The Piano Player: Wintertide Collection

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

In a busy year for music publishers, Faber Music’s new series The Piano Player has quickly established itself as a distinctive and enjoyable new imprint.

Introducing the first title in the series, a stirring collection of British Classics released in time for Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee, I wrote,

“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.”

A second title, Classical Favourites, quickly followed (reviewed here), and hot on its heels we now have a third. Ready for the run up to Christmas, Wintertide Collection offers “A seasonal selection of 20 wintry pieces”

20 Wintry Piece

The list of selected pieces included in the Wintertide Collection will surely prove tempting for many:

  • All-Night Vigil (Vespers) Op.37 [Rachmaninoff]
  • Carol Of The Bells [Leontovych]
  • Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy [Tchaikovsky]
  • Deck The Hall (Trad.)
  • The Holly And The Ivy (Trad.)
  • In The Bleak Midwinter [arr. Chilly Gonzales]
  • Lo, How A Rose E’er Blooming [Praetorius]
  • Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence [Sakamoto]
  • Sans Day Carol (Trad.)
  • The Shepherds At The Manger (In Dulci Jubilo) [Liszt]
  • Silent Night [Gruber]
  • Sinfonia (from Christmas Oratorio) [J.S. Bach]
  • Sleigh Ride [Anderson]
  • The Snow Is Dancing [Debussy]
  • Troika (from Lieutenant Kijé) [Prokofiev]
  • Vivace (from the Christmas Concerto) [Corelli]
  • Walking in the Air [Howard Blake]
  • Winter (From The Four Seasons) [Vivaldi]
  • Winter Wonderland [Smith/Bernard, arr. Pam Wedgwood]
  • Winterzeit I [Schumann]

The collection succeeds both as my top pick from The Piano Player series so far, and as a superb seasonal choice for late intermediate and advanced players in what is certainly an already crowded market.

The arrangements in particular are stellar, and the varied mix of music seems to me spot on.

The Publication

I have previously waxed lyrical about the lush presentation of the books in this series, with delightful Edward Bawden artworks on the covers, also appearing within as pullout reproductions. Three books into the series, and with four more projected, The Piano Player series is certainly a treat.

With 64 pages (printed as usual on white paper), this collection is longer than the previous two; that it feels more substantial is immediately striking. While the format remains the same, with pieces organised so as to steadily increase in complexity as the book progresses, several of the later works presented here are longer, accounting for the additional pages.

In particular, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, Leroy Anderson’s deliriously chirpy Sleigh Ride and Debussy’s evergreen The Snow is Dancing (which appears in full, and with editorial pedalling suggestions) each require multiple pages.

Some of these pieces are considerably beyond the scope of the “intermediate pianist” (The Snow is Dancing has previously been an ABRSM Grade 8 piece, for example), but most of the material will suit early-advanced players at around UK Grades 5-6 level.

The welcome inclusion of fingering suggestions adds to the accessibility of the material for independent learners, and as with the previous books in the series I can imagine that adult enthusiasts returning to the piano will particularly enjoy the whole collection.

The only potential disappointment is perhaps that the book includes no background information about any of the pieces, or playing tips. Even the basic provenance of pieces is omitted, so that for example we are not told that Schumann’s Winterzeit I comes from his Album for the Young Op.68. Regular readers will know how I appreciate such detail, even though I recognise that not all are so concerned with it.

Closing Summary

The Piano Player series is already proving popular in my studio (and not just with learners!) and as intimated above, the Wintertide Collection is my favourite in the set so far (and perhaps the one for which the target market is most obvious).

With its gorgeous presentation, superb musical selection, adept pianistic arrangements and helpful fingering, it is very easy to recommend this publication to late intermediate and more advanced players everywhere.

The Wintertide Collection really is a fabulous gift, and one that will bring joy for many winters to come!

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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.