Gradebusters 2

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • by ANDREW EALES
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Of the various books to have appeared in the last few years offering easy arrangements of favourite popular songs for elementary players, Hal Leonard’s Gradebusters Grade 1 quickly became a favourite here, and a runaway success with my students.

When I reviewed the book here, I loved everything about it, and hoped that a promised Grade 2 book would quickly peek its head around the corner. It’s taken a while for the second book to arrive but I’m very happy to report it’s been well worth the wait, and is a sequel to celebrate!

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Accent on William Gillock

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • by ANDREW EALES
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There’s little doubt in my mind that William Gillock (1917-1993) was one of the most significant educational piano composers of the twentieth century, and it’s a delight to be reviewing The Willis Music Company‘s new complete edition of the Accent on Gillock series. All of the original eight volumes (still available separately) also now appear in one newly edited and engraved volume.

Let’s therefore take a moment to consider Gillock’s seminal importance before reviewing this essential new compendium…

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The “Really Easy Piano” Beatles Collection

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • by ANDREW EALES
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Keen to learn your favourite Beatles song on the piano, but sensing that it’s going to be a long and winding road?

Well, after a hard day’s night, the paperback writers from Hal Leonard have dropped the latest addition to their “Really Easy Piano” library, and it’s only The Beatles Collection

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The Impeccable Piano Music of Francesco Cilea

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • by ANDREW EALES
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The impeccable piano music of Italian composer Francesco Cilea (1866-1950), though little-known, surely represents one of the unsullied treasures of the “salon music” repertoire.

Happily, this music of supreme taste and charm has been given a fresh opportunity to shine, Cilea’s complete piano oeuvre newly edited by Giuseppe Filianoti and published in a single-volume edition by Ricordi.


The sumptuous 272-page volume has completely enchanted me… let’s take a look!

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Peaceful Piano Solos: The Series

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • 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…

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Disney Goes Classical

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • by ANDREW EALES
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Disney Goes Classical is the latest hit album from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, comprising 15 favourite songs from Disney movies. You can stream it on all the usual platforms, and now you can also play the arrangements from the recently published 72-page accompanying music book…

The “Classical” of the title presumably refers to the fact that the album was recorded by seasoned classical artists (including cameo appearances from guitarist Kaori Muraji and singers Renée Fleming and Matteo Bocelli) rather than a studio orchestra; most of the songs seem to me little changed from the originals.

As such the new music book serves not only as a companion to the RPO recording but as a potentially useful and inspiring collection of some of the most iconic Disney songs.

There’s no shortage of Disney songbooks on the market of course, but this one has special appeal, so let me sprinkle you with fairy dust and we’ll take a tour of this magical publication….

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Piano Music of Amy Beach

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • by ANDREW EALES
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American composer Amy Beach’s significant contribution to the solo piano repertoire is finally beginning to receive the recognition and popularity it rightly deserves.

Beach (1867-1944) remained a hugely committed and prolific composer, even though much of her output received little attention in the first half of her career.

Her music is avowedly conservative, doing little to advance on the language of the early Romantic era composers, Schumann, Chopin and Liszt. And yet there is certainly a timelessness to its appeal that continues to speak to audiences and connect with players.

Hal Leonard’s 2013 publication Piano Music of Amy Beach offers an enticing introduction to this important composer’s work, and has recently been reprinted (in part because it is a core text for America’s National Federation of Music Clubs Junior Festivals programme for 2020-24).

The collection offers ten intermediate to advanced solo pieces selected from across Beach’s long career by Gail Smith. Let’s take a look…

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Alma Deutscher: From My Book of Melodies

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • by ANDREW EALES
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Having just reviewed a music collection written FOR a young girl, I now turn to an album written BY one!

Based on her SONY Classical recording of the same name, From My Book of Melodies brings together the original compositions of Alma Deutscher, and includes 11 pieces based on melodies that she composed from the age of four to fourteen, one for each of those years.

The music book is published by G.Schirmer / Hal Leonard, and the pieces would suit advanced players (UK Grade 6-8).

In case your initial thought is to wonder why you would purchase a collection of compositions written by so young a child, it is worth knowing that the great conductor Zubin Mehta has called Deutscher “one of the greatest musical talents today”, while Sir Simon Rattle has declared that “Alma is a force of nature”.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that Deutscher’s YouTube channel has approaching 14 million views, while her 2019 Carnegie Hall debut, performing her own music, was a sell-out.

Hadn’t we better find out what the fuss is about?

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Jazz Piano for Kids

EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES • review by ANDREW EALES
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While there’s a growing number of good published resources for the keen jazz student these days, most are aimed at the serious adult player, and in many cases too-quickly get embroiled in complicated jazz theory. Meanwhile, for young players who enjoy “jazzy pieces” and want to explore the style, there’s long been a gap in the market.

Jazz Piano for Kids, new from ace jazz educator Richard Michael and published by Hal Leonard, aims to fill that gap.

Introducing the book, Michael writes,

“Welcome to Jazz Piano for Kids and your very first steps in making up your own solos. What do you need? Apart from a piano or keyboard, just two hands, two wide-open ears, and the ability to have a go without fear of making mistakes. This beginner’s course will give you the building blocks of playing jazz on the piano… Before you know it, you will be improvising your own solos and starting a lifetime’s discovery in the wonderful world of jazz.”

Let’s get started right away…

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Patrick Hamilton: Journey to the Unknown

SHEET MUSIC REVIEW • by ANDREW EALES
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According to Decca Publishing,

“Patrick Hamilton is a flag bearer for the next generation of producer, composer and arranger. A leading figure in classical crossover music, his ambitions include the verticals of artist production alongside film and TV score composition, which together bring his unique skill set to the adult contemporary classical space.”

Judging from Journey to the Unknown, Hamilton’s first solo piano CD, what this lofty statement actually means is that he is the latest to join the ever-growing pantheon of composers creating gentle, soothing piano music in the style popularised by Ludovico Einaudi.

That’s no bad thing, and happily Journey to the Unknown is also now available as a sheet music publication from Hal Leonard. I really like it, so let’s find out what makes it special…

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