Peaceful Piano Solos: The Series

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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Hal Leonard’s Peaceful Piano Solos series began life in 2018 with an initial title and matching easy piano version, offering the same 30 popular relaxing piano solos.

Peaceful Christmas Piano Solos (which I have already reviewed here) and Peaceful Piano Solos Soundtracks followed the next year.

With the recent release of Peaceful Classical Piano Solos, this seems like a good moment to catch up with the series as a whole.

First, I will introduce each of the books in turn, including their track lists and particular points to note. For information about the Christmas edition, please refer back to my previous review.

Later in the review, I will then offer some generic observations about the publications and series as a whole…

Continue reading Peaceful Piano Solos: The Series

Simon Hester: Scenes from the Movies

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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When I reviewed a batch of Editions Musica Ferrum publications a couple of years back, I was immensely impressed with the music of Simon Hester, concluding that his Megabytes:

“…is an absolutely brilliant and hugely creative collection: strongly recommended!”

Hester has a new collection available, again published by Musica Ferrum.

Scenes from the Movies delivers 8 new pieces suitable for advanced players (UK Grades 6-8), inspired by classic cinema.


Let’s find out whether it has “box office hit” written all over it…

Continue reading Simon Hester: Scenes from the Movies

Rybicki: Young Modernist

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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Introducing Polish composer Feliks Rybicki’s educational piano books as part of my Music from Chopin’s Land series, I noted:

“The piano educational music of Feliks Rybicki is one of the great treasures of the pedagogic repertoire, and deserves to be known by teachers and students everywhere…”

In that review I considered his trilogy I Begin to Play, I Am Already Playing and I Can Play Everything for piano, published worldwide by PWM Edition, who have now reissued another of Rybicki’s early intermediate collections, Young Modernist.

This edition once again appears in the “CAT” series aimed at children, in landscape format, and with superb colour illustrations within…

Continue reading Rybicki: Young Modernist

Lise de la Salle: When Do We Dance?

RECORDING OF THE MONTH • review by ANDREW EALES
showcasing an inspirational recent piano recording.


The French pianist Lise de la Salle is one of those rare prodigies who seem to arrive, fully formed, on the international concert scene at an improbably young age.

Signed by the Naïve Classique label when she was just 14 years old, de la Salle has performed internationally full time since she was 18, and by the time she was 20 she had already recorded three recital discs (featuring Rachmaninov, Ravel, Bach, Liszt, Mozart and Prokofiev) and a concerto disc (Shostakovich/Liszt/Prokofiev) under the baton of Lawrence Foster.

A further six discs later, and having recently turned 33, de la Salle is now back with a concept album of music for dance written by composers from three continents between 1850-1950, which she describes thus:

“An immersion in a variety of different worlds, juxtaposed without transition, linked together by the main thread of rhythm, movement. It’s a journey that explores the different ways in which dance takes possession of the body: with an amazing swing in North America, developing a strong, erotic sensuality, in South America and Spain, with reserve, elegance and sophistication in France, or through the expression of a late sentimental romanticism in eastern Europe and Russia.”

And it’s a stunning journey: all of the above and more…

Continue reading Lise de la Salle: When Do We Dance?

Edition Peters’ Grade 8 Anthology

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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The recently published Grade 8 Piano Anthology from Edition Peters is a stroke of publishing genius, predicated on the following ABRSM Syllabus statement:

“Candidates may use any edition of the music, except where a particular arrangement or transcription is specified. Editions quoted in the syllabus are given for guidance only and are not obligatory”.

With one of the most extensive back-catalogues, Edition Peters is brilliantly placed to jump in with a varied anthology of 24 of the best pieces from ABRSM’s 2021-2 syllabus, offering a clear improvement over the selection of just 9 in the board’s own Grade 8 Pieces book (reduced from the more generous 12 of previous years).

Not only does this anthology have the potential to be more musically nutritious and better value than ABRSM’s own, but it also offers a couple of other useful bonuses which I will be looking at later in this review.

This is undeniably a publication which overtly invites comparison with the official ABRSM alternative. So let’s see how they measure up…

Continue reading Edition Peters’ Grade 8 Anthology

The Pianist’s Behaviour

PATHWAYS FOR LIVING • by ANDREW EALES
setting our piano journey in its living context.


With the majority of our interactions and interpersonal relationships evolving exclusively online over the last year or so, it’s no surprise that some are now expressing some anxiety about resuming our lives in the “real world” again.

I’m surely not the only one who has watched with a mixture of bemusement, concern, and at times mounting horror as friends, colleagues and forum folk have, over the lockdown months, become increasingly cranky.

Won’t it be a bit awkward bumping into that piano teacher who has spent the last year pedalling bizarre conspiracy theories?

How about those friends and colleagues who have been so rude to, or about each other, seemingly oblivious that their acquaintances were collectively grabbing the popcorn and reading along in stunned disbelief?

