I must admit that I was tempted to ignore these books when they landed on my doormat: my French is poor and with so much music available in English publications it's easy to be lazy. However I am glad that I persevered. Nathalie Béra-Tagrine is a French pianist who has written her own piano teaching method for the first years at the piano and supplemented them with these four volumes of absolutely charming pieces. Béra-Tagrine says that she wrote these pieces out of a desire to help her youngest pupils learn easily via melodious pieces; in my opinion she has succeeded.
Volume 1 starts at about Prep Test/ Initial level rather than absolute beginner standard, as although each piece is short - mainly eight bars - they have chords, quavers, semiquavers and dotted rhythms. Volume 2 is more Grade 1-2 but again not absolutely within these boundaries. Volume 3 is roughly Grade 3-4 standard (featuring left-hand jumps in almost all pieces) and Volume 4 is about Grade 5 level.
More interesting is the French character that pervades each book. Any of the books would serve as a perfect introduction to Satie, Ravel, Debussy or Chopin and several of the pieces have the melancholy of Satie, the chromaticism of the French style and the beautiful melodies of Chopin. All are utterly charming sophisticated miniatures and would perfectly grace any recital or competition. It is impossible to say which pieces are my favourites as, surprisingly, they are all little gems. Yes you do have to translate the titles, but it is well worth it.
www.musicteachermagazine.co.uk, (sept 2016)
Le Pont