Following on from Karen Marshall’s moving tribute to the late Christine Brown, I have pleasure in providing an overview of Christine’s publications, which are available from Faber Music.
The ten books I will be looking at collectively add up to a huge addition to any piano student or teacher’s library, and teachers may well find that some of these titles become standard resources they return to regularly.
These books were published in addition to Christine’s well-known edition of Czerny’s 101 Exercises Op.261, also published by Faber Music, which Karen has already recommended in her tribute.
Real Repertoire for Piano was published by Faber Music in 2002 in association with the Trinity College London exam board. Aimed at players around their Grade 4-6 level, the collection includes established favourites alongside some interesting and lesser known pieces.
Introducing the book, Christine wrote:
“Real Repertoire for Piano has been selected to provide intermediate players with a wide choice of enjoyable music for study and performance. The pieces, which range from the Baroque period to the present day, can be combined to make interesting programmes for festivals, concerts or examinations.
The fingering has been chosen with great care to produce good technical and musical results; metronome marks have been given as a guide, but are not obligatory. To assist the less experienced player some additional pedalling marks have been included and in the pieces from the earlier periods a few expression marks have been suggested.
I hope that these pieces will bring much pleasure both to those who perform them and to their audiences.”
The collection includes:
- J.S. Bach: Invention in F major
- Edward MacDowell: To a Wild Rose
- Edvard Grieg: Dance of the Elves
- W.A. Mozart: Allegro from Sonata in C, K545
- Peter Maxwell Davies: Farewell to Stromness
- J.N. Hummel: Romance in G
- F.J. Haydn: Allegro from Sonata in G
- James Patten: Lullaby
- L.van Beethoven: Für Elise
- R. Schumann: Erinnerung (Album for the Young)
- N. Gade: Scherzo from Aquarelles
- M. Clementi: Allegro con Spirito from Sonatina in D
- J. Brahms: Waltz in A flat
- C.P.E. Bach: Solfeggietto
- D. Shostakovich: Prelude No.1 in C
- C. Debussy: Le petit nègre
Readers will no doubt agree that this is a pretty stunning list of repertoire, and all are the full original versions presented in a carefully edited and inexpensive anthology. It is understandable that the book was a huge success, and deserves to remain so.
The Real Repertoire Library
Building on the popularity of Real Repertoire, Faber and Trinity expanded the series with these four new publications in 2005, each devoted to the music of one period. This time, the pieces were also just a little harder, with a target level of Grades 5-7.
Baroque Real Repertoire mixes popular favourites such as Bach’s Invention in A minor, Daquin’s Le coucou, and three Scarlatti Sonatas with lesser known works by Arne, C.P.E. Bach, Couperin and Purcell. I was particularly pleased to see the book include an introduction to the keyboard instruments of the Baroque Era, with photos of virginal, harpsichord, spinet and clavichord all included alongside descriptions of how they work.
Classical Real Repertoire includes two popular Beethoven Bagatelles, a Schubert Moment Musical and a collection of Sonata movements by Mozart, Haydn, Clementi, Hummel, Dussek and Kuhlau. There are several lesser-known pieces here, making the volume a valuable addition to any player’s library.
Romantic Real Repertoire again includes many favourites, such as Chopin’s B minor Prelude, Grieg’s Butterfly, and Tchaikovsky’s Song of the Lark. It’s great to see these alongside pieces by Mendelssohn, Fauré, Ilyinsky, Schumann and a Field Nocturne.
Perhaps most interesting of all is the Twentieth Century Real Repertoire, where Debussy’s Little Shepherd, Satie’s Gymnopedie 1 and Bartók’s Melody in the Mist appear alongside rarities by Delius, Nielsen, Reizenstein and Scriabin. Other pieces that many teachers will know include Alwyn’s The Sea is Angry, Paul Harvey’s Rumba Toccata and Malcolm Arnold’s The Buccaneer. There’s also contemporary pieces by Peter Sculthorpe and Carl Vine. It adds up to another great collection of pieces, with much to appeal to players at this level.
These four collections also include detailed notes about each composer and their pieces – a very welcome addition!
The Real Repertoire Library is an excellent extended source of music for intermediate to advanced players, and is highly recommended not only for Christine’s selection of pieces, but also for the very educational attention to editing detail that she achieved. That said, there are two caveats which apply to the series which need to be mentioned before moving on.
