British Classics the Piano Player

The Piano Player: British Classics

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

Faber Music have a well-earned reputation for producing outstanding series of music books. From their lush Faber Piano Anthology series to Paul Harris’s Improve Your Sight Reading and Pam Wedgwood’s Jazzin’ Around, their best series have become landmark publications.

With their latest publication, British Classics, Faber are launching a new series, with seven titles projected, simply called The Piano Player. So let’s take a look at the series debut…

The Piano Player series

Aimed at intermediate players of all ages (and I suspect with a particular eye on the adult market), these look set to be a lovely collection of repertoire books.

In terms of the product itself, this first book has a gorgeous soft matt cover featuring artwork by Edward Bawden (1903-1989), whose strikingly beautiful images are set to grace all of the upcoming books in the series. Within, there is a full page biography and photograph of the artist, and his works are being used with the kind permission of the his estate and the Higgins Art Gallery & Museum, Bedford.

Bawden’s style is certainly an excellent fit for Faber’s company image, and nestling within the book there’s a pull-out A4 colour reproduction of the cover artwork, which I can imagine some might want to frame.

On the reverse, we also see teaser images (uniformly wonderful) of the upcoming titles in the series, which promise to be:

  • Classical Favourites (20 of the most popular pieces of classical music, specially arranged for intermediate piano solo)
  • Uplifting Classics (20 of the most famous classical pieces ideal to lift the spirit)
  • Classical Tear-Jerkers (20 of the saddest pieces of classical music, guaranteed to make you weep)
  • Classical Chillout (20 beautiful and relaxing classical pieces)
  • Wintertide Collection (a seasonal collection of 20 wintery pieces)
  • Classical Piano Works (a collection of 20 original pieces written for piano from the 1700’s to the present day)

For now though, let’s take a closer look at initial release British Classics, which with impeccable timing arrives just in time for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee…

British Classics

The “20 iconic pieces of British classical music specially arranged for intermediate piano solo” that make up this collection are:

  • Auld Lang Syne (Scottish Traditional)
  • Emma (Theme) (Rachel Portman)
  • Enigma Variations: Theme (Edward Elgar)
  • Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (Ralph Vaughan Williams)
  • Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau (Land of My Fathers) (James James)
  • Jerusalem (Hubert Parry)
  • Jig (from St Paul’s Suite) (Gustav Holst)
  • La Réjouissance (from Music for the Royal Fireworks) (George Frideric Handel)
  • Londonderry Air (Danny Boy) (Irish Traditional)
  • Nocturne (from Sonatina Romantica) (Benjamin Britten)
  • Pieds-en-l’air (from Capriol Suite) (Peter Warlock)
  • Pride and Prejudice (Theme) (Carl Davis)
  • Salut d’Amour (Edward Elgar)
  • The Dam Busters March (Eric Coates)
  • The Heart Asks Pleasure First (from The Piano) (Michael Nyman)
  • The Lord Is My Shepherd (Psalm 23) (Howard Goodall)
  • The Prince of Denmark’s March (Jeremiah Clarke)
  • Trumpet Tune (Henry Purcell)
  • Venus, the Bringer of Peace (from The Planets) (Gustav Holst)
  • We’ll Gather Lilacs (from Perchance to Dream) (Ivor Novello)

The pieces appear in approximate order of difficulty, from the opening lilt of the Londonderry Air (late elementary) through to Michael Nyman’s classic (early advanced) Heart Asks Pleasure First, a ridiculously rousing arrangement of The Dam Busters March and the more conciliatory Venus, the Bringer of Peace which concludes the collection.

The 56 pages are printed on white paper, and the notation engraving is pristine. Fingering suggestions are included throughout and in most cases should prove both sufficient and helpful.

My only small criticism is that the arrangements themselves are uncredited, but I am advised that they are the work of a team of leading writers. Certainly their quality shines here, and I had an unexpected and improbable amount of fun diving into this book.

Closing Thoughts

The Piano Player British Classics book has clearly had much love and attention poured into it, and is a wonderful addition to the Pianodao Music Library. Already, two adults attending their lesson at the studio have expressed an interest in purchasing copies.

I suspect that the series as a whole is going to be a huge hit for Faber, but for now this superb collection makes a fitting tribute to British creativity at this time of national celebration. The sumptuous presentation, matched by superb arrangements and pitch-perfect selection of musical favourites, practically guarantee success for this publication.

Yet again it seems to me that Faber have perfectly read the market, and if this first entry is representative, I think we will all be seeing a lot of The Piano Player series in the coming months and years. Enjoy!

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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.