Disney Goes Classical

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

Disney Goes Classical is the latest hit album from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, comprising 15 favourite songs from Disney movies. You can stream it on all the usual platforms, and now you can also play the arrangements from the recently published 72-page accompanying music book…

The “Classical” of the title presumably refers to the fact that the album was recorded by seasoned classical artists (including cameo appearances from guitarist Kaori Muraji and singers Renée Fleming and Matteo Bocelli) rather than a studio orchestra; most of the songs seem to me little changed from the originals.

As such the new music book serves not only as a companion to the RPO recording but as a potentially useful and inspiring collection of some of the most iconic Disney songs.

There’s no shortage of Disney songbooks on the market of course, but this one has special appeal, so let me sprinkle you with fairy dust and we’ll take a tour of this magical publication….

Is Your Favourite Here?

So that the suspense doesn’t result in too many casualties, I’ll cut straight to the track list:

  • Overture (from Mary Poppins)
  • How Far I’ll Go (Moana)
  • A Whole New World (Aladdin)
  • Can You Feel the Love Tonight (Lion King) #
  • Almost There (The Princess and the Frog)
  • Go The Distance (Hercules)
  • Colours of the Wind (Pocahontas)
  • When She Loved Me (Toy Story 2) #
  • The Bare Necessities (The Jungle Book)
  • Part of Your World (The Little Mermaid)
  • Beauty and the Beast
  • I See The Light (Tangled)
  • Let It Go (Frozen)
  • Reflection (Mulan)
  • When You Wish Upon a Star (Pinocchio) #

Phew! That’s a whole lot of hits (the same list as the recording).

The Arrangements

The Hal Leonard book has packaging to match the CD release, white paper and sturdy stapled binding. Notation is well engraved, standard in size and well spaced. It’s a slight disappointment that there are no fingering suggestions to support independent learning.

The (uncredited) arrangements remain closely faithful to the RPO recordings, and range in length from three pages to six.

Most are solo piano arrangements, although the three which include vocals on the recording (marked # in the list above) include separate vocal line and (rather oddly) guitar chord symbols. In all three cases however, the piano part includes the main melody line.

Overall, I would suggest that these ambitious but highly enjoyable arrangements would suit players at the upper end of Intermediate level, around Grade 5-6 in the UK.

Players will certainly benefit from working with a teacher who is stylistically attuned to the music; with no shortage of questions about pace, rhythmic emphasis, fingering, articulation, voicing and pedalling to address, these arrangements can be as pedagogically stimulating and nourishing as they are musically entertaining.

Dynamics and (occasionally) phrasing are included, and in some cases, larger chords will need to be spread by players with smaller hands. And it’s worth noting that, staying as true as possible to the recording, some of the pieces are in keys with several sharps and flats.

In addition to rapidly progressing tween and teenage students who enjoy the songs, an obvious market for the book is piano-playing parents and the many music teachers who want to entertain and inspire the children in their lives.

Just try playing these songs with your windows fully open, and see if the local neighbourhood children don’t congregate on your front lawn!

And of course there are plenty of adult players who will want this collection purely for enjoyment… okay, I admit it, I myself had an improbable amount of fun playing through Disney Goes Classical!

Closing Titles

Simply put, this is a publication which sells itself. The song list will undoubtedly be irresistible to many, the arrangements are superb, and presentation spot on.

If you are in the market for the perfect Disney collection, this just might be the magical publication where,

“… anything your heart desires will come to you.
If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme,
When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.”

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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.