Whether we’ve been drawn into the fray, stood back in judgment, or remained completely aloof, none of us can honestly claim to have been entirely blameless through this period of adaptation. Sometimes, this pandemic has brought out the best in us. Sometimes not.

It is time for us all to take stock. When it comes to behaviour and relationships, there may be situations where we need to hit the “reset” button.

Each tentative step towards the “new normal” brings growing recognition that both in-person and online engagement are very much here to stay, and will contribute to a more complex reality in which the quality of our personal and relational behaviour will be as crucial, and more visible than ever.

Ancient Wisdom for the Modern Age

During my recent readings of the Daoist Classics, this passage from Laozi’s Daojeding leapt from the pages, and is I believe pertinent to this time:

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying too.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Dao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don’t compare or compete,
Everybody will respect you.

Daodejing, chapter 8, Laozi.
translated by Stephen Mitchell.
“Tao Te Ching, An Illustrated Journey”.

It is hardly for me to instruct others in how to behave. Nevertheless, I believe that Laozi’s words present a fairly comprehensive and beautifully succinct manual covering the most important bits.

The sage’s insights on cultivating healthy priorities, resolving conflict, avoiding comparisons and turning away from competition speak incisively, and are as relevant and powerful today as they were two and a half millennia ago.

And perhaps it really is this simple, if only we take time to reflect upon and apply these teachings.

To save you scrolling back, here are Laozi’s words again, together with the suggestion that we all take time to read them slowly:

The supreme good is like water,
which nourishes all things without trying too.
It is content with the low places that people disdain.
Thus it is like the Dao.

In dwelling, live close to the ground.
In thinking, keep to the simple.
In conflict, be fair and generous.
In governing, don’t try to control.
In work, do what you enjoy.
In family life, be completely present.

When you are content to be simply yourself
and don’t compare or compete,
Everybody will respect you.


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Anna Robinson: Notes on a Neighbourhood

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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Back in January of this year I received, out of the blue, a music book produced by Melbourne, Australia-based composer and teacher Anna Robinson, together with a charming letter of introduction. Notes on a Neighbourhood features seven late-intermediate character pieces.

It isn’t unusual for me to receive unexpected material from those who have enjoyed reading my reviews here and are naturally keen to see their work featured, but to be honest I often find that self-published music falls short of making a significant impression on me. As a published composer myself, I have learnt the value that a good editor can bring into the equation, and it is usually obvious when that added-value is missing.

Not so in the case of Notes on a Neighbourhood, which has been burning a hole on my music stand ever since it arrived, the pieces within continuing to impress with their musical and pedagogic content.


With a little encouragement from me, and a lot of work from Anna, Robinson’s book is now available as a physical publication here in the UK, printed by Halstan, and stocked for mail order purchase by Forsyth’s in Manchester here.

So what’s the story?

Continue reading Anna Robinson: Notes on a Neighbourhood

Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne: French Duets

RECORDING OF THE MONTH • review by ANDREW EALES
showcasing an inspirational recent piano recording.


When global concert and recording artists Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne teamed up a couple of years ago to record an album of piano duo music by Schubert, it seemed they might become the new dream team in this repertoire. Now they are back with a second helping.

French Duets delivers exactly what it says on the tin, with music by Fauré, Poulenc, Debussy, Stravinsky and Ravel: some of the brightest gems in the piano duo treasury. And to my taste at least, this recording surpasses the last, becoming an immediate favourite.

No surprise, then, that French Duets is my May 2021 Recording of the Month

Continue reading Paul Lewis and Steven Osborne: French Duets

Janina Garścia: Ikebana

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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In my 2020 series Music from Chopin’s Land I highlighted several publications by leading 20th century music educator and composer Janina Garścia. You can read my review here and watch PWM’s educational videos, filmed to support piano teachers as part of a project in which I was myself also a presenter.

I’m happy to let you know that PWM Edition have more recently reissued another Garścia classic. Ikebana Op.70 is a series of eleven intermediate piano solos which the composer dedicated ‘to the children and youngsters of the distant land of Japan’, the music itself inspired by Japanese culture.

Let’s go exploring…

Continue reading Janina Garścia: Ikebana

Markus Schimpp: Yearning for Silence

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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Markus Schimpp’s recording Yearning for Silence, which was released on the NEOS Music label in 2019, is one of the more interesting albums of original piano music from recent years, melding the post-minimal simplicity of Einaudi with the more advanced (and at times dissonant) harmonic language of the 20th century’s modernist classical composers.

Happily, his full transcriptions of these “33 Approximations of Silence” have recently also been published by the ever-wonderful Editions Musica Ferrum, their sheet music book the subject of this review.

Suitable for early advanced players (the easiest pieces here are around UK Grade 3, but most are closer to Grade 6), I believe this collection will be a superb discovery for many readers, and is certainly my pick of the recent bunch of inventive and evocative miniatures for players at this level.

Let’s take a look, and a listen…

Continue reading Markus Schimpp: Yearning for Silence