Early in my piano teaching career I discovered The Keyboard Crocodile, a colourful publication from Breitkopf & Hārtel offering a delicious collection of 37 Easy Piano Pieces for Children.
Suitable for elementary players, The Keyboard Crocodile fast-tracks young players from around UK Prep Test to post Grade 2 seemingly in a few blinks of the eye, presenting rapidly more difficult pieces as though they are easy, and inspiring a level of practice that is uncommon at that level. It’s quite simply a classic of the pedagogy repertoire.
Over subsequent decades, Breitkopf have steadily grown their Pädagogik imprint to include a delightful range of other characters and collections, often with an emphasis on creative education. And now the editors of The Keyboard Crocodile have delved into music history’s treasure chest of piano literature and come up with 33 gems in minor keys, Toll in Moll (Finer in Minor) and another 33 in major keys, Toll in Dur (Greater in Major).
These two collections are quite simply stunning, perhaps the most superbly presented intermediate collections I have ever seen, and suitable for all ages.
They are available separately, or as the discounted pack of both together, shown above and reviewed here. The wide range of music included (all listed below) is suitable for intermediate players from around UK Grades 3-6. And there’s enough consistently good repertoire here to keep players going for quite some time!
It must be noted however that these are luxury publications which come with a premium price tag; I will explain later in the review why I think many should and will still be very tempted…
Toll in Moll: Finer in Minor
Turning first to Toll in Moll, this book appeared in a simpler version some years ago and was hugely popular. The music was selected and edited by the Keyboard Crocodile team comprising Karin Daxböck, Elisabeth Haas, Rosemarie Röll, Martina Schneider and Veronika Weinhandl.
For this updated version, Martina Schneider also delivers the colour artworks throughout. And indeed, it’s impossible to even consider the content before marvelling at the lush presentation, so extravagant does it appear when compared to just about any other intermediate piano collection I’ve seen.
Soft matt covers open to a 68-page book, with colour illustrations on every page throughout. Unlike the books for children at a lower level, these are abstract in nature, and in most cases serve merely as a colourful footer to each page. Somehow, though, they make the book insanely inviting, and I have to confess to flicking through it several times before actually raising my eyes to find out what music was also printed within these pages!
And here’s the list:
- Fuga [Georg Philipp Telemann]
- Prelude [Johann Sebastian Bach]
- Solfeggietto [Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach]
- Sonatina [Georg Anton Benda]
- Menuetto [Joseph Haydn]
- Shepherd’s Lament [Johann Friedrich Reichardt]
- Für Elise [Ludwig van Beethoven]
- Waltz [Franz Schubert]
- Valsenoble [Franz Schubert]
- Etude [Henri Bertini]
- Etude [Charles Mayer]
- Thunderstorm [Friedrich Burgmüller]
- Venetian Gondola Song [Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy]
- Valse [Frédéric Chopin]
- Knecht Ruprecht [Robert Schumann]
- Fantasy Dance [Robert Schumann]
- Prélude [Charles Gounod]
- Brownies [Nicolai von Wilm]
- A Tear [Modest Mussorgskij]
- Little Forest Bird [Heinrich Hofmann]
- Mélodie [Jules Massenet]
- Goblin [Edvard Grieg]
- Arabesque [Gennari Karganoff]
- Merman [Ludvig Schytte]
- Prélude [Henryk Pachulski]
- Poco agitato [Samuil Majkapar]
- Preludium [Feliks Rybicki]
- Winter Evening [Konstantin Sorokin]
- Deep Blue C [John Kember]
- Rumba Romantica [Gerald Schwertberger]
- The Detective [Herman Beeftink]
- Melancholy Reflections [Mike Schoenmehl]
- Disco Visit [Mike Schoenmehl]
Those who may have encountered an older edition of this collection from a few years ago will spot that for this new publication the book hasn’t simply been given a fresh coat of paint, but includes a revised, updated and expanded list of pieces.
What is striking here is the breath and range of the music on offer, with a healthy selection of the most enjoyable and accessible pieces from the Baroque and Classical eras mixing with Romantic gems, imaginative 20th century and fun jazzy pieces. There isn’t a piece here you will want to ignore or miss out.
