Sheet Music Review
Mike Springer will be known to many readers (especially in the US) as a prolific educational composer, with many publications in print with Alfred Music (UK readers can explore his extensive catalogue here).
Lyrical Landscapes is his latest series, appearing as three collections of solo piano music composed for intermediate players.
Written in a variety of styles ranging from Romantic to contemporary, covering a variety of moods, these pieces are evocative and engaging to play, and would especially suit older and adult players at this level.
According to the composer:
“Lyrical Landscapes is a collection of expressive pieces … written to provide opportunities for late elementary to late intermediate students to develop skills in projecting lyrical, melodic lines…
“From slow ballads to upbeat tempos, these pieces allow pianists the opportunity to develop a deeper musical awareness through the use of technical control, rubato, and subtle tempo changes. These pieces were composed so students not only enjoy performing the music, but grow musically along the way.”
Let’s take a closer look…
Lyrical Landscapes Book 1
The first book in the series is aimed at players from ”Late Elementary to Early Intermediate” level. Readers can think of this as being around UK Grades 2-3.
Subtitled 10 Expressive Piano Pieces in a Variety of Styles, the imaginatively titled solo pieces included here are:
- Canyon Shadows
- Clear Mountain Sky
- Colors (sic.) at Dawn
- Floating on the Pond
- Fond Memories
- Gentle Rain
- Guarding the Castle Gates
- Il tenero fiore (The Tender Flower)
- Quiet Moments
- Sea Fog
The majority of these pieces are at slower paces, which indeed allows for a more expressive engagement, and they would make a good addition to the musical diet of players at this level. As the composer intends, they are not just enjoyable to play, but are also ideal vehicles for the development of a cantabile tone production.
I am also impressed by the ease with which all the pieces here fit under the hand, without awkward stretches or hand positions changes, while nevertheless sounding musically more advanced than is general for material written for this level, and featuring enjoyable contemporary-sounding harmonies which will especially appeal to more mature students.
Another striking feature – and a very positive one in my view – is the expectation of legato pedalling throughout all pieces. And this is all clearly marked in the notation, making this book an ideal place to introduce pedalling technique to developing players.
Lyrical Landscapes Book 2
The second book in the series is aimed at ”Early Intermediate to Intermediate” players, a slightly curious description that translates to UK Grades 3-4.
This second book includes these 11 pieces:
- Campfire by the Lake
- Fond Farewell
- French Café
- Jardin de Provence (Garden of Provence)
- Medieval Castle
- Morning Meditation
- Mountain Breeze
- Royal Procession
- Spring Blossoms
- Starlight Reverie
There’s an impressive consistency to the musical quality here, but I think I must single out Fond Farewell as a particularly beautiful and emotive piece which has a particular potential to speak to players and audiences across a number of contexts.
As I write this, Spring Blossoms would be a topical choice, and with a Royal Wedding imminent here in the UK, Royal Procession may also prove popular!
Once again, the piano writing is entirely appropriate to the level of player the pieces are written for, and the pieces have both an immediacy and a contemporary tone that is likely to find very wide appeal.
Lyrical Landscapes Book 3
The final collection is for players who are ”Intermediate to Late Intermediate” in ability, meaning UK Grades 4-5.
This collection includes the following 9 titles:
- Ballad for Our Time
- Mistral Waltz
- Raging Sea
- Shooting Stars
- Sparkling Stream
This set rounds off the series brilliantly, and includes the widest variety of mood so far. Opener Ballad for Our Time nicely lives up to its title, offering a piece which expertly evokes a popular piano ballad, while Cyclone expands on a very simple (but impressive sounding) RH riff to convey the swirling, stormy motion of the title.
As the collection unfolds, it becomes ever more apparent that Mike Springer is a composer who is absolutely at the top of his game, expertly drawing on his considerable professional experience as a performer and composer across a variety of contemporary genres.
Alfred Music are to be commended for bringing to print the music of so many contemporary educational composers, and offer a huge catalogue of choices for the intermediate pianist, and to suit a wide range of tastes.
For those dazzled by such riches, or confused about where to start, I simply can’t recommend the three Lyrical Landscapes books highly enough – these are superior collections that really deserve to be enjoyed by a wide audience.
Indeed, I cannot overstate how immensely I enjoyed playing through these pieces, and how much I am looking forward to introducing them into my teaching repertoire.
The books themselves are presented in Alfred Music’s well-honed house style, with beautifully produced covers (as shown above) in hard card. Printing is clear and generously sized (especially in the first book), which will help players with developing reading ability. Sufficient (but not excessive), sensible, fingering suggestions are included throughout all three books.
And with a UK price of just £6.95 per book, there really are no obvious drawbacks – if you like playing (or teaching) highly effective piano pieces in a contemporary style, these books are absolutely for you.