Alison Mathews: Treasure Trove

Featured publications are selected for review 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 significant success of their best-selling Cool Beans series by Ben Crosland.

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, who enjoys an active life as a composer and has produced a number of other titles, including in partnership with Barbara Arens. Her collection Landscapes is also published by Musica Ferrum.

Based on her Treasure Trove of 17 solo piano pieces reviewed here, it is clear that Mathews is an effective and imaginative composer of music for elementary to intermediate players.

Introducing the publication she writes:

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,

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:

  • The River Pearl
  • Flaming Sapphire
  • The Amethyst Crystal
  • Persian Turquoise
  • Diamond Bright
  • The Obsidian Obelisk
  • A Slice of Agate
  • Buried Rubies
  • The Peridot Meteorite
  • An Iridescent Opal
  • Tigers Eye
  • Oriental Jade
  • Mournful Jet
  • Emerald Eyes
  • Black Onyx
  • Shimmering Moonstone
  • 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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Andrew Eales

Andrew Eales is a widely respected piano educator, writer and composer based in Milton Keynes UK. His book HOW TO PRACTISE MUSIC is published by Hal Leonard.