Review: Folksongs for Piano – A Classical Interpretation

Billed as “an alluring blend of folk and classical music that celebrate the wonderful melodies found in folk songs,” I enjoyed playing through this delightful collection of six folk songs. The book is arranged by Cheryl Shantz and the cover indicates that it includes “Graded Pieces at the Intermediate Level.” I must confess, though, it took me several times through the book to really begin to comprehend all the stylistic elements Ms. Shantz has artfully woven into these arrangements. The layout of the book is clean and well-marked for performance with specific fingerings, articulations, dynamics and pedal markings. Beneath the title of each piece are the words of the folk tune and a short paragraph with additional information for each tune is included at the end of the book. Following are my brief notes on each of the pieces.

1. Fair Sally
– A simple broken chord accompaniment opens this piece, but gives way to a slightly more complex structure with the left hand carrying the melody and the right hand adding bits of counterpoint. A rich, chordal texture in the bass register peeks in for a moment before giving way to a sweet, expressive section where both hands are played in the treble register. The bass section reappears with a sotto voce marking to bring the piece to a cohesive and beautiful close.

2. Oranges and Lemons – This piece conveyed a Baroque feel, albeit interspersed with pedaled chord progressions that added some color.

3. The Blacksmith – The dolente opening is almost foreboding, but for the B-natural consistently applied in this d-minor piece. An easy broken chord pattern in the left hand accompanies a right hand that grows more complex with some inner voices. A gradual build-up eventually gives way to a faster leggiero section with 16th notes in the right hand that “twinkle” above the left hand melody to the end.

4. Down By the Sally Gardens – Contrary motion arpeggiated chord patterns let the fingers and ear flow into this lovely tune. 16th note runs, sometimes accompanied by snippets of melody throughout most of this piece contribute to the tender mood.

5. Greensleeves – No doubt the most familiar of the folk tunes included in the book, this piece opens with rolled chords in the left hand accompanying a single melodic line. The melody slips into the inner voice played by the left hand for a short section and then gives way to a “running” line of 16th notes for the remainder of the piece while the right hand supplies the melody.

6. Scarborough Fair – A misterioso introduction sets the stage for this popular tune. Unexpected harmonies dot the landscape of this piece and it was sometimes difficult for me to follow the melody. The longest in the book, this piece eventually ends with a bang!

While some of the pieces are accessible to an average intermediate student, others are more appropriate for a later intermediate student. It’s a great fit for the student who enjoys Classical music, but would also enjoy some familiar folk tunes! The pieces are ones that I’ll even enjoy adding to my collection of music for receptions/background music, etc. You can order your own copy of this book by contacting Cheryl Shantz directly.

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