Sheet Music Review
With the new term getting underway at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, now is surely a good time to mention Hans-Günter Heumann‘s magical collection ‘Fantasy Piano’, published by Schott Music last year.
The book includes 20 “Enchanting Easy Piano Pieces”, and I would recommend it for players at around Grade 2-3 level, although I should point out that most of the pieces, while easy, are four pages long (a few are two, while a couple are six pages).
The pieces are engraved with a generous notation size and wide spacing between staves, making the book suitable for younger players. The target age range is quite difficult to be specific about however – while the book clearly aims to appeal to the Harry Potter readers among us, this will of course include many of us adults, and certainly I enjoyed playing through the pieces!
Explaining his rationale for the publication, composer Hans-Günter Heumann writes:
“Besides working through a piano tutorial book or easy classical piano pieces, young and adult beginners are also keen to play modern compositions that are fun, relaxing and entertaining to listeners.
“It is for precisely this reason that I decided to write my Fantasy Piano book and composed 20 enchanting easy piano pieces that all have one thing in common: they are easy to play and so quick to learn, with catchy tunes and echoes of pop, film music and New Age influences.”
Musical Fairy Tales
The 20 pieces have titles that evoke a wide range of images from fairy tales and folklore, ranging from the more obvious “Castles in the Air”, “Dragon Rider”, and “Halloween Witch Ride” to the more esoteric “Sunken Island of Atlantis”, “Singing Bowls” and the picturesque “Dreamcatcher”.
The pieces certainly fulfil the composer’s stylistic aims. Most are melodic, appealing, and written in musical styles that players of all ages will quickly relate to and enjoy. Some are particularly visual, as film music would be, while other pieces evoke pop piano playing styles, such as “Walk of a Giant” which to my ears immediately recalls the stylings of Elton John.
What is particularly clever here is that Heumann manages to convey these styles – replete with 9th and major 7th harmonies where appropriate – while ensuring that the pieces remain easy to play, and suitable to children with smaller hands.
Everything here just works – the writing is a brilliant blend of stylistic credibility and attention to the technical needs of relative beginners.
Accompanying the book is a CD recording providing demonstration quality performances of the 20 pieces. I have no doubt that inquisitive players will be quick to listen to this and select their favourites.
From Imagination to Expression
One reason that I particularly like this book is that, in my experience, tapping into players’ imaginations can unlock expressivity and creativity in their performance.
These are pieces which I believe players will really engage with. Learning to use dynamic range, rubato, pedalling and so on, is made enjoyable and natural using music that hits just the right spot with players who are still developing their sensitivity to issues of genre and interpretation.
In this respect I am bound to compare the book with other recent gems such as Ben Crosland’s “Beans” series and Barbara Arens’s “Piano Misterioso”. While not directly competing, these books between them are making a significant contribution to the contemporary educational piano repertoire, and represent a genuine breath of fresh air. It’s really very gratifying to see so much appealing high-quality repertoire appearing for elementary to intermediate players.
Undoubtedly already a best-seller on Diagon Alley, muggles can purchase Fantasy Piano directly from the Schott Music London and from all good music retailers now.