Rachel Portman: Ask the River

Sheet Music Review

English composer Rachel Portman is best known for her many gorgeous film scores, including the music for such blockbusters as Chocolat, The Cider House Rules, The Duchess and The Lake House.

Portman’s latest musical project is Ask the River, a self-contained CD of piano-led instrumental reflections on the natural world, with an accompanying book from Chester Music delivering solo piano versions of all 13 tracks, the subject of this review.

According to the composer,

“I wrote this collection of pieces throughout 2019. They are the fruit of many years spent being immersed in nature. What can be more inspiring than the green shoots of new beech leaves appearing in the woods with the dappling light reflected in the spring breeze?
These pieces are a personal reflection on the beauty of the earth around us – the trees, flora, rivers, birds, animals and all her gifts to us. I hope you enjoy exploring them as much as I loved being inspired by the natural world.”

Explore them we shall…

Continue reading Rachel Portman: Ask the River

The Faber Music “Soundtracks Piano Anthology”

Sheet Music Review

Faber Music have in recent years welcomed the onset of the Christmas shopping season with the publication of lavish anthologies, making perfect gifts for the pianist in your life (or indeed for yourself!).

First (in 2016) came the Faber Music Piano Anthology, a stunning hardback collection including 76 popular intermediate and advanced classics, which I reviewed here.

In 2018 they followed this with the lush Faber Music Christmas Piano Anthology, an essential seasonal purchase which I reviewed in more detail here.

New for 2019, the Faber Music Soundtracks Piano Anthology is a collection of 58 pieces which have appeared in movies or TV shows, including popular classics alongside recent film scores.

Let’s take a closer look….

Continue reading The Faber Music “Soundtracks Piano Anthology”

Mike Cornick’s Piano Duets & Ensembles

Sheet Music Review

Teachers often ask me to recommend duet and ensemble pieces suitable for older players who are at intermediate level.

One context where this has added importance is the preparation of pieces for assessment as GCSE “ensemble” performances. Here there is a particular need for music at around ABRSM Grade 3 level, with suitably easy duet part for the classroom music teacher to play at sight, or for two or more students to perform together.

But equally, for those who teach siblings or paired/group lessons, intermediate music for more than one player can be an important – indeed essential – resource.

Happily, popular educational composer Mike Cornick has been on the case, writing brilliant arrangements for various combinations of players, and publishing several collections through Universal Edition over the years.

There are two particular sets of books well worth looking at. Firstly, there are several neat duet books, and secondly – more unusually – a series of books for larger combinations sharing a single piano.

In this review I will take a look at two of Mike’s latest publications:

  • Movie Music Favourites: Eight arrangements for piano duet
  • 4 Afro-Caribbean pieces for 6 hands at 1 piano
Continue reading Mike Cornick’s Piano Duets & Ensembles

The Classical Film Collection

Sheet Music Review

Last summer, Faber Music brought out Film Themes: The Piano Collection, which I reviewed enthusiastically here.

This summer, they follow up with The Classical Film Collection, which offers a varied compendium of 40 popular classical pieces – all of which have been prominently used in movies – arranged for intermediate to early-advanced pianists.

Let’s take a closer look and see what’s included …

Continue reading The Classical Film Collection