1st June 2001 at 01:00
FINGERTIPS: The ABRSM exam syllabuses for piano, violin, cello, flute, and clarinet. Cassettes and CDs.WarehouseRecords.Solo instruments from pound;9 (Grade 1) to pound;20 (Grade 8). Piano from pound;7.45 (Grade 1) to pound;15.95 (Grade 8).

For young tyro musicians a new piece of music presents many challenges, not the least of which is that they have no idea what it is meant to sound like. And any musician needing an accompanist has to practise without one for most of the time. These recordings aim to solve both these problems, at least for some of those taking Associated Board exams. Here are the complete syllabuses for four of the most popular instruments with, as appropriate, a separate disc or cassette with the accompaniments alone. The musicians are David Le Page, violin; Colin Carr, cello; Edward Beckett, flute; Anthony Pike, clarinet; and Martin Jones and Ian Brown, piano.

The performances are extremely fine, which makes th advanced grade discs worth having in their own right (albeit in a Classic FM sort of way), while even those in the foothills contain some entertaining rarities. The drawbacks to the series are obvious: when using the accompaniments you have to play at their speed (and they do not listen, as a good accompanist should); and there is the danger that students will just slavishly copy what they hear. A good teacher will spot the latter, while the former at least means students cannot slow down for the difficult bits.

A considerable boon is that, particularly in the higher grades, where the number of pieces to choose from is considerable and they are not all published in one handy volume, teachers and students can hear everything before deciding what to choose. This is not the first project of its kind, but it is certainly one of the best.

Tim Homfray Tim Homfray is a freelance journalist and music critic

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