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Songbook Review: Whereas
Rebecca Oswald
Cover image of the songbook Whereas by Rebecca Oswald
Rebecca Oswald
2011 / Rebecca Oswald
67 pages / 13 songs
Review by Kathy Parsons
The release of Rebecca Oswald’s second solo piano CD, Whereas, marks a very significant artistic event. The release of the companion songbook is equally significant in that is demonstrates the artistry Oswald brings to her music as well as her attention to the finest details in the composition and notation of her music. If you are not familiar with the CD, the music was inspired by a group of very personal unpublished poems, and this is Oswald’s artistic response to those poems.

The book begins with a three-page introduction by Oswald that explains that she needed to invent some expression markings so that pianists would be able to execute this music as close to the her intention as possible. Oswald worked with fellow composer and teacher Neil Patton in the songbook's final editing stage. Both are extraordinary pianists with extensive classical training and experience, and this is reflected in the precise notation of the scores. Some of the performance notes are very specific to certain pieces, others are more general - including the use of the sostenuto pedal in some of the music.

In the next two pages, Patton ranked the pieces roughly according to the Oregon Music Teachers’ Association’s annual Syllabus Evaluations, with the upper levels at a somewhat more advanced level than the Syllabus. Comparable classical pieces are given for each level to indicate their difficulty. Two of Oswald’s pieces are ranked at level 6, and the others are more difficult. In other words, this music is not easy - by any means - and a certain level of artistry is required to be able to perform these pieces as envisioned. Advanced pianists will find many challenges and delights in this book - odd and changing time signatures, use of the sostenuto pedal, digesting Oswald’s original markings, complicated key signatures, etc. - but the music itself is sublime and well worth the effort to learn it! The books are available from rebeccaoswald.com. Very highly recommended for advanced pianists and students.

Please see my CD review of Whereas for a description of the music.
December 19, 2011
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