Firstly, as Christine said in her first introduction, she added pedalling and expression marks throughout (meaning phrasing, articulation and dynamic markings in Baroque pieces) and while these are educationally helpful and tastefully done, those seeking an Urtext edition will of course need to look elsewhere.
Secondly, these books carry overt Trinity College London branding, and while it is a credit to Trinity to be associated with such well-executed publications, those who wish to minimise their emphasis on exams or who use a different exam board might find this problematic, so should be aware.
Real Repertoire Studies
The three books of Real Repertoire Studies followed in 2008, and they are real gems. As before, these are published by Faber Music, but the Trinity College branding is absent.
The first book covers Grades 2-4, and includes accessible and in many cases tuneful studies by Czerny, Dunhill, Gurlitt, Heller, Kirchner, Le Couppey, Loeschhorn, Müller and my personal favourite Burgmüller.
Karen Marshall recalls how Christine Brown underlined the importance of this book:
‘She went through her own books on teaching technique, Real Repertoire Technique Grades 2 -4, 4-6 & 6-8, explaining why she had included each piece within the collection. She particularly stressed the importance of the first book.
“Early technique is so important Karen, that’s the reason I wanted to write this one,” she said.’
Book 2 in the series includes studies of around grades 4-6 level, with many of the same composers represented, as well as Bartók and Schumann. Cramer, Clementi and Scriabin all appear in the third book, aimed at grades 6-8.
For those who (like me) don’t place a big emphasis on studies, these books are an ideal addition, because they present a modest but very carefully selected choice of exercise material that will enhance any player’s learning, and which do a fine job of highlighting the technical developments that are important at each of the stages covered.
It’s also great to see that, like the Real Repertoire Library books of 2005, the Real Repertoire Studies books each includes interesting background information and biographical sketches of the composers – great stuff!
Real Repertoire Duets
Christine’s final publication expeditiously completed the Real Repertoire series with a book of duets aimed at players around grades 4-6 level.
This collection fits in very nicely alongside the other duet books I recently reviewed, and could join them to complete a collection of duet music to cover all the stages of a player’s development. The book forms an excellent bridge between the popular and contemporary easier collections for beginner to intermediate players, and the more advanced core 4-hand repertoire.
The collection includes:
- Beethoven: Allegro molto from Sonata Op.6
- Brahms: Waltz in A
- Chaminade: Pastorale
- Diabelli: Polonaise in A and Allegro in E minor
- Fauré: Berceuse from Dolly Suite
- Mozart: Andante from Sonata K.381
- Respighi: Romance
- Alex Rowley: Badinage
- Seiber: Tango Argentino
- Weber: Sonatina Op.3
Many readers will agree that this is a near-perfect and nicely varied selection of duet music that is not only educationally ideal for players at this level, but which will have huge musical appeal. A very highly recommended anthology.
Play At Sight for Piano
Completing Christine Brown’s published legacy, and deserving the highest praise, is her book Play at Sight for Piano (2007).
Play at Sight distills a lifetime’s experience in guiding young players through their first steps in sight-reading. With a clean layout containing a few sight-reading exercises along with clear sign-posts of new notation and requirements on each page, the book provides a very neat resource for pianists from beginner to around grade 2 level.
Of the various resources currently available in this niche, it is certainly one of the best thought-out. Indeed, I would say that it benefits from not being “over-thought”, instead concealing its learning scaffolding in favour of clarity and simplicity. At no point does sight-reading become something scary here! The nearest equivalent in my view would be John Kember’s Sight Reading series, which I reviewed here, with which I think this volume would dovetail very nicely.
The one downside of the book is that it leaves the introduction of articulation and dynamics to the very last couple of pages. Exercises at this point are, in all other respects, beyond Grade 2 level, but as both Trinity College and ABRSM expect these from Grade 1, the book is not a perfect fit for those concerned with preparing for specific examination sight-reading tests. That said, the material here is too good to miss, and a teacher could always add in dynamics and articulation as required.
It remains to say, and to underline, that these ten books are a fabulous resource, and one which I would recommend to any piano teacher or student.
Between them, they cover so much of the core pedagogic material required, particularly from intermediate to advanced level, and fill a gap in the market which few have subsequently bettered.
I never had the privilege of meeting Christine Brown, and reading Karen’s tribute I feel that loss keenly. Through these books, however, it seems to me that her legacy is secure for those of us who follow in her steps.