Chances are readers will have encountered the music of Alexis Ffrench; his albums Evolution and Dreamland have both topped the classical charts making him the UK’s biggest selling pianist of 2020, and his music has amassed over 200 million streams online.
Now, in conjunction with Universal Music and SONY, Hal Leonard bring us the official music book of Ffrench’s biggest piano hits to date, Alexis Ffrench: The Sheet Music Collection. Let’t take a look…
The Sheet Music Collection is a chunky compendium in a soft matt cover:
Within, the book is printed on 144 white pages. The binding is flexible, and though glued seems durable. After the title and contents pages, there are three full-page black and white photographs of Ffrench, and a short Preface from his pen in which he confides,
“Much of my music is derived from a desire to comfort, rebalance and renew, and to inspire people’s dreams to take flight. So whether you are just starting out on your piano journey, or a more experienced player, I hope that these pieces offer you a form of escapism and transport you to a place where you can dream your own universe into existence.”
The 25 pieces in the collection are cleanly and spaciously engraved, taking up the remainder of the publication, the length of each ranging from 2 to 9 pages. Ffrench’s performing directions are minimal, but players coming to this music will probably be familiar with his recordings, using them as a model. Fingering suggestions are not included.
Each piece is helpfully preceded by a shortlist of Composer’s Tips, which are a hugely welcome addition, often providing considerable insight.
Furthermore, Ffrench tells us in his Preface,
“Don’t forget you have my tutorial videos to assist you in your learning too, should you need them. Simply visit my YouTube channel for visual aids and helpful tips.”
The Sheet Music Collection brings together the following titles:
- At Last from Evolution
- Bluebird from Evolution
- Carousel from Escape
- Coming Home from Dreamland
- Crest of a Wave from Dreamland
- Dreamland from Dreamland
- Exhale from Evolution
- Flow and Begin Again from Evolution
- Footprints in the Sand from Dreamland
- Forever Song from Dreamland
- Forgiven from Evolution
- Heartbeats from Dreamland
- Last Song from The Secret Piano
- Moments from Evolution
- Rapture from Dreamland
- Reborn from Evolution
- Rivers from Dreamland
- Story of you from Dreamland
- A Time of Wonder from The Piano Whisperer
- Together at Last from Together at Last
- Tomorrow Song from Evolution
- Waterfalls from Evolution
- Where Worlds Collide from Evolution
- Wishing from Dreamland
- Written in the Stars from Dreamland
Ffrench’s music is certainly easy on the ear, but in some cases less so to play. Written in the flowing style beloved of easy listening piano music from the Richard Clayderman/George Winston camp, most of these pieces will take a little while for even the advanced player to get their fingers around. I would recommend the book for those at around UK Grade 7-8 level.
It comes as no surprise to learn that Ffrench was once a student at the Purcell School, before training at London’s Royal Academy of Music. As well as the technical command demonstrated in his performances of these pieces, he has a keen sense of what really works well on the piano, while his craftsmanship as a composer is beyond dispute.
On his website, Ffrench describes himself as a “classical-soul pioneer”, but here I must hesitate. The music seems to me very much of the current mainstream, and consummately so. What marks it out as special to my ears is not so much its groove as the accomplishment with which Ffrench delivers these many flowing, tuneful pieces.
Listening to Ffrench’s recordings and reading the score, I am firstly impressed with the accuracy and detail of these transcriptions. It is easy to understand why Ffrench’s recordings are so popular, and for those wanting to play his music themselves, The Sheet Music Collection delivers a fine feast.
For the player, I suspect, the primary challenge will be to infuse these often complex pieces with the sense of simple beauty and gentleness that Ffrench himself conveys with such subtlety.
The “classical crossover” piano scene has remained as buoyant as ever in 2020, and I have reviewed several excellent releases. Alexis Ffrench: The Sheet Music Collection is more meaty than most both in the quantity and scope of its content, and in the technical demands it places on players.
Here then is a book that is going to make a lot of piano players very happy indeed!
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