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Every year, a flurry of new Christmas piano books arrive before the first snowfall, and this year is proving no exception.
Fresh from Faber, the Peaceful Piano Playlist: Christmas book sets the bar high, both in terms of content and presentation. The publication offers,
“A specially curated relaxing playlist of festive piano solos for the intermediate player”,
…and follows on from the popular Peaceful Piano Playlist publication which I reviewed here back in 2019.
Read on for the list of included pieces, and of course for the full review…
The Seasonal “Playlist”
As I mentioned when reviewing Faber Music’s original Piano Playlist collection,
“Describing the book as a “playlist” is not simply a playful nod towards contemporary listening habits; Faber Music have actually curated a Spotify playlist featuring almost all of the music which is included in the publication.”
As then, so again Faber have set up a playlist which includes the original tracks which these piano solo arrangements are based on:
And here is the corresponding alphabetical track listing for the publication:
- Auld Lang Syne (Trad.)
- Away In A Manger (Trad.)
- The Christmas Song (arr. Stephan Moccio)
- Christmas Time Is Here (Vince Guaraldi Trio)
- Coventry Carol (Trad.)
- Crystal Winter (Christopher Ferreira)
- Duvet (Niklas Paschburg)
- Good King Wenceslas (Morgan/Pochin)
- Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas (arr. Alexis Ffrench)
- Hymn (Luke Howard)
- Ice (Brian Crain)
- I’ll Be Home For Christmas (arr. The Theorist)
- In The Bleak Midwinter (Chilly Gonzales)
- Jesu, Joy Of Man’s Desiring (J.S. Bach)
- Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence (Ryuichi Sakamoto)
- O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (The Piano Guys)
- O Holy Night (arr. Craig Starrett)
- River (Joni Mitchell)
- Silent Night (Trad.)
- Snowflake (Kate Bush)
- Wassail Song (Brad Jacobsen)
- What Child Is This (arr. Johannes Bornlof)
Perusing this list, replete as it is with an enticing mixture of old carols, jazz classics, newer contemporary hits and ‘new classical’ minimalism, I am as ever struck by Faber Music’s uncanny knack for bringing together music from an unlikely range of different genres to create something unique, fresh and distinctive.
The musical arrangements and transcriptions are mostly superb, and would comfortably suit players from late intermediate to early advanced level (UK Grades 5-6). The absence of fingering suggestions is a pity, and will add to the challenge for some.
Standout tracks for me include Alexis Ffrench’s take on the ever-popular Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas, and the approachably playable but musically authentic transcriptions of Joni Mitchell’s River and Vince Guaraldi’s Christmas Time is Here. Among the fresh discoveries I enjoyed the reflective minimalism of Duvet and Crystal Winter among others.
A couple of pieces reappear from the excellent Faber Music Christmas Piano Anthology (reviewed here), including a beautiful, flowing arrangement of Silent Night. In most cases where the same titles appear however, these versions are different arrangements, technically easier to play, and calmer in their mood.
And it is of course that sense of calm which is the defining characteristic of this collection. Don’t expect dazzling showpieces or grooving jazz here, but rather the more reflective tone that has understandably become so popular in these hectic and stressful times.
Faber Music have produced a beautiful score too, featuring the delicious artwork of Pauline Baynes:
The soft covers open to an 80-page book printed on white paper, with flexible binding that opens flat on the music stand while also seeming to be very high quality.
The notation is nicely spaced and clearly presented. Pedalling suggestions and a good amount of expressive guidance are included.
Where some scores include blank pages to avoid page turns, Faber excel with the wonderful alternative of including black-and-white photographs and artistic images. These significantly add to the sense that this is a superb, well-crafted product, produced with a commendable degree of care.
With content that will have wide appeal and suggests versatile use, Faber Music’s Peaceful Piano Playlist Christmas will be especially attractive to players who embrace its wide range of music, and who appreciate the relaxing, contemporary vibe.
Overall then, this is a rewarding collection which offers plenty of fresh value, even to the pianist who already owns other albums of Christmas favourites. Here is a collection which is distinctively different and genuinely magical.
Light a candle, mull the wine, settle down at the piano, and enjoy…
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