Widely respected as a leading contemporary American composer of piano repertoire, Eugénie Rocherolle was born in New Orleans in 1936. A music graduate of Tulane University (Louisiana), she spent her Junior Year in Paris, where she attended classes with Nadia Boulanger.
Rocherolle has composed works for solo voice, chorus, orchestra, musical theatre, and chamber music. Success as a piano composer came with the publication of her first solo collection in 1978, since when she has added dozens of educational and recital works to her catalogue, many now appearing in The Eugénie Rocherolle Series from Hal Leonard.
Though less well known here in the UK, Musicroom nevertheless list more than a hundred piano publications, many of which comprise Rocherolle’s arrangements of popular, film and show tunes. Now in her 80’s, she still composes original music too, and a new collection is imminent.
In this review, I revisit her most recent (at the time of writing) collection of original pieces. Appearing in 2019, Romantic Stylings offers 8 original piano solos suitable for the intermediate player.
Romantic Stylings offers eight wistful, creative and playable pieces in a range of romantic “stylings”, enjoyably consummate pastiches whose titles neatly evoke their musical moods:
- Café de Paris
- Last Dance
With decades of experience as an arranger as well as composer, it is no surprise that Rocherolle so expertly conjures an enjoyably varied range of musical styles and pianistic colours in these pieces.
From the charming Café de Paris (an inevitable but delightful Parisian Waltz), to the melodic pop ballad Longings, Rocherolle’s gift for melodic writing shines. And from the classic movie-hall slush of Rapsodie to the Latin rhythms and flamenco harmonies of Celebración (whose distribution of rhythm between the hands surely doubles as an appealing technical study!), this is a collection which continues to deliver one hit after another.
Rocherolle’s deft command of popular style combines with her sympathy for 19th century Romanticism and, I suspect, the influence of her precursor William Gillock, whose ability to weave enchanting music finds its equal and successor here. And as with Gillock, Rocherolle’s pieces have a wonderful knack of sounding very impressive, even when their technical demands are relatively modest.
Hal Leonard’s Eugénie Rocherolle Series publication is attractively produced, with appropriately inviting gloss card cover housing white pages, generously spaced notation in a clear music font, and durable staple binding. Fingering is included throughout, as are full, detailed pedalling marks. Playing from the book was a simple pleasure.
Romantic Stylings is as easy to recommend as it is to review: eight superb and varied intermediate pieces, which are bound to bring joy to players at around UK Grade 4-5 level.
It is striking that American composers produce such a large quantity of engaging solo music for intermediate players, and perhaps a healthy indication that having learnt to play as children, many in the States continue to find relaxed enjoyment at the instrument throughout their lives.
A discovery of Rocherolle’s music in this country is long overdue, and with growing numbers realising that the wonders of playing the piano last a lifetime, perhaps the time is ripe for this repertoire to find its place here.
Whether you are a teacher looking for fresh repertoire for students to enjoy away from the exam room, or a player who simply appreciates the pleasure of diving into new, accessible and appealing music, I highly recommend you try these pieces as soon as you get the chance.
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