Alison Mathews: Treasure Trove

Selected & Reviewed by ANDREW EALES

Regular readers will know that I have huge admiration for the independent publisher Editions Musica Ferrum, whose publications consistently bring high-end quality and creative originality.

In recent months EMF have been adding to their range of publications for intermediate pianists, building on the success of their best-selling Cool Beans series by Ben Crosland, and EMF founder Nikolas Sideris’s outstanding Fairyland in Treble.

Among the most recent releases, Treasure Trove by Alison Mathews is a standout collection for intermediate players, which is already finding popularity with my students…

Many Treasures

Alison Mathews is a piano teacher from Surrey UK, and although hers may be a new name to some readers she will be known to others as co-author of the recent collection Capturing the Spirit of Christmas


Based on this new collection of 17 solo piano pieces, it is clear that Mathews is an effective and imaginative composer of music for elementary to intermediate players.

Introducing the publication she writes:

“I chose the title Treasure Trove as the word trove means a collection of valuable or delightful things. What better way to describe a group of pieces written about such captivating items such as precious and semiprecious gemstones?”

In a crowded market it makes a lot of sense to differentiate a new anthology with a core concept, and the theme of gemstones proves very effective.

Mathews explains that gemstones can be associated with exotic journeys around the world, with geological development over millions of years, and with different cultures and layers of meaning. She also cites the many myths and beliefs surrounding gemstones,

“…giving them a special significance in societies, whether it is religious, medicinal or magical.”

The core idea here allows considerable scope for the imagination, both of the composer and player, and the collection certainly taps into this with a palpable verve.

The Gems Within

The pieces themselves are around ABRSM Grade 3 level and written with a direct musical language that younger players will easily relate to, but which will also find appeal with adult learners at this level, who I am sure will equally find the imagery of the gemstones an enjoyable impetus for musical exploration.

Here’s a list of the titles, which in itself suggest the wide range that the book encapsulates:

  1. The River Pearl
  2. Flaming Sapphire
  3. The Amethyst Crystal
  4. Persian Turquoise
  5. Diamond Bright
  6. The Obsidian Obelisk
  7. A Slice of Agate
  8. Buried Rubies
  9. The Peridot Meteorite
  10. An Iridescent Opal
  11. Tigers Eye
  12. Oriental Jade
  13. Mournful Jet
  14. Emerald Eyes
  15. Black Onyx
  16. Shimmering Moonstone
  17. Trapped in Amber

Here’s the composer performing one of the pieces, Shimmering Moonstones, which gives a good idea of her gift for evocative writing within an easy-to-play piece:

I personally think the book could have benefitted from simple illustrations of the sort found in the Cool Beans series, and while there is a short passage about each piece and its associated gemstone at the start of the book, these comments could perhaps have been integrated with the pieces, with the whole affair given a slightly more spacious presentation.

But these minor quibbles surely won’t detract from the pleasure intermediate piano players will find when exploring this brilliant collection.

Closing Thoughts

The pieces here provide well-written contemporary material that will delight at the same time as consolidating progress and inspiring musicianship.

I very much hope that exam boards will take a look, as there’s plenty of material here that could comfortably find a place in future syllabi.

Treasure Trove is truly a diamond!

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Published by

Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, published composer and author based on Milton Keynes UK.

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