Review: Peaceful Piano Playlist, Christmas

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One of several books now published in the Peaceful Piano Playlist series from Faber Music, this Christmas edition includes 24 ‘festive piano solos for the intermediate player’. They are presented as a relaxing playlist of music, and the selection is varied and inventive. Traditional Christmas carols are presented alongside popular favourites, with some lesser-known (and unknown?) works thrown in for good measure.

Review: Peaceful Piano Playlist, Christmas

I’d like to start by saying how beautifully presented this book is with it’s lovely matt cover and artwork. As I’ve said below, this would make a lovely gift item. Given that I have a whole shelf section devoted to Christmas piano music, one thing which impressed me about this book was the varied selection of music included. This means this book offers pieces and arrangements which aren’t found in other volumes. I’m definitely going to include some of them in my Musical Advent Calendar over on Instagram.

The book opens with ‘The Christmas Song’ (“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire”). I have several jazz arrangements of this popular song, but it was nice to be able to play it in a more, shall we say, easy listening, and relaxed style. There are some tricky rhythms, but these add plenty of interest the arrangement. A perfect pairing, ‘Have yourself a merry little Christmas’ is included in a beautiful arrangement by Alexis Ffrench (if you enjoyed his recent album and collection, Truth (you can find my review here), you’ll love this one). It’s very much in his own style, again, not jazzy, but soulful and relaxing. He has cleverly integrated the melody of ‘Jingle Bells’ in the introduction.

Review: Peaceful Piano Playlist, Christmas

Kate Bush’s 2011 release, ‘Snowflake’ was new to me, but transfers very effectively to the piano, though it will need careful pedalling, particularly with its heavy reliance on block chords. Barlow and Paschburg’s ‘Duvet’ was also new to me, and to be honest, I couldn’t find much out about it online. It’s a pretty, sparkling piece, and perfect as part of this relaxing piano playlist. Another new one to me, ‘Hymn’, by Australian composer, Luke Howard, is another beautiful piece, and as with the others, a really nice inclusion in what could have been yet another book of well-known ‘favourites’.

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For those who prefer something a little more mainstream, ‘Silent Night’ is presented in a lovely, sympathetic arrangement. A popular film favourite, ‘Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence’ is included, and whilst the music is beautifully poignant, I never feel overly comfortable with it given the storyline and subject matter of the film. Another new work to me, ‘Crystal Winter’, by Christopher Ferreira is very effective, the repetitive quaver motion really capturing the icy feel of a cold winter.

The arrangement of ‘I’ll be home for Christmas’ (popularised by Bing Crosby) is sumptuous with its soulful harmony and sweeping left-hand arpeggios. Weeks’ arrangement of ‘O Holy Night’ took, for me, perhaps too many liberties with the original tune (notably changing the third note of the melody). In contrast, Weeks’ arrangement of ‘The Sussex Carol’ was fun with some imaginative left-hand harmonies.

Coventry Carol

Borniöf’s arrangement of ‘What Child is This?’ was particularly enjoyable, with a clever and imaginative use of grace notes in the melody. Some of the arrangements such as ‘O Christmas Tree’, the ‘Coventry Carol’, ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’, ‘O Come, O Come Emmanuel’ and ‘Away in a Manger’ were perfectly nice, though not standouts. ‘Ice’ by Brian Crain was another new piece to me, but very effective with its rippling semiquaver motifs. ‘The Wassail Song’ had hints of the tune I know, but I have to say, it was well hidden! ‘Christmas Time is Here’ had gorgeous harmonies, befitting of a Peaceful Piano Playlist, and the penultimate finale to the book, ‘Auld Lang Syne’ was a most pleasing arrangement with some imaginative arranging in the middle section.

River by Joni Mitchell

Overall, the Christmas edition of Peaceful Piano Playlist presents a varied and carefully-selected range of pieces. Both sacred and secular Christmas works are covered, and there is a pleasant mixture of old and new. There were quite a few pieces I didn’t know, and in some ways, these were the standout items for me. Not everything is overtly Christmassy, but with the volume of Christmas piano books already on the market, I see this as a refreshing change. In the main, the arrangements are effective and imaginative, the book represents excellent value for money, and I’m sure this would make an ideal Christmas gift.

Peaceful Piano Playlist, Christmas is published by Faber Music, ISBN 9780571542468, RRP £13.99.

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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