Old friends and new
SING A SONG OF GERMANY. Sing a Song of France. By Mary Thompson. Chester Music pound;6.95 each
Generous compilations of the treasures of some of our nearest neighbours are more than welcome. The piano arrangements are simply set under a clearly printed vocal line, and should be within reach of most pianists of grade 1 sandard. The French collection of 25 songs ranges from the artlessness of Sur le Pont d'Avignon to the roistering Il etait une Bergere, taking in the beautiful Nous n'irons plus aux bois and Dodo l'enfant, so beloved of Debussy.
The 27 pieces from Germany cover simple lullabies and action songs (Guten Abend, gut' Nacht), as well as echoes of the open road (Das Wandern ist des Muellers Lust). But even here the notes of exile and regret remind us of how Mahler's imagination was mesmerised by the subtle power of these simplicities.
I CAN READ MUSIC. I Can Write Music. By Mary Thompson. Chester Music pound;3.95
These two books are clearly organised and well-intentioned but seem to miss their target. They take young readers from counting simple pulses to the terminology of semitones, ledger lines and harmonic and melodic scales. However, on that challenging journey they will meet a lot of facts and many names but very little real music. This tendency to abstraction might have been mitigated by a greater use of well-known tunes - Lavender's Blue is the only one to appear - or of examples from speech-rhythms. As it is, the subject is made to seem rather more forbidding and less rooted in common life than it should.