James Welland and others. I would be interested to know what and how much editing was required in the production of this book. The 12 pieces are spread over 78 pages, so for someone aged just 16, it’s a substantial volume of work.
But, what about the music itself?
The music itself is pleasant enough. It very much reflects the styles of composes past, notably Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and Chopin. The pieces are not without difficulty. These are complex works, the majority of which will need to be tackled by pianists of Grade 7 and above.
But, I have to be honest, the music doesn’t excite or inspire me. There is obviously a huge amount to admire in these works composed by someone so young. I doubt I could produce anything of this complexity! But they are very much pastiches of works by composers of the past. That will obviously suit some people. For example, if you enjoy Mozart, that I’m sure you would enjoy some of these pieces.
When I started composing, I remember a teacher once telling me that the things I was writing were nice enough, but I needed to develop my own voice. It hurt a bit, but it was good advice. I think the same is true for all composers, and for that matter, writers, artists and many other creatives too. I hope that as Alma Deutscher gets older, she too will develop her own voice as a composer. She’s clearly very talented with a huge number of ideas of offer to the world of music. The works included in this book will divide the crowd, but they are what they are.
From My Book of Melodies by Alma Deutscher, is published by G. Schirmer, ISBN 781705130988, priced £14.50.
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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