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Australian composer Luke Howard has suggested that his music evokes the material of life: as he puts it, “fragmented relationships, childhood memories, and the passages of time.”
Howard’s dreamy, oscillating music heavily features the piano alongside synth textures and strings, tapping into the now-ubiquitous classical crossover approach while combining pop gestures and misty melodies. Howard also fronts the Luke Howard Trio, whose subtle contemporary jazz albums should not be missed.
Originally published by Lukktone in 2020 and now brought to us in all its loveliness by Faber Music, the collection 28 Transcriptions for Solo Piano is a beautifully presented publication containing reworkings of Howard’s favourite and most requested pieces.
With a launch asking price of £40.00 (or make it £32.00 for Pianodao Tea Room community members), the volume perhaps isn’t an impulse purchase, but personally I think this book is a real treasure, so let me tell you more…
28 Transcriptions for Solo Piano
Introducing this collection, the composer tells us,
“I am delighted to share with you a selection of my favourite and most requested compositions. Until now, many of these works existed only in my head, or as rough scores lacking in detail…”
The transition from recordings, often of improvisations, to a playable score that we can all enjoy involved collaboration with Nat Bartsch (who carefully checked the pieces for playability) and engraver Nate Thatcher.
Bartsch rather beautifully explains,
“As a fellow Australian pianist and composer with a bent towards the ethereal, it is an honour to be the first person to play through Luke’s compositions contained in this book. Luke’s pieces bring out the very best of the piano, an instrument we all know and love. Using repetitive ostinatos, these pieces are meditative both for the player and the listener: like a thread slowly unwinding.”
The selected pieces are drawn from several of Howard’s albums, notably the seminal debut solo album Sun, Cloud (2013), the following year’s Two and One, and 2018’s Open Heart Story, with individual tracks from other entries in Howard’s full and varied discography.
In some cases, the music has been considerably adapted to suit solo piano performance, and as Howard also explains in his introduction,
“Music evolves and changes through performing, so what you will find here may not always exactly reflect the recordings. I have tried to find a balance between faithfulness to the original and representing the pieces as I perform them today…”
Playing through some of my favourites here, I found that the transcriptions are comfortably accessible (they could mostly be attempted by an early advanced player around UK Grade 6, and some even earlier) while conveying the essence of Howard’s music with integrity.
A beautiful volume
If Luke Howard’s music has an understated, quiet beauty, it’s fair to say that the publication of his 28 Transcriptions shares the same exquisite vibe.
The 144-page book is produced on off-white paper with a soft plain brown cover. Within, coloured paper wraps front and back introductions, and red pages with arty photos introduce each and every score.
The notation is clearly presented and well spaced, some pages necessarily including more staves than others while never feeling crowded. Fingering and pedalling suggestions aren’t included.
Dynamics and other expression marks are few, and there is no articulation; all this is as expected for a score that is designed to accompany Howard’s recordings, while allowing for the player to reinterpret the music.
Luke Howard has released a succession of albums over the last decade which have established him as one of the leading classical crossover composers, alongside such names as Ludovico Einaudi, Max Richter, Poppy Ackroyd and Nils Frahm.
To me, he seems comfortably among the more interesting artists in this field, creating a magical calm and deep sense of positivity through his music.
It is wonderful to now have this superbly produced collection of solo piano transcriptions, which allow us as pianists to explore this music from the inside, to be drawn deeper into the intelligence and spellbinding essence of Howard’s art, and to recreate his soundworld for ourselves, communities and audiences.
Luke Howard’s 28 Transcriptions for Solo Piano is in every sense a superb and warmly welcome publication.
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