Celtic Piano Music

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

Since its appearance in 2015, Donald Thomson’s A Borders Suite, which comprises five intermediate pieces stunningly presented by EVC Music, has made an impressive impact.

That first book spawned three more, each adding five more pieces celebrating the beauty of Scotland, and in 2018 the series received the accolade of being a finalist in the Best Print Resource category of the Music Education Awards.

Now EVC Music has released the ultimate collection of Thomson’s music. Bringing together all 20 pieces from those four collections and adding one more for good measure, Celtic Piano Music is a publication to celebrate and treasure. Let’s take a look…

A Celtic Celebration

Each of the pieces in this collection celebrate different facets and regions of Scotland, and while not directly based on traditional melodies, there’s no doubting the truth of this assessment from the book’s introduction:

“Thomson’s love of the folk music of Scotland infuses his compositional style, inspired by Gaelic songs, fiddle, and pipe tunes, making him a true National Scottish composer who breaks through the layers of the white noise with a quiet but very assuring confidence.”

Here’s the full list of included pieces:

Scottish Waters
• The Guddly Burn
• The Silvery Tay
• The Corryvreckan Whirlpool
• The Legend of Loch Ness
• St Mary’s Loch

Myths & Legends
• The Brownie of Ballachulish
• Song of the Selkies
• The Kelpies’ Jig
• The Grey Lady
• The Fairy Pools

A Borders Suite
• Heriot Water
• The Grey Mare’s Tail
• Brodie’s Jig
• Innerleithen Air
• Melrose Abbey

A Hebrides Suite
• Luskentyre Lullaby
• Harris Tweed
• The Isle of Staffa
• The Callanish Stones
• Colonsay Ceilidh

New: Two Golden Circles

The faster movements could easily be adapted for a traditional Scottish Ceilidh, while the slower numbers are reminiscent of the country’s singing heritage (the composer is himself the accompanist for two choirs).

In terms of level, the original books were billed as “intermediate” but the new compilation is “intermediate to advanced”. I would suggest that the pieces range from around UK Grades 4-7.

For the purposes of the Pianodao Music Library I have added the book to the “advanced” section, having no doubt that players post-Grade 5 will have the technique needed for playing the more florid passages, legato chords, and will be able to add appropriately subtle pedalling.

Nor do I have any doubt that this wonderful music will enrich the repertoire and bring much pleasure to those able to enjoy the whole collection!

A Celtic Publication

Recalling that A Borders Suite was a relatively early success in the EVC Music catalogue, it is impressive to see how far Elena Cobb’s enterprise has come, delivering music publications ready for the mass market, but which happily retain the distinctively fresh visuals and boutique appeal that defined her brand from the start.

As with the recently reviewed Ballads Without Words compendium, this bumper selection of Thomson’s music offers exceptional value without compromising these qualities.

The highly distinctive and beautifully conceived cover artwork recalls the earlier volumes in the series:

Within, the contents page includes a QR code which, when scanned, takes the owner to the product page where they can listen to the original recordings of the pieces. The book also happily includes a two-page introduction to the music, which offers background detail to each title, explaining the origins of the pieces themselves and of the landscapes and lore behind them.

The notation is carefully presented (Thomson is himself a professional music engraver working for Faber Music and others), well spaced, and appears in a generous font size. A sensible amount of fingering advice is included throughout. The pieces occupy between two to five pages, and with a total of 64 pages this is a substantial publication that could offer years of delight.

A Celtic Treasure

For those wanting to play well-crafted music combining creative originality with a Scottish flair, I cannot but agree with the publisher’s assessment that Thomson really is the “National composer” to look to. This is a supremely evocative collection.

These 21 pieces offer engaging variety, imagination, and above all relaxed enjoyment. The Celtic Piano Music collection is quite simply superb.

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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.