Compose Yourself!

GUEST FEATURE • by Lindsey Berwin


From a very young age, my ambition was to forge a career which in some way involved the piano.

After completing my A levels, I was fortunate enough to spend four rewarding years studying at the Royal Academy of Music. However the one area of formal musical training that was missing from my time spent there was composition.

As a result, when I began my piano teaching career and decided to embark on a journey into this unknown territory, it was very much an exploratory one. It began with me gingerly feeling my way, but it very quickly became one of excitement for both myself and my pupils!

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ABRSM: ‘Piano Star’ Duets

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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ABRSM’s popular Piano Star series, which originally aimed at bridging the gap between the pupil’s first tutor book and ABRSM Grade 1 piano, continues to grow.

The seventh and latest book in the series, Piano Star Duets offers 26 newly composed or arranged piano duets for ‘early beginners to Grade 2 level’, compiled and edited by David Blackwell and Karen Marshall.

With five of these pieces also selected as duet alternatives in the 2021-2 ABRSM Piano Syllabus, which I recently reviewed here, the book is likely to tempt teachers and students looking for a one-stop collection of duets that they can dip into over a couple of years of lessons.

That the pieces have been commissioned from some of our leading pedagogic composers further adds to the attraction.

Before taking a look, full disclosure. I contributed a single piece each to four previous titles in the series. However, I receive no ongoing royalty income from those, have absolutely no vested interest in the series, and chose not to contribute to the Piano Star Duets collection. I write here with full independence.

So, with that out of the way, let’s jump in with all four feet…

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Capturing the Season

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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As autumn nears its end, the thoughts of musicians everywhere are no doubt turning to the coming season, likely to be a musically rich one for many.

Piano players and teachers are always on the look out for fresh material, and I’m happy to remind you of two excellent collections co-written by composers Alison Mathews and Barbara Arens, Capturing the Joy of Winter, and Capturing the Spirit of Christmas.

Both were positively reviewed here when they appeared in 2016 and 2017 respectively, and it’s high time to consolidate my thoughts into a single review. So here goes…

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Alison Mathews: Landscapes

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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Alison Mathews is a contemporary British composer whose delightful piano music has established itself as one of the highlights within the growing Editions Musica Ferrum catalogue.

I have previously given glowing reviews to her excellent Treasure Trove (for intermediate pianists, read the review) and Doodles (for elementary players, reviewed here).

Alison’s latest collection is aimed at the early advanced player. Landscapes: Poetic Piano Solos consists of 14 original compositions that would suit players between around UK Grade 5-7 level. Let’s take a look (and a listen!) …

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Alison Mathews’ “Doodles”

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES • review by ANDREW EALES
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Alison Mathews’ excellent collection Treasure Trove has proved a big hit with my students who have been working through it, and I’m delighted that publishers Editions Musica Ferrum have now brought out another collection composed by her: Doodles.

It is very clear straight away that this publication explores very different terrain to Treasure Trove however.

So what is the concept here, and do I think it works? Let’s find out…

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More Treasures from Musica Ferrum

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • written by ANDREW EALES
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Regular readers will know that I have huge admiration for the independent publisher Editions Musica Ferrum, whose publications consistently bring high-end quality and creative originality.

In recent months EMF have been adding to their range of publications for intermediate pianists, building on the success of their best-selling Cool Beans series by Ben Crosland, and EMF founder Nikolas Sideris’s outstanding Fairyland in Treble.

Among the most recent releases, I’m going to take a look at these four gems:

  • Alison Mathews:  Treasure Trove
  • Simon Hester:  Megabytes I: The Private Life of Bugs
  • Barbara Arens:  All Beautiful & Splendid Things
  • Bonislava Taneva:  Sound Stories
Continue reading More Treasures from Musica Ferrum