Review: My Garden Notebook (Angeline Bell)

Sometimes a book drops into my review pile, and I wonder how on earth I’m going to write a whole page about it, not because it’s so bad, but because it’s so good. Angeline Bell’s latest volume of piano music published by Editions Musica Ferrum, My Garden Notebook, is just such a book. It comes hot on the heels of her previous two books, My Lyrical Notebook and My Quirky Notebook, both of which have received enthusiastic reviews previously on my website.

Twinkling Lights by Angeline Bell

Rightly so, we are primarily interested in the music contained in these books, but I want to highlight once again the beautiful artwork produced by Rebecca Harrie to accompany these books. The covers are not only eye-catching, but the artwork beautiful in itself. This latest volume, My Garden Notebook, features beautiful woodland creatures such as an owl and a hedgehog. These are highly appropriate, as the book features 24 ‘easy and melodious piano solos inspired by nature’. For each piece, there is also a short programme note which sets the scene, highlighting any particular musical or technical features.

Footsteps in the Snow by Angeline Bell

It’s hard when presented with a volume such as this to find something useful to say because, quite honestly, I liked all the pieces in equal measure! They are beautifully atmospheric and full of character. Angeline has a real talent for capturing in the sound, exactly that to which the title refers. I particularly enjoyed ‘Twinkling Lights’ with its sparkling semiquaver patterns. ‘Ripples’, with is undulating key shifts was very pleasing, as was ‘Thinking of You’, despite the challenge of LH duplets against RH quavers.

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One of my favourite pieces in the collection was ‘First Light’ with its shifting 6/4 and 4/4 time signatures. Whilst perhaps easy on the face of it, it takes real skill and sensitivity to capture the mood, paying careful attention to the phrasing. I also very much enjoyed ‘Siesta’ and ‘Footsteps in the Snow’, both beautifully evocative. ‘The Silent Owl’ and ‘Water Lilies’ both fall into the same category, both very enjoyable to play. My standout piece, and possibly the standout of all Angeline’s books so far was ‘Fireflies’ which was just magical.

Cover artwork by Rebecca Harrie from My Garden Notebook by Angeline Bell
Fireflies by Angeline Bell

It’s always hard pigeonholing pieces into particular categories according to level of difficulty. The website states that these pieces are ‘up to Grade 4 standard’. I think this is a fair assessment, perhaps with the proviso that most will be at the upper end of that. But of course, these pieces are to be enjoyed beyond Grade 4 too. Just occasionally, I felt a little more guidance in terms of the fingering might have been useful, but this is an incredibly minor criticism, and of course, this in no way detracts from the music itself.

This is a thoroughly enjoyable collection, and if you enjoyed Angeline’s other two volumes, then you will certainly enjoy My Garden Notebook too. There is a lovely variety of pieces and all manner of different styles, but each one, beautifully characterful, always with plenty of opportunity for expression. They will appeal to all ages, and once again, credit to Rebecca Harrie for the beautiful cover artwork. Angeline Bell is quickly establishing herself as one of the most popular composers of piano music for the ‘educational market’ (awful term!), and I’m sure there will be plenty more of her music to enjoy in the months and years to come.

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My Garden Notebook by Angeline Bell, is published by Editions Musica Ferrum, ISMN 9790708147879, RRP £13.00.

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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