Donald Thomson’s Winter Piano Music

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

Scottish composer Donald Thomson is perhaps best known for his series of Celtic Piano Music collections for intermediate pianists, the omnibus edition of which I have reviewed here.

I have also been impressed with his enjoyable Halloween Piano Tunes collection for elementary players, which I reviewed here recently.

Now Thomson is back with Winter Piano Music, a new collection that is once again published by EVC Music. This time he has written for the more advanced player, delivering five compositions and arrangements which are surely destined to become seasonal concert favourites…

Five Winter Wonders…

Winter Piano Music contains five new pieces suitable for advanced players around UK Grade 7-8, and each piece lasting 3-4 pages in length.

God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen opens the proceedings, a fantasia on the well-known seasonal favourite, presented here as a jaunty Allegro scherzando in 6/8 time. Thomson builds on the modal character of the original tune, adding his own enjoyable harmonic twists to create a piece full of drama and colour.

For Silent Night, Meditation Thomson uses fragments of the famous melody to weave a delicious Andante con espressione, awash with gently swaying motives and jazz-tinged harmonies. Thomson’s success in spinning something so fresh from an older fabric is as impressive as it is beautiful.

He repeats the trick with equal ingenuity and accomplishment in We Three Kings, the verses of this popular carol repurposed as an evocative portrait of the East, harmonic minor flourishes enhancing a sense of exoticism. The flowing chorus appears more overtly in its bold major tonality, before the piece once again becomes submerged in mystique.

Starlight And Snowflakes is a new composition which magically evokes gentle night time snowfall. The piece has a fragile, ethereal beauty and seems guaranteed to enchant audiences and players alike.

The collection ends as it begins: with a scherzo. Sleigh Ride is a chirpy celebration with a dash of jingling sleigh bells and a hint of Prokofiev in its quirky harmonic twists; the piece makes for a joyous conclusion to the book.

In this YouTube playlist, you can hear all five pieces performed by Jill Morton:

The Publication

Presented in EVC Music’s house style, Winter Piano Music is both eye-catching and classy in its visuals. The gloss card cover opens to 20 pages printed on white paper.

At the front of the book, the composer has written a short introduction to each piece, and there is a QR code that takes the player directly to the audio demo recordings on the publisher’s site.

The notation that follows is generously spaced and clearly presented too. Fingering suggestions are included throughout, happily supporting independent learning of this music, although the player is wisely advised to select appropriate fingerings to suit their hands.

Closing Thoughts

There’s no shortage of seasonal music that advanced players can choose from, but these pieces are easily among the best contemporary classical arrangements that I’ve come across for this playing level.

Donald Thomson’s music is steadily making a real impact here in the UK and beyond, and with this collection he has come up trumps again, delivering a winning book which certainly deserves to find its place as a seasonal favourite for many years to come.

Winter Piano Music is something of a classic!

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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.