Brian Davidson’s Music Box

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

The Music Box is a new collection from Scottish composer Brian Davidson, published by Kevin Mayhew, and suitable for late intermediate players. The tastefully produced book is described by the publishers as offering,

“9 beautiful and original pieces for piano.”

Fair play. These pieces are certainly lovely, for player and audience alike, and sufficiently original to merit the phrase “distinctive voice” and carve their own space in the library of late intermediate repertoire.

With an appropriately warm recommendation, I could happily sign off here with these very words. But I am sure you would like to know more, listen to one or two of the pieces, and get more of a flavour of what this collection offers… so here goes.

Nine Beautiful Pieces

Brian Davidson has a well-established reputation as a concert pianist, composer, educator and ABRSM examiner. Having formerly lectured in piano and music history at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, he now teaches at the City of Edinburgh Music School.

Davidson’s extensive experience in both education and the music profession is very much in evidence in The Music Box. The pieces are suitable for players at around UK Grade 6, and introduce many of the technical skills needed as learners move towards a more advanced level. Many include difficult jumps, stretches, and in all cases the player is left to work out their own fingering and pedalling.

Expanding on their description of this collection, publishers Kevin Mayhew tell us,

The Music Box offers a romantic and evocative journey. With its accessible yet sophisticated arrangements, this book is a perfect fit for intermediate-level pianists seeking to expand their repertoire. Each piece is crafted with the utmost care, reflecting the composer’s deep understanding of the nuances of the piano. With three stunning elegies, the tone then shifts to six pieces widely varied in mood but sharing common themes of nostalgic longing, humour and childhood innocence, this collection showcases Davidson’s range as a composer and his ability to transport listeners through the magic of music.”

Here’s Davidson playing the piece Mary’s Elegy from the collection:

The piece certainly offers a beautiful example of Davidson’s evocative writing, but as the publisher notes, the stylistic range of the book lends it plenty of contrast. The nine pieces are titled,

  • Morris Dance
  • The Young Harpist
  • Mary’s Elegy
  • Elegy No.2
  • Elegy No.3
  • The Music Box
  • The Mischievous Mosquito
  • Lullaby for Lara
  • Perfect Story

My personal preference is for Davidson at his most lyrical (as in the exquisite Young Harpist and Lullaby for Lara), but his faster pieces reveal a quirky humour that adds much to the enjoyment of the collection as a rounded whole.

The Mischievous Mosquito, a spiky scherzo with plenty of hand crossing, acerbic dissonance and more than a little bite, particularly made me smile. A recent camping expedition to Loch Lomond left me with more than 60 bites, and I have a sneaky suspicion that this piece evokes Davidson’s lived experience!

Here’s another sample, this time the title track from The Music Box:

By now you will have realised that Davidson writes character-driven pieces in a broadly tonal and melodic style, but with with imaginative use of dissonance and pianistic technique. The pieces also capture Celtic qualities, but without losing their cosmopolitan appeal.

This is truly worthwhile music, equally rewarding for player and listener alike, and an enjoyable addition to the developing pianist’s repertoire. Suffice to say, as I played my way through the collection I was consistently impressed.

The Publication

Kevin Mayhew are not a publisher whose output regularly appears for review here, but as an example of their publishing style The Music Box certainly makes a good impression with its tasteful matt cover and clean presentation.

Within, the pages are printed on white paper, but notation is suitably sized and spaced, with ample room for adding your own preferred fingering. The pieces range in length from two to four pages.

In short there is nothing here to disappoint or take issue with, and the simple no-fuss presentation is wholly appropriate to the nature of the work.

Closing Thoughts

Brian Davidson’s music really is easy to recommend.

The combination of musical appeal, contemporary character and progressive pianistic writing has resulted in a collection which nicely fills a gap for any late intermediate to early advanced player looking for fresh alternatives to explore, away from the well-beaten track. Bravo!

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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.