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If you don’t know Pam Wedgwood‘s name, where have you been?! She has been a doyenne of the music world, not just throughout my own teaching career, but as a child learning the piano too. Her many hundreds of compositions and publications are used and enjoyed the world over, and with good reason. The Rusty Pianist, and The Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces are two new publications from Faber Music, and they’re both a cracker!
The philosophy behind both books is to provide suitable material for those returning to the piano after a break. As Pam writes, they could be ‘returning players’ or ‘rusty pianists’, but both books are aimed at players of around late-elementary level (Grade 3-ish) upwards.
The Rusty Pianist
The first book, The Rusty Pianist, contains 21 original compositions and arrangements, all beautifully-crafted. Virtually every conceivable musical style is covered, from classical, through to jazz and blues. Pam Wedgwood is true craftswoman when it comes to arranging, and this really shines through. Her arrangement of Chopin’s ‘Raindrop Prelude’ is as satisfying to play and listen to as the original (and if you have a digital piano, you could always transpose it into its original key!) Similarly, her arrangement of Albinoni’s ‘Adagio for Strings’ is very effective, never leaving the player feeling like they’re missing something.
Her arrangements of folk-songs are equally as enjoyable, especially ‘Scarborough Fair’ and ‘Danny Boy’. The stamp of an effective folk-song arrangement, especially for piano, is that it never loses the simplicity of the original. Pam gets it just right. But, it’s not just about arrangements in this book as there are many enjoyable original compositions included too. I especially enjoyed ‘Moonlight Romance’ and ‘The Old Mill’, latter very Satie-esque.
Alongside each piece is a short introduction highlighting the main features of the piece, and any technical or performance aspects of note. In the centre of the book is a pullout ‘Rusty Reminders’ section covering pedalling, rolled chords, finger control, off-beat rhythms and swing, as well as a list of ‘Rusty Terms’. There is a link in each piece to those reminders most useful.
One thing I really liked in this book is that for each piece, Pam recommends another similar piece from one of her other books in a section titled ‘What else can I play?’ For example, for ‘The Old Mill’, Pam recommends Satie’s ‘Gymnopédie No. 1’ in her book, It’s Never Too Late to Play Classics.
The Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces
The second book, just as impressive as the first, is a follow-on and contains a further 16 solos, again, both arrangements and original compositions. Again, there is no shortage of enjoyable pieces from jazz to classical, and nearly everything between. Once more, the arrangements shine though, notably of the ‘Skye Boat Song’ and the ‘Adagio’ from Beethoven’s ‘Pathétique Sonata’.
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Pam’s own compositions are at the heart of this book. I particularly enjoyed ‘Golden Hill’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’. The music is always satisfying to play, and Pam’s introductions are encouraging and useful. Whether ‘returning’ or ‘rusty’, you’re likely to be nervous, but these books have a really nice ‘feel-good’ factor to them.
Whilst this book doesn’t contain the ‘Rusty Reminders’, the introductions remain useful, and once again, one of the highlights for me is Pam’s other recommendations.
Whether you’re ‘rusty’, ‘returning’ or are just after some new repertoire to learn, these books are a must-have. They are very reasonably priced given the amount of material included, and as ever, the quality of Faber’s publications shines through. Both compositions and arrangements are expertly-crafted, effective and satisfying. I’ve written recently about poor arrangements, but there’s none of that here. If anything, books like this, from a highly-respected composer, arranger and publisher, only go to highlight the inadequacy of the others. These are the books which will stand the test of time. I would recommend these books without hesitation, and I’m sure they’ll become mainstays of my own teaching for years to come.
The Rusty Pianist by Pam Wedgwood, is published by Faber Music, ISBN 9780571541966, RRP £10.99.
The Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces by Pam Wedgwood, is published by Faber Music, ISBN 9780571542383, RRP £8.99.
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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