Faber Music’s numerous piano anthologies have established themselves not only as enticing collections of sought-after pieces, but as a barometer of trends in the piano world.
The newly issued Peaceful Piano Playlist exemplifies this perfectly, offering a selection of relaxing classics and “new classical” pieces that will no doubt have huge appeal to teenagers and adults who play for pleasure and to relax.
If the title (and image above) already appeal, there’s a good chance that you will enjoy this publication immensely. So let’s take a closer look (and listen)…
First of all, the title. Describing the book as a “playlist” is not simply a playful nod towards contemporary listening habits; Faber Music have actually curated a Spotify playlist featuring almost all of the music which is included in the publication.
Here it is. You can listen to selected clips here as you read on, and enjoy the complete playlist over on Spotify:
And here is the full track listing:
- I Giorni (Ludovico Einaudi)
- Ab Ovo (Joep Beving)
- Written On The Sky (Max Richter)
- Gymnopédie No. 3 (Erik Satie)
- Mass (Re-Imagined) (Phoria)
- Pathétique Sonata, 2nd Movt (Ludwig van Beethoven)
- Earnestly Yours (Keaton Henson)
- The Tearjerker Returns (Chilly Gonzales)
- Chord Left (Agnes Obel)
- Engagement Party (Justin Hurwitz)
- Last Song (Alexis Ffrench)
- Clair de Lune (Claude Debussy)
- Throes (Half Moon Run)
- Aria (BWV 988) (J.S. Bach)
- Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (Ryuichi Sakamoto)
- What We Are (Anne Lovett)
- Adagio in G minor (Tomaso Albinoni)
- Faith’s Song (from Keeping Faith) (Laurence Love Greed)
- Flora (Henrik Lindstrand)
- Pavane pour une Infante défunte (Maurice Ravel)
- Prelude in C (BWV846) (J.S. Bach)
- Inizio (Ludovico Einaudi)
- Strata (Poppy Ackroyd)
- Piano Piece, Imperfect Moments Pt. 4 (Johannes Brecht)
- To The Order Of The Night (Balmorhea)
- Mandus (Jessica Curry)
- Prelude in B minor (Op.28 No.6) (Frederic Chopin)
- The Departure (from The Leftovers) (Max Richter)
- Petrichor (Keaton Henson)
- New Moon (Alexandre Desplat)
- Piano Sonata No. 12 in F, K332, Adagio (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
- Träumerei (Robert Schumann)
- Variations on the Kanon (George Winston)
- Meeting Points At 2AM (dné)
- Clouds (Pam Wedgwood)
The range and quality of music here is certainly very impressive indeed. Most readers will no doubt recognise many of the pieces on this list, while also probably encountering quite a few titles for the first time here.
My initial response to the playlist itself was to be thrilled to see so much fresh, accessible music, and from such a range of different composers that today’s players clearly enjoy. That said, I was unsure about the inclusion of well-worn classics (about a third of the material) easily available elsewhere.
Having spent some time both playing and listening to the playlist, I’ve changed my mind. The inclusion of established favourites that fit with the overall mood of the collection has proven a welcome addition, just as old friends are welcome in a room otherwise full of strangers.
It’s also fair to say that the target market here is not classical aficionados; fans of Ludovico Einaudi and Keaton Henson may well come fresh to the music of Mozart, Chopin and Ravel and fall in love with these timeless masterpieces, which is surely no bad thing.
But it is, of course, the many new pieces which give this publication such significant appeal. There are pieces here that have proven hugely popular on streaming services, and have certainly earned their right to be included in a mainstream publication.
Standout favourites for me include Alexis Ffrench’s gorgeous Last Song, Poppy Ackroyd’s mesmerising Strata, the joyous harmonies of Jessica Curry’s Mandus, and the poignant simplicity of Henrik Lindstrand’s Flora.
Although billed by the publishers as “intermediate” I rather suspect they may have underestimated the difficulty of some of the pieces. The easiest pieces may be around UK Grade 3, but many others include a rhythmic complexity that may prove challenging, especially to those unfamiliar with the original recordings. The range certainly reaches above Grade 6. But this could be a good thing, extending the shelf life of the collection considerably.
The book itself is beautifully presented, with soft covers and binding which is both sturdy and flexible.
Not for the first time when a Faber Music anthology has arrived, I initially feared that the volume wouldn’t stay open on the music stand, before discovering that with only minimal persuasion it happily compiled, without degrading the book in the process.
Venturing inside, the book has 128 pages, which are mostly given over to the well-presented and generously-spaced notation of the 35 pieces.
A rather nice additional touch: throughout the book there are occasional full-page black-and-white photographs of relaxing landscapes, any of which I would rather be in right now instead of at my desk typing. Aside from adding aesthetic quality to the publication these have practical value, cleverly minimising page turns.
The notation includes no fingering suggestions; pedalling is also mostly left to the performer’s discretion. And I would have liked to see a short note about the background of each piece, especially as quite of lot of the music here is new to me.
As for the classical favourites here, the presentation is practical rather than authoritative; for example, the distribution between hands in the slow movement of the Pathétique Sonata is helpful, if not urtext. Most pieces are unabridged originals, but the Ravel is the much simplified and shortened version which previously appeared in Faber Music’s outstanding Mindfulness Piano Collection (reviewed here).
Faber are to be loudly applauded for their vision and generosity in putting this collection together.
The Peaceful Piano Playlist without doubt includes an enterprising and impressive range of composers and music, with plenty to appeal to those players who stream similar playlists online and are drawn to this musical genre.
In practice, I should think that even a fairly advanced player would take quite a while to work their way through all 35 pieces included here; the book represents superb value for money, and is undoubtedly one that players will want to keep returning to.
To summarise, Faber Music have brilliantly encapsulated a very current musical zeitgeist with this collection, and it deserves to simply fly off the shelves!