Sheet Music Review by Guest Reviewer Karen Marshall
I was delighted last week to receive the above publications which I have been readily using with my students of all ages and grades.
Initial impressions after using Mosaic with my whole teaching practice are that these books are best placed with the teenage and adult market, but with material also for primary age children. Younger children in my practice loved compositions in the collection particularly by Ben Crosland and Sarah Konecsni.
This is a job well done, and I congratulate all the composers and Nikolas Sideris on the contents of these volumes.
About the product
Andrew previously did an interview with Editions Musica Ferrum’s founder Nikolas Sideris which can be found here. This gives a comprehensive background to the vision behind the series.
Each of the books contains 26 Easy Educational Works for Solo Piano, from a range of 13 different composer voices – Barbara Arens, Anna Blonsky, Jaap Cramer, Ben Crosland, Andrew Eales, Andrea Granitzio, Simon Hester, Sarah Konecsni, Alison Mathews, Christine Artemis Pappa, Paul Poston, Nikolas Sideris and Borislava Taneva – from the UK, Netherlands, Canada, the USA, Greece, Bulgaria and Italy.
Volume 1 is for pre-graders to Grade 1, while Volume 2 is aimed at players around Grades 2 to 3. I would state here that I’m not sure that these pieces can be fitted into the graded model quite so exactly. Having had a level of experience here within my own writing I would simply say that perhaps one of the greatest strengths of these books are that a Grade 3 student could benefit from Book 1 just as a Grade 1 student. It simply depends what your purpose is for using them.
Volume 1 retails at £8.99 and Volume 2 at £9.99. Both items can be purchased together for £15.98 (a saving of just over £3).
Each book is 32 pages long. They have beautiful, thick matt covers, with a very attractive cover design and cream pages within (which is helpful for students struggling with visual stress caused by black and white print). When using these with students, all commented (without prompt) on the beauty of the design, and one even stroked it with appreciation!
The music engraving is clear and well-spaced. Fingering, however, is a little unusual in places (eg. Nine Fingers bar 7 – finger 3 in the LH caused a number of students much confusion).
Within each book is a title page, an index and notes on the works providing a useful insight into the composition.
For example, from Volume 1: Let’s Play Ball! by Borislava Taneva:
“When we play ball or the piano we use both our hands. In this piece, the strong beat alternates between the left and the right hand, so just like when you’re juggling a ball in your hands, you may lose your balance a little. But don’t worry, everything will get back to normal in bar 9.”
Volume 2: In My Spot by Ben Crosland:
“A straight 1/8ths funk groove, this needs a very strict tempo throughout, and bold articulation. Non-slurred tenutos should be held for almost full value, but not legato, with equal (slight) emphasis given to each one. Play the grace note in bar 15 as part of the chord, but let go before the other notes.”
So, what about the contents?
Mosaic Volume 1
Watch publisher Nikolas Sideris perform all the pieces:
Volume 1 is aimed at pre-grade 1 to Grade 1. With the level of phrasing demands, length, dynamic content and even modest hand shifts, I would suggest that these pieces are in reality more firmly within the Grade 1 boundary.
Primary-age children happily had a go at the pieces, but not with the vigour that they do Ben Crosland’s Magic Beans (also from Editions Musica Ferrum). For these students I feel Ben provides the same variety, but the music isn’t too sophisticated for younger learners, so they relate to it far more easily.
However, I found my early stage secondary age children (particular 13 years plus) absolutely loved these books. In fact, a number have asked me to get their parents to order them which is quite an endorsement.
To me it was truly fascinating seeing them totally embrace the music and get real joy from the compositions. Even the more atonal pieces like An October Fright Night by Paul Poston still hit the spot.
Popular pieces included:
- Sailing under a Moonlit Sky by Alison Matthews (wonderful for developing pedal use and expression),
- The Caterpillar Walk by Andrea Granitzio (excellent for keyboard geography, articulation and developing a loose wrist for the couplet slur),
- Go to Sleep by Ben Crosland (super for chord voicing, slurs and beginner pedal use – plus moving up the octave),
- Alone in the Castle by Barbara Arens (LH melody and chord voicing),
- Exclamation Mark (!) by Jaap Cramer (five-finger pentachords and articulation), and
- Dorian by Christine Artemis Pappa (melody and accompaniment and chord playing).
ALL pieces in the book have something to offer. I will be including this book in my teaching curriculum going forward for teenage and adult beginners.
For younger students I will always have the book to hand for particular pieces I think are perfect for developing certain skills. Teachers should also consider using this volume with higher grade students to develop expression and sight-reading skills. My Grade 4 students enjoyed this far more than my usual sight-reading exercises.
Mosaic Volume 2
Volume 2 is aimed at Grade 2 to 3, which I think is pretty accurate.
I feel that the level of variety in this book makes it slightly stronger than Volume 1. Perhaps this is to be expected as a composer has a much larger musical pallet to compose with, simply because more advanced students can achieve more.
There’s some excellent content within this volume for teaching rhythm, The Garden by Borislava Taneva – with its challengingly-positioned quaver rests being one example. There’s a good range of 6/8 pieces and I was really pleased to see 5/4 in the delightful Biri Biri Bom Princess by Anna Blonsky, and the challenging (but worth the work) Where did you leave the keys? by Jaap Cramer (love the 6/4 and improvisation opportunity in this piece).
Triplets feature in the creative Dinosaur, Don’t! by Sarah Konecsni (excellent chord work here too) and 2/2 in Ben Crosland’s super-clever Silver Lining. Dotted rhythms and ties also appear throughout the book.
Many of the pieces explore the fully keyboard range brilliantly, and with a wide range of articulation. Playing with both hands in the treble or bass clef is also explored (do look at the excellent Monty Monkey and the Coconut Tree!). The need for evenness of finger-work and balance of melody and accompaniment can be found in many compositions, and for part-playing see the lovely Small Valse by Borislava Taneva.
Anything missing? Yes, semi-quavers – just one piece by Nikolas Sideras (appearing in one bar as a dotted quaver semi-quaver) – and only dear Andrew Eales provides a scalic piece outside the use of chromatics with his Traffic Jamming. His Frisbee is also excellent for five-finger patterns.
Overall this book gives lots of opportunity for musical expression and interpretation, which isn’t always found in such abundance at this level of difficulty. This, for me, is the book’s greatest strength – my students have really loved the music they have explored. One cannot ask for more than that!
Do also consider this book as a higher-grade sight-reading volume – it has much to offer.
A final thought
Mosaic Volumes 1 and 2 offer an excellent contribution to the elementary and intermediate stages of learning – well done to everyone involved in this project
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED with some outstanding features.
Mosaic 1 & 2 are available now from Editions Musica Ferrum here.