The Rusty Pianist

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

Pam Wedgwood has an uncanny knack for spotting a niche; time and again, with publications such as the best-selling Jazzin’ About, After Hours, It’s Never Too Late and Up-Grade series, Wedgwood has delivered neatly-positioned and engagingly crafted material that has exactly met the need of the hour.

And with The Rusty Pianist she’s undoubtedly done it again.

Appearing after a year in which many former players who previously gave up playing have returned to their hobby with renewed enthusiasm, this handsomely presented 40-page book offers an opportunity for them to, as the publishers put it,

“Rediscover the piano with this exciting collection of easy-to-learn piano solos.”

So let’s investigate further …

Rekindling their love…

Dedicating this new collection to “all who want to rekindle their love for playing the piano”, Wedgwood offers the following encouragement in her warmly written introduction:

“I can’t tell how many times I have heard someone say: ‘Oh I do wish I had carried on learning the piano’. Unfortunately for lots of us, through no fault of our own, life gets in the way and we have to change our leisure activities to make space for family or work… There are probably many reasons why you stopped playing, but now is the time to think about opening the piano lid and making a fresh start.”

Pitched for those who are ready to jump back in at Late Elementary to Early Intermediate level (so between Grades 2-4), the book contains 21 new pieces and arrangements by Wedgwood, supported with:

Rusty Reminders
A four-page pullout section gives advice about pedalling, rolling chords, finger control, rhythm control (including off-beat rhythms and swing time) and Italian terms. And each piece is preceded by a little box referencing which sections of this will be particularly relevant and helpful as preliminary practice and reminders.

Demonstration Tracks
Audio tracks recorded by the composer are available online, accessed via the Faber Music website or by scanning the QR code in the book. Either way, the recordings are downloaded as a zip file and are excellent, offering musically on-point performances of each piece.

Background Tips
Each piece is preceded by a paragraph of advice, with tips from Wedgwood about technique, style and interpretation. There’s also an inspirational quote and suggestions of other music (from Wedgwood’s many publications) to have a go at playing.

In short, this is a really helpful array of support, and while any returning pianist must be advised to access the support of a good teacher who has the experience and training to spot and deliver the personalised input they need, there’s a healthy amount of sensible, expert advice on offer straight away here.

Music to inspire and treasure

Wedgwood tells us,

“In this book, I have tried to encourage returning pianists to enjoy playing in many different styles: Classical, Latin, Romantic as well as ballads and blues. I hope there will be something for everyone….”

The full list of pieces is as follows:

  1. Opening Night (Pam Wedgwood)
  2. ‘Raindrop’ Prelude (Chopin arr. Wedgwood)
  3. Dreaming (Pam Wedgwood)
  4. Bossa-Nova Baby! (Pam Wedgwood)
  5. Ave Maria (Bach/Gounod Arr. Wedgwood)
  6. Blues for Mabel (Pam Wedgwood)
  7. Memory Lane (Pam Wedgwood)
  8. Down by the Salley Gardens (trad. Arr. Wedgwood)
  9. The Old Mill (Pam Wedgwood)
  10. Theme from Adagio for strings (Albinoni arr. Wedgwood)
  11. Storm in a teacup (Pam Wedgwood)
  12. Scarborough Fair (trad. Arr. Wedgwood)
  13. Past times (Pam Wedgwood)
  14. Moonlight Romance (Pam Wedgwood)
  15. Danny Boy (trad. Arr. Wedgwood)
  16. Salut d’Amour (Elgar arr. Wedgwood)
  17. Skylarks (Pam Wedgwood)
  18. Au fond du temple saint from The Pearl Fishers (Bizet arr. Wedgwood)
  19. Shenandoah (trad. Arr. Wedgwood)
  20. Serenade (Pam Wedgwood)
  21. The bay at sunset (Pam Wedgwood), Past Times (Pam Wedgwood)

As one would expect from Wedgwood, the arrangements of popular classics are suitably pertinent to the level, and impressively manifest the essence of the original compositions within their simplified form.

Wedgwood’s original compositions, meanwhile, are highly enjoyable and evocative. I would go further and suggest that the book includes some of her best yet.

The overall mixture of music is likely to appeal to a huge audience, and it would actually be rather a pity if only those who self-identify as rusty were to discover it!

Closing Thoughts

Some of the publications which come my way are absolutely perfect for their intended niche, while others go far beyond their remit to become enduring classics with huge appeal. I am happy to say that this is one of those publications, and it belongs not only on the shelves of the rusty, but of piano lovers everywhere.

So far as its core intended market of returning pianists though, Wedgwood suggests,

“Making the decision to regain your love for the piano will establish an enjoyable skill to use for the rest of your life. Think of it as a little piece of personal well-being and calm in this challenging world. That can’t be bad!”

Indeed. And buying The Rusty Pianist would be a brilliant place to start.

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Published by

Andrew Eales

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