So I own A LOT of piano music. I have collected loads of books and loose pieces of sheet music over the 14 years that I have been playing the piano. This blog post is about the music that I love to play. I am currently studying to take my Grade 8 Piano exam and it is quite intense! The three pieces of music I am learning are very complex and it will take me a long time to completely master them. In order to keep my love of music alive, because it isn’t all about exams, I keep a pile of my favourite piano books to hand. So without further ado, let me introduce you to five books which I couldn’t be without.
Gershwin Gold – The Essential Collection
George Gershwin (1898-1937) was an American composer and pianist who wrote both classical and popular music, including orchestral works, and music for Broadway theatre productions.
Gershwin’s music captivated me from the moment I first heard it. I was about 14 when I first stumbled upon ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ and I was mesmerized by it. This led me to purchase ‘Gershwin Gold – The Essential Collection’.
When I was 14 I was roughly Grade 3 standard which means that I could play pretty well but I was still in the ‘beginner’ category. Unfortunately for me this book is more suited to those who are intermediate-advanced players. This meant that I had to put this wonderful book on a shelf to gather dust until I progressed enough to be able to use it. I was about 16 when I was able to dust it off and take it along to one of my piano lessons. My teacher’s eyes lit up when she saw what I had brought with me as she was a Gershwin fan too. Unfortunately I still wasn’t accomplished enough at this stage to play ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ but my teacher guided me towards ‘Someone To Watch Over Me’ instead. This piece of music is one which I have treasured and as I have developed as a pianist I have enjoyed improving on how I play it.
If you are a beginner-level pianist my message to you is don’t be disheartened! You won’t be able to play everything straight away. You might have a favourite piece of music which is just too advanced for you to play at the moment but you will get there one day. Start a ‘wish list’ of pieces of music and as you develop as a musician you will be able to keep adding to the list while ticking pieces off as you master them.
Edward Elgar – Piano Album
Edward Elgar (1898 – 1937) was an English composer whose music can be placed within the Classical genre. Amongst Elgar’s best known compositions are the orchestral works ‘Enigma Variations’ and ‘The Pomp and Circumstance Marches’.
Elgar’s music is stunning and poignant. My personal favourite of his compositions is ‘Land of Hope and Glory’. It brings a tear to my eye and gives me goosebumps every time I hear it. Another favourite is ‘Nimrod the Hunter’ which is often played on Remembrance Sunday. It is a piece of music that is described as being haunting and I think this is quite accurate. When I play Elgar pieces I seem to sit up a bit taller and I feel completely emotionally connected with each note. I love this book because as a teenager it introduced me to the wide variety of compositions by Elgar which I may not have otherwise come across. It was purely through my teacher suggesting that I buy this book that it came into my life and I’m so glad it did.
My advice to any aspiring musician out there is to try to listen to as much music from different genres as possible. You will from time to time hear something that totally captures your heart and your imagination. Be guided by this gut reaction and try to track down the composer’s music so you can play it for yourself. Believe me, nothing is more satisfying than being able to play pieces of music which you adore listening to.
Chopin – Piano Favourites
Frederic Chopin (1810-1849) was a Polish composer and virtuoso pianist. He wrote his music during the Romantic period and all of his compositions involve the piano.
Chopin’s music first came to my attention when I watched the film ‘The Pianist’. The film features a number of Chopin’s pieces and each is, in my opinion, a perfect match to the poignancy of the film’s subject matter; the Holocaust. The music is so strikingly beautiful, at times uplifting, at other times mournful but always a joy to listen to, and play.
This books contains a variety of Chopin’s compositions and because they have been arranged for the intermediate level pianist, they are accessible to those who want to try out some Chopin without having to be experienced enough to play his original arrangements. I have a real soft spot for Chopin and I would class him as one of my favourite composers of all time.
My advice is not to be put off if you can’t play the original arrangement of a composition. There are lots of books out there for beginner and intermediate pianists which contain easier arrangements of most pieces of music. They are just as enjoyable to play, and to listen to if you choose to perform them.
Les Miserables – 15 Songs From The Musical
Les Miserables is a novel by Victor Hugo which has been transformed into a popular musical, with songs composed by Claude-Michel Schonberg.
This book is part of the ‘Really Easy Piano’ book series which is aimed at beginner-level pianists. I am of the mindset that just because I am able to play more advanced music, I don’t have to do so all of the time. I think this book is great. I don’t have to think too hard about it, I can just pick it up and get lost in the wonderful songs from this brilliant musical.
I think the songs within Les Miserables are beautiful and it is a pleasure to be able to play them. Going to see the stage musical in the West End is high up on my bucket list.
The ‘Really Easy Piano’ series is great and there is so much variety. You can buy books containing songs by The Beatles, Adele, or whatever floats your boat. My only warning is that some of the pieces are not ‘really easy’ so don’t be put off if you can’t play them as well as you had expected.
Sea Idylls – Walter Carroll
Walter Carroll (1869 – 1955) was an English composer and teacher. He wrote pieces for children, all of which were inspired by different aspects of nature.
As the title of this book suggests, each piece is written about a characteristic of the sea. At the front of the book there is a message from Walter Carroll : “These little pieces should be regarded as short studies in colouring and expression. They are sound-pictures in miniature, suggested by recollections of a visit to the beautiful rockbound shores of Galloway, where the mystery of the sea and the fire of the sunset weave their magic spell around a coast-line full of romantic interest.’ Although intended for children, I still love these pieces now as an adult. I think they are stunning and they really capture my imagination. Each piece begins with an extract of poetry which sets the scene for the images it should evoke in the player’s mind.
Although teachers will usually guide their pupils to play the works of the most famous composers, the less well known such as Walter Carroll should not be overlooked. I would recommend this book to any pianist who wants to completely lose themselves in the music they are playing. This book will transport you to the seashore and beyond.
I hope you enjoyed this blog post. All of the books I have mentioned are merely the ones which I possess, and of course there are lots of different books out there! Go and find those that resonate with you, and if you find any good ones please do let me know what they are.