Review: Kerber (Yann Tiersen)

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Perhaps the greatest compliment I could pay to this book, is the fact that I got so immersed in playing the music, I almost forgot I was writing a review. Kerber is a brand new solo piano collection from French composer, Yann Tiersen, released to accompany his latest album of the same name.

This beautiful collection, inspired by places dear to the composer, contains seven pieces:

  1. Kerlann
  2. Ar Maner Kozh
  3. Kerdrall
  4. Ker Yagu
  5. Ker al Loch
  6. Kerber
  7. Poull Bojer

Seven pieces might not seem a lot, but be under no illusions, that’s 64 pages of music. The book states that:

“This exploration of the micro and macro has permeated through much of Tiersen’s career, and his new collection of work, Kerber, once again shows the vast expansiveness and intricate detail of his work.”

One thing which really impressed me about this collection is that the music is so obviously written from the heart. It occurred to me that a sizeable portion of the music I’m sent to review is arrangements, so it’s a great joy to receive such an original collection. The book goes on to say:

“This new collection is closely connected to Ushant, the Breton island located 30 kilometres off the west coast of Brittany in the Celtic Sea that Tiersen calls home. Kerber is named after a chapel in a small village on the island…”

It is true, there is a certain Celtic feel to these pieces, yet each is crafted in Tiersen’s unique style which transports listener and player to the exact locations which have inspired the pieces.

Ker al Loch by Yann Tiersen

It’s always a hard ask to pigeonhole music to a particular level, but I’d suggest that the majority of pieces in the book fall into the Grades 5-7 range. Like other similar music (Einaudi springs to mind), the works often look deceptively straightforward, yet take great skill and sensitivity to pull off effectively.

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Ker Yegu was a particular favourite of mine, with elements of syncopation and polyrhythms requiring a good amount of control and skill. I also enjoyed Ker al Loch, a piece which similarly requires a good degree of control and balance. Sufficient agility to effectively master the demisemiquaver passages, along with the stamina and concentration required to play 11 pages, are challenges in themselves.

Balance and control are a feature of all the pieces. Balance not just between hands, but between individual parts is essential, as is careful phrasing and effective dynamic control. Much detail is given, with several pieces such as Kerlan and Ar Maner Kozh requiring the use of half-pedal. Rhythms can be tricky and beat structure sometimes surprising, but these are all technical challenges worth meeting. Tiersen, like me, prefers flat keys. Indeed there is only one sharp key in the book, featured in the middle section of Poull Bojer, another favourite of mine.

Kerber by Yann Tiersen

Overall, the book is beautifully presented with crisp white pages and precise directions. I for one welcome the detailed pedalling instructions, including as mentioned above, half-pedal, but also use of the una corda pedal. Given the quality of publication and carefully crafted music inside, the volume is excellent value, and one well worth exploring.

Kerber by Yann Tiersen, is published by Sony Music Publishing and exclusively distributed by Hal Leonard, HL00369200, priced £14.99.

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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