The Piano Player: Uplifting Classics

Products featured here are selected for review by ANDREW EALES

Faber Music have just unleashed the latest gem in their marvellous Piano Player series: get ready to experience the magic of Uplifting Classics!

This fifth instalment in Faber’s beautifully presented garland of intermediate anthologies, arriving as usual with a delightful cover illustration and pull-out print from the collection of the notable British artist Edward Bawden (1903-1989), offers the perfect remedy for challenging times.

Those unfamiliar with the series can read my reviews of the previous collections here. And now let’s all lift our spirits by exploring this fresh compendium of rousing favourites…

The Piano Player: Uplifting Classics promises,

The twenty are:

  • I Vow to Thee, My Country [Holst]
  • The Blue Danube Waltz (Op. 314) [Strauss II]
  • Sheep May Safely Graze (from the Hunting Cantata) (BWV 208) [Johann Sebastian Bach]
  • Ride of the Valkyries (from The Ring of the Nibelung) (WWV 86B) [Wagner]
  • Wedding March (from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) (Op.61) [Mendelssohn]
  • Triumphal March (from Aida) [Verdi]
  • Hungarian Dance No. 5 in F# minor [Brahms]
  • Ode to Joy (from Symphony No. 9) [Ludwig van Beethoven]
  • William Tell Overture [Rossini]
  • Scherzo (from Piano Sonata in G minor) [Clara Schumann]
  • Mazurka in C (Op. 33, No. 3) [Chopin]
  • Nimrod (from Enigma Variations) [Elgar]
  • Zadok The Priest (Coronation Anthem No.1) (HWV 258) [Georg Friedrich Händel]
  • Can-Can (from Orpheus in the Underworld) [Offenbach]
  • Radetzky March (Op. 228) [Strauss I]
  • Rondo Alla Turca (from Piano Sonata No. 11 in A major) (K. 331) [Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart]
  • The Liberty Bell March [Sousa]
  • In the Hall of the Mountain King (Suite No. 1 from Peer Gynt) (Op. 46: IV) [Grieg]
  • Les Toreadors (Suite No. 1 from Carmen) [Bizet]
  • The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba (from Solomon) (HWV 67) [Georg Friedrich Händel]

Across this series, the balance between piano originals and arrangements of orchestral and choral music varies, and in this instance clearly leans towards the latter. The arrangements are as tastefully constructed as ever, maintaining the essence of the original works while presenting them appropriately for the instrument.

The originals meanwhile are just that. Chopin’s Mazurka in C is essentially true to the original, as (perhaps more surprisingly) is Mozart’s ever-popular Rondo alla Turca. The latter includes copious editorial intervention (phrasing, articulation, dynamics), but it’s fair to say these scores aren’t presented as authoritative piano editions, but rather as an engaging and joyful diversion from more serious study.

As always, the pieces appear roughly in order of difficultly, which is useful for guiding the player towards the most appropriate selections. The range from intermediate (around UK Grade 3) to advanced (Grade 8) ensures that the collection has something to suit most adult enthusiasts, and that it is a book to keep and return to whenever those spirits need another healthy musical boost!

Having waxed lyrical about this series before, there is little to add, except perhaps to note (for what it’s worth) that this latest addition has my favourite cover artwork of them all so far; it’s truly lush!

Containing, as it does, several longer pieces in the second half of the book, it has a slightly more ample feel, with 64 white pages of music within. The only basic addition is the now-standard photo and biography of Bawden.

The music scores are nicely engraved, enjoying well-spaced and sized notation, and helpful fingering is included throughout. In short, there’s nothing here that disappoints, and I found the book a pleasure to play from.

The Piano Player series continues to be a special one, each new collection delivering an attractive feast of favourite pieces, a few lesser-known tunes further stimulating interest, and all presented with tasteful artistry and a fetching allure.

Uplifting Classics, in common with its predecessors, is perfectly poised to win the affection of adult players who enjoy exploring great tunes, and are ready for a fresh smile! More please!

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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.