Peaceful Piano Solos • The Series

Featured publications are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

Hal Leonard’s Peaceful Piano Solos series began life in 2018 with an initial title and matching easy piano version, offering the same 30 popular relaxing piano solos.

Peaceful Christmas Piano Solos (which I have already reviewed here) and Peaceful Piano Solos Soundtracks followed the next year. With Peaceful Classical Piano Solos recently joining the range, this seems like a good moment to catch up with the series as a whole.

First, I will introduce each of the books in turn, including their track lists and particular points to note. For information about the Christmas edition, please refer back to my previous review.

Later in the review, I will then offer some generic observations about the publications and series as a whole…

Peaceful Piano Solos

The original hit that spawned the series, Peaceful Piano Solos is a 104-page collection of the following 30 pieces, of variable difficulty within the late intermediate to early advanced range:

  • American Beauty Theme (Thomas Newman)
  • Big My Secret from The Piano (Michael Nyman)
  • Bluebird (Alexis Ffrench)
  • Cavatina from The Deer Hunter (Stanley Myers)
  • Cinema Paradiso Love Theme from Cinema Paradiso (Ennio Morricone)
  • Comptine d’un autre été: L’après-midi from Amélie (Yann Tiersen)
  • Dalur (Island Songs V) (Ólafur Arnalds)
  • Dawn from Pride & Prejudice (Dario Marianelli)
  • Eyes Closed And Travelling (Peter Broderick)
  • Fly (Ludovico Einaudi)
  • A Game Of Badminton from b (Dario Marianelli)
  • Gizeh (Oskar Schuster)
  • Glasgow Love Theme from Love Actually (Craig Armstrong)
  • Grace (Neil Cowley Trio)
  • Home from The Beauty Inside (Dustin O’Halloran)
  • In The Morning Light (Yanni)
  • Kebnekajse (Karin Borg)
  • Light Of The Seven from Game Of Thrones (Ramin Djawadi)
  • Metamorphosis Two (Philip Glass)
  • A Model Of The Universe from The Theory Of Everything (Jóhann Jóhannsson)
  • Opening from Glassworks (Philip Glass)
  • Opus 23 (Dustin O’Halloran)
  • Somewhere In Time Theme from Somewhere In Time (John Barry)
  • A Time For Us Love Theme from Romeo & Juliet (Nino Rota)
  • Tokka (Agnes Obel)
  • Travelling (James Spiteri)
  • Una Mattina (Ludovico Einaudi)
  • Vladimir’s Blues (Max Richter)
  • Watermark (Enya)
  • Written on the Sky (Max Richter)

As a collection of the most popular (dare I say iconic?) piano solos of the last couple of decades, this can hardly be bettered.

And for those interested, there is also an Easy Piano edition which contains the same list of pieces. The arrangements here are of course simplified, aimed at early intermediate players. In some cases the simplifications work well, while others might disappoint more ambitious players with their reduction of the original material.

Peaceful Piano Solos: Soundtracks

The Peaceful Piano Solos Soundtracks collection could have been the perfect follow up, so it’s surprising that there is a considerable overlap of music in the list of 30 included pieces:

  • American Beauty from American Beauty
  • Balcony Scene from Romeo and Juliet
  • Beauty and the Beast from Beauty and the Beast
  • Big My Secret from The Piano
  • Cavatina from The Deer Hunter
  • Cinema Paradiso from Cinema Paradiso
  • Comptine d’un autre été: L’après-midi from Amélie
  • Dawn from Pride & Prejudice
  • Downton Abbey Theme from Downton Abbey
  • A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes from Cinderella
  • The Ellie Badge from Up
  • Escape! from The Hours
  • Feather Theme from Forrest Gump
  • Fly from The Intouchables
  • Home from The Beauty Inside
  • Ice Dance from Edward Scissorhands
  • Il Postino from Il Postino
  • Lamentation for a Lost Life from Taboo
  • Light of the Seven from Game of Thrones
  • Lion Theme from Lion
  • Love Theme from The Godfather
  • Merry-Go-Round of Life from Howl’s Moving Castle
  • A Model of the Universe from The Theory of Everything
  • Moon River from Breakfast At Tiffany’s
  • The Music of the Night from The Phantom of the Opera
  • Pure Imagination from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
  • The Shape of Water from The Shape of Water
  • Somewhere in Time from Somewhere in Time
  • Theme from Schindler’s List
  • Together We Will Live Forever from The Fountain

Given the scope of Hal Leonard’s world-leading catalogue of contemporary music, the duplication here seems a little lazy, but for collectors of the series there are still some excellent pieces that justify the purchase, especially given the modest price compared to purchasing individual titles.

As with the first book in the series, the general level can be described as late intermediate to early advanced; trying to guesstimate UK Grade levels would be rather moot, as so many pieces here simply don’t fit into a tick-box paradigm.

Peaceful Classical Piano Solos

This brings us to the latest addition to the series, and happily this time the (uncredited) series editors have delivered a completely new selection:

  • Adagietto from Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor (Gustav Mahler)
  • Adagio sostenuto from Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp minor, Moonlight Sonata (Ludwig van Beethoven)
  • Andante from Three-fours Valse Suite, Op. 71 (Samuel Coleridge-Taylor)
  • Andante con moto from Lieder ohne Worte, Op. 19b (Felix Mendelssohn)
  • Ave Maria, D. 839 (Franz Schubert)
  • Canción from Obras desconocidas (Manuel de Falla)
  • Clair de Lune from Suite bergamasque, L. 75 (Claude Debussy)
  • Dreaming from 4 Sketches, Op. 15 (Amy Beach)
  • Gymnopédie No. 1 (Erik Satie)
  • Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana (Pietro Mascagni)
  • Largo from The Four Seasons, Winter (Antonio Vivaldi)
  • Largo Ombra mai fu from Xerxes, HWV 40 (Georg Friedrich Händel)
  • Largo Theme from Symphony No. 9 in E Minor, Op. 95, From the New World (Antonín Dvorák)
  • Le Cygne (The Swan) from Le Carnaval des Animaux, R. 125 (Camille Saint-Saëns)
  • Lento appassionato from 6 Mélodies pour le piano, Op. 4 & 5 (Fanny Mendelssohn)
  • Liebesträum No. 3 in A flat (Franz Liszt)
  • Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet (Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky)
  • Méditation from Thaïs (Jules Massenet)
  • Morning Mood from Peer Gynt, Op. 23 (Edvard Grieg)
  • Nimrod from Variations on an Original Theme, Op. 36, Enigma (Edward Elgar)
  • Nocturne in E-flat Major, Op. 9, No. 2 (Frédéric Chopin)
  • Panis Angelicus (César Franck)
  • Pavane pour une infante défunte (Maurice Ravel)
  • Pie Jesu from Requiem, Op. 48 (Gabriel Fauré)
  • Prelude in C Major from The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1, BWV 846 (Johann Sebastian Bach)
  • Romance from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, K. 525 (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
  • To a Wild Rose from Ten Woodland Sketches, Op. 51 (Edward MacDowell)
  • Träumerei from Kinderszenen, Op. 15 (Robert Schumann)
  • Warum willst du and’re fragen from 12 Gedichte aus Liebesfrühling, Op. 37 (Clara Schumann)
  • Wiegenlied (Lullaby) from 5 Lieder, Op. 49 (Johannes Brahms)

This is certainly a musically appealing selection, and I predict it will give players lasting enjoyment.

Readers will perhaps have clocked that several of the pieces are arrangements of orchestral classics. The publisher also notes that,

“Some pieces have been transposed and simplified for ease of playing.”

Of the piece solos, the most obvious example is Liszt’s “Liebesträum No. 3 in A flat”, appearing here radically simplified and in G major. Most, however (including Clair de lune, Ravel’s Pavane and Chopin’s Nocturne) appear in their original versions.

In these cases, the editions are generally fine, but it would perhaps have been useful if the publishers had noted which pieces are the originals and which aren’t, as well as crediting whoever is responsible for the generally excellent arrangements in this book.

Bearing in mind the titles already noted, the collection would clearly suit the advanced player, the majority of the pieces being around UK Grades 7-8 level, with some easier arrangements also included.

The Peaceful Publications

The Peaceful Piano Solos books are beautifully presented, nicely conjuring the relaxed mood of the music with their pastel aesthetic. Ranging from 96-104 pages (printed on white paper), the notation within is well-spaced and carefully presented.

None of the books include any fingering suggestions, which is particularly disappointing in the case of Peaceful Piano Solos for Easy Piano. Given that it claims to be suitable for the grade 2-4 level pianist, fingering suggestions are surely fairly standard in piano music for these players.

In terms of disappointment, I’m also obliged to report that the glue binding came unstuck in one of the review copies, leaving the cover falling off after the first use. That said, I feel that overall the books are, given their budget price point, something of a bargain.

In short, my general feeling is that the Peaceful Piano Solos books, while not perfect, have a classy presentation and make for a good purchase.

A Peaceful Recommendation

The Peaceful Piano Solo series is an easy recommendation, delivering a brilliant selection of contemporary favourites in a tastefully presented set of anthologies, with nicely playable editions.

All the books are packed with “hits” from cover to cover, and there’s a book for everyone here.

The intermediate player will enjoy the Easy Piano edition (with technical support from a teacher), and original collection and Soundtracks book are perfect for the advancing player, while the new Classical book will be enticing for any more advanced pianist.

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Published by

Andrew Eales

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