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Reviewing Pam Wedgwood’s The Rusty Pianist when it appeared around this time last year, I concluded:
“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.”
Wedgwood’s latest publication, the cannily titled Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces is a companion to that brilliant volume, and continues the ruse of appealing to the modesty of returning adult players.
The book delivers an enticing collection of 16 “easy-to-learn piano solos for the returning player”, pieces which can be enjoyed in their own right by piano returners at intermediate level, without any deadline or need to prove their progress in an exam room. Let’s once again lift the lid…
I have a particular fondness for working with returning adult players of all levels, and have found Pam Wedgwood’s first Rusty Pianist hugely popular in my studio, both as a refresher and simply as a superb music collection.
Wedgwood clearly has a similar empathy for adult players, understanding how much joy and reward playing the piano has given them. Introducing this new collection, she tells us,
“In this second book in The Rusty Pianist series, I have compiled more pieces in a variety of styles: from folk to classical, jazz and dance styles. I hope there will be something for everyone, with helpful hints on how to play and understand each piece along the way, as well as recordings of them all to listen to.”
There is certainly plenty of musical variety to be found here, as we’ll see in a moment, but first I’ll pick up on Wedgwood’s point that the book includes helpful hints, as these were a particular feature in The Rusty Pianist.
The new book follows a very similar format and layout to the original title, each piece prefaced by handy background information and playing tips, as well as an inspirational quote and suggestions of similar pieces to play from other books.
Missing, however, are the Rusty Reminders which accompanied each piece in the first book, presumably on the basis that by now the player will be comfortably back on the piano stool. Also not present this time, the handy pull-out of additional reminders. I think this is all fair enough, bearing in mind that these pieces will be played as a follow-on, building on the experience gained already.
The cover of The Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces is so close in tone to the first book that the two could easily be mistaken were it not for the bold font of the title:
Within, the 32 pages are printed on white paper, with an attractive layout and well engraved notation. Helpful fingering suggestions are included throughout. The pieces all benefit from pedalling, which is left to the player’s judgment.
Happily reappearing, all the pieces have online audio demo recordings, which can be freely downloaded as a zip file from the Faber Music site using a QR code. Listening to these, I found them useful more than inspiring.
Easy-to-learn piano solos
This brings us to the pieces, which (cutting to the chase) are:
- Rusty the Cat (Pam Wedgwood)
- Through the looking glass (Pam Wedgwood)
- Stepping out (Pam Wedgwood)
- A cosy night in (Pam Wedgwood)
- Arioso from Cantata BWV 156 (J. S. Bach arr. Pam Wedgwood)
- The Skye boat song (trad. arr. Pam Wedgwood)
- Bubbling over (Pam Wedgwood)
- Ebb and flow (Pam Wedgwood)
- Theme from Adagio, Sonata ‘Pathétique’ (Beethoven arr. Pam Wedgwood)
- Al mal tiempo, buena cara (Pam Wedgwood)
- Amazing Grace (trad. arr. Pam Wedgwood)
- Winter from The Four Seasons (Vivaldi arr. Pam Wedgwood)
- Wistful waltz (Pam Wedgwood)
- Loch Lomond (trad. arr. Pam Wedgwood)
- Nocturne, Op. 9, No. 2 (Chopin arr. Pam Wedgwood)
- Golden Hill (Pam Wedgwood)
As you can see from this list, more than half the items here are originals composed by Wedgwood, while the book includes just four arrangements of classical favourites and three folk melodies.
The arrangements are tastefully done simplifications which bring popular favourites within the technical reach of players at upper intermediate level. The classical pieces admirably retain the essence of the originals, while the folk tune arrangements (as in the previous book) more obviously showcase Wedgwood’s creative imagination.
The original pieces cover a wide range of styles, from classical pastiche to (more predominantly) jazz and popular styles. Swing appears in the opening Rusty the Cat, while Through the Looking Glass is a truly delicious ballad. As the book progresses we are treated to the quickstep (Stepping Out), ragtime (Bubbling Over), the habanera (Al mal tiempo, buena cara) and more.
For those who enjoy Wedgwood’s inimitable style, with its fond glances at so many contemporary genres, embedded in wonderfully instinctive classically-informed piano solos, The Rusty Pianist: Playable Pieces is an essential purchase whether or not following on from the previous title in the series.
Applying a little oil
“In making the decision to regain your love for the piano you will have created an enjoyable skill 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!”
Pam Wedgwood has become so hugely likeable a contributor to the piano landscape over the decades that any new release from her can only add to the sense of well-being and musical enjoyment we all need more than ever.
This latest collection is full of winsome pieces which will further extend her reputation for adding to the musical engagement and pleasure of players. That the book follows on from such a successful title is perhaps merely a further hook, were one needed.
As a teacher, I can immediately think of several adult players who are going to absolutely love this book. As a reviewer, that is rare praise indeed. This is quite literally a music book that makes the world a better place.
As they so often do, I think that Faber Music have once again perfectly “read the room” with this modestly priced publication, and it will undoubtedly be a well-deserved and hugely popular success. Bravo!
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