Around this time last year I reviewed James Welburn’s Musical Escapades (you can read that review here), and was very positive about his original piano music, concluding:
“What impresses me most of all is the infectious good humour and the compelling imagination that runs throughout the whole collection… James Welburn has with this collection made a stunning Editions Musica Ferrum debut; he is clearly a composer to watch, and among this publisher’s rich and growing catalogue, Musical Escapades becomes one of their best publications yet.”
Now Welburn is back with a new collection, once more published by Musica Ferrum. Reflections in Waltz offers seven new original pieces, again suited to players at late-intermediate level…
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…
While the best composers often write brilliant music in response to a commission or request, the creative impetus for composing will often arise from a specific moment of inspiration, musical or conceptual.
So it is with the latest scores from Nikolas Sideris, known to many not just for his own music, which includes Fairyland in Treble and Dusk of Day, Dawn of Night, but also for his Editions Musica Ferrum independent publishing house.
Due to a change in personal circumstance, Nikolas finds himself semi-moving from London to Amsterdam, and among other things this will mean that he will no longer be teaching his 18 students in one particular school. Having grown attached to them, Nikolas decided it a fitting gift to compose a piece dedicated to each of the students.
These personal gifts were no doubt enthusiastically welcomed by their dedicatees, but I think that they deserve a far wider appeal and use. Which brings us to “Personalities”, the two new solo piano collections containing these 18 pieces, now available from Musica Ferrum.
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 late intermediate players between around UK Grade 4-6 level.
Composer Ben Croslandwill be known to many Pianodao readers for his popular Cool Beans series of books published by Editions Musica Ferrum, the most recent and in my view best of which, Magic Beans, I reviewed here.
Ben’s latest publication from Editions Musica Ferrum is Songs from Rainbow Hill, a collection of “Lyric Pieces for Solo Piano” that ties in with his new album recording of the same name.
As such this is very different from his previous publications, taking us deeper into Ben’s own compositional world. So let’s enter …
Editions Musica Ferrum have recently brought out two volumes of pieces in a new series called Mosaic, featuring original music by a dozen or so composers, organised by difficulty level and suitable for beginner to early intermediate players.
I have enjoyed the privilege of contributing to the project, with two of my own compositions included in each book so far, and more to come!
Given my involvement, I decided that instead of my standard review I would catch up with Editions Musica Ferrum founder Nikolas Sideris and chat with him about the project, explaining its vision and purpose…
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…
Nikolas Sideris is a publisher, and the owner of Editions Musica Ferrum. He is also a composer, for classical music and music for computer games. He is a pianist, piano and music teacher and a food addict!
Simon Hester is a prolific composer whose works include numerous chamber and orchestral pieces as well as music for the stage. Hester has written extensively for solo piano too.
That Hester is himself a fine pianist with a deep empathy for the instrument and its possibilities is clear in his piano writing, and not least in the ten character pieces which make up Megabytes I: The Private Life of Bugs.
The collection is suitable for early advanced players (post-Grade 5 level), and would make an ideal anthology to dip into between grades.
The music is sometimes atonal but never stark; the dominant characteristic is the imaginative impressionism of music which ranges in mood from haunting evocation to mischievous whimsy.
The Private Life of Bugs comprises:
On the Trail of the Snail
Wednesday Night at the Flea Circus
Flutterance – The Butterfly
When Wasps Dance
Work, March, Work, March – The Ants
Dreaming of Dragonflies
Annoyance – The Fly
All ten pieces are quirky and characterful, brimming with good-natured humour; they reveal Hester at the top of his game, both in terms of his understanding of the instrument, and through the outstanding quality of his musical imagination.
The quality of the score is representative of publisher Musica Ferrum on top form.
Each piece is not simply presented with carefully detailed notation and clear engraving, but accompanied by a cartoon illustration by Piero Pierini. Most of these brought a smile to my face, and a couple made me laugh aloud.
Pierini is also responsible for the ravishing cover illustration, which in itself is sure to make Megabytes I stand out in any music collection.
These pieces construct a hugely impressive bridge between the parallel worlds of entertainment and art.
Listen for yourself – here’s Hester’s own recordings of the full collection (but note, the opening jazz isn’t from Megabytes I)
For any teacher interested in introducing students to accessible contemporary classical music, or any player with sufficiently adventurous taste, I can think of few better collections to explore.
Megabytes 1 really is a brilliant and hugely creative collection, strongly recommended!
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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, Treasure Trove by Alison Mathews is a standout collection for intermediate players, which is already finding popularity with my students…
The Piano Duet is a musical genre that I have explored too little with my students in the past, so a few years ago I decided to stock up on a few duet books.
Finding excellent material for more advanced students was easy enough, given the wonderful works for “One Piano Four Hands” by such classical greats as Mozart, Schubert, Brahms, Debussy, Poulenc et al. But finding good material for beginners and intermediate players proved far more difficult.
Fast forward to 2016 and that gap in the market has been addressed by a succession of simply great publications over the last few years. Here is my selection of some of the best, which I hope you will go ahead and explore for yourselves!
It now gives me pleasure to be the first to review her latest publication Rendezvous with Midnight, brought to us by independent publisher Editions Musica Ferrum.
I first heard about this collection several months ago, at which point Barbara was still looking for a publisher for it. So when I learnt that she had teamed up with Musica Ferrum I was delighted. And even more so now that the results are in my hand: a genuinely brilliant publication.