Review: Truth (Alexis Ffrench)

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Someone once described Alexis Ffrench to me as “a bit more upmarket than Einaudi”. I think this is pretty unkind to both composers. There are quite a lot of similarities, but also differences; indeed, I like to think of them as ‘different’ rather than in competition! I have always enjoyed playing Alexis Ffrench’s music, and the sheet music to accompany his new 2022 release, Truth, is no exception. If you haven’t yet explored Alexis Ffrench’s music for piano, then I think Truth is actually a great place to start!

According to the introduction, Alexis Ffrench wrote these pieces whilst contemplating the question:

“who am I and what is my purpose in the world?”

In conclusion, he describes these pieces as:

“an elegy to the audacity of hope”

Canyons by Alexis Ffrench

The Truth sheet music collection includes 13 pieces, including the vocal track ‘One Look’ (and an instrumental reprise of this). I found nearly all the pieces enjoyable and satisfying to play, and unlike some other collections, there were many standout pieces. ‘Canyons’, the first piece in the book, is a great introduction to Alexis Ffrench’s writing, with a soulful feel and inventive interplay between both hands. I thought in particular, there were some interesting melodic ideas in the LH worth bringing out. I felt the inclusion of the vocal track ‘One Look’ was perhaps less effective, and with the reprise of this as an instrumental track, they felt a little bit of a poor relation in relation to the rest of the collection.

Hope, Ascending from Truth

I always think the word ‘poignant’ is a good one to describe Alexis Ffrench’s writing, and this is particularly true of ‘Songbird’. If I’m going play a piece with a key signature of six sharps, it has to be worth it, and ‘Songbird’ definitely is. At eight pages, it’s one of the longest pieces in the collection, but well worth persevering with. One of the challenges in this piece is creating an effective balance, not just between hands, but between individual voices too.

‘Hope, Ascending’ had a filmic feel to it requiring a steady and controlled approach from the pianist. ‘Guiding Light’ was one of my particular favourites; a beautiful ballad with a catchy, memorable melody. I wasn’t quite sold on ‘Viva Vida Amor’, but that’s just my personal opinion.

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‘Still Life’ had a simple feel to it, but to powerful effect; one of the hallmarks of this collection as a whole. It requires careful fingering to really bring out the melody and balance this with the accompaniment. ‘Golden’, at 10 pages, is the longest piece in the book, but definitely one to lose yourself in!

Guiding Light by Alexis Ffrench
Colours from Truth

‘Colours’ also had a soulful feel to it with a strong melody, whilst ‘Papillon’ was light and airy, just as the name suggests. My favourite piece in the collection was ‘Broken Sunsets’. It had a relaxed and lyrical feel with some beautiful sweeping motifs making use of the full range of the piano. That said, I had many favourites in this collection, and I hope you will too.

Broken Sunsets by Alexis Ffrench

Overall, this is a beautiful collection of piano pieces. Alexis Ffrench writes from the heart, and the results are both engaging and effective. As I said above, ‘poignant’s’ a great word to describe his music, and I think this is true of virtually all the pieces in this book. As ever, the book is well-presented and the music clear. If you’re new to Alexis Ffrench, I think this collection is a great place to start. If you’re already familiar with his writing, then this new collection, Truth, won’t disappoint. Highly recommended.

Truth by Alexis Ffrench, is published by Universal Music and distributed by Hal Leonard, ISBN 9781705160701, RRP £16.99.

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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