In terms of the scores themselves, the music notation is beautifully engraved, and has an “urtext” feel without the addition of editorial dynamics. A good amount of fingering is included throughout however. With an emphasis on letting the visuals and music work their own magic, sources of the pieces aren’t included in the main body of the book, but in the contents page we can find opus numbers, composers’ dates and more.
Rounding off this edition, MP3 audio tracks of the pieces, performed by Ai Sakae, are available for free download from the publisher’s website. These are tastefully and imaginatively performed, and superbly recorded.
Toll in Dur: Greater in Major
Toll in Dur is an all-new collection compiled, edited and again with artworks by Martina Schneider. Building on the success of the original Toll in Moll the collection again features 33 pieces:
- The Whirlwinds [Jean-François Dandrieu]
- Prelude from Partita V [Johann Kuhnau]
- Gavotte [Domenico Zipoli]
- The Triumph [Johann Nicolaus Tischer]
- Presto [Baldassare Galuppi]
- Allegro [Wilhelm Friedemann Bach]
- Divertimento [Georg Christoph Wagenseil]
- Fantasia [Johann Wilhelm Hässler]
- Préludevarié [Johann Wilhelm Hässler]
- Youthful Briskness [Daniel Gottlob Türk]
- Allegro [Joseph Haydn]
- Allegro scherzando [Johann Georg Witthauer]
- Variations on an Austrian Folksong [Friedrich Kuhlau]
- Morning Bell [Johann Friedrich Burgmüller]
- Dreamery [Cornelius Gurlitt]
- Postlude [Cornelius Gurlitt]
- Sostenuto [Frédéric Chopin]
- In the Evening [Heinrich Hofmann]
- Watchman’s Song [Edvard Grieg]
- Scherzo [Edmund Parlow]
- The Narrator [Richard Krentzlin]
- The Entry of the Marionettes [Samuil Majkapar]
- Valse lente [Oskar Merikanto]
- In the Fields [Reinhold Glière]
- The Sewing Machine [Jacques Ibert]
- Dance [Dmitri Kabalewskij]
- Sunset [William Gillock]
- New Orleans Blues [William Gillock]
- Attention Seeker [Christopher Norton]
- Step Time [John Kember]
- On the Line [Christopher Norton]
- Pop Prelude [Daniel Hellbach]
- Concerto for Julia [Mike Schoenmehl]
Once again, there is a real mix of style, period and genre here. What is common throughout is the consistency of musical quality and imagination.
Suffice to say that all my comments about the presentation, music engraving and editing in Toll in Moll equally apply here. The book is, in a word, fantastic.
A Balanced Pack
While each of these two books offer superb and varied selections of music, I cannot but recommend that any player explore music in both major and minor keys! Toll in Dur provides the ‘yang’ to Toll in Moll’s ‘yin’.
So I am happy to report that Breitkopf have released a pack including both publications together. The “pack” arrives as a simple but high-quality card wrap-around featuring the artwork from the series, within which both books can nicely snuggle up. More than mere packaging, I will certainly be keeping the books together in this sleeve.
About the price. Even applying the Pianodao Tea Room discount (extra welcome here!) this is an investment that costs around £30. Is it worth it?
The answer to this will of course vary depending on circumstances. In the books’ favour, they combine to include 66 consistently superb pieces that will keep a student busy over a few years. That’s less than 50p a piece, and I cannot overstate my belief that players will want to lap up every piece included.
All of which makes these books rather unusual even before we consider the fact that their superb presentation elevates them to the status of ‘artwork’ in their own right. While checking students and parents are okay with the price, I will certainly be recommending the pairing to players, confident that they will actually get outstanding value.
Teachers who own much of the material already might be more circumspect about acquiring their own copy, but I must caution: once seen, once smitten! Indeed, every time I encounter a new collection from Breitkopf, I find myself scouring their website for anything I’ve missed. With so many genuine gems, don’t overlook their superb catalogue.
Toll in Moll, Toll in Dur is a brilliant place to start your exploration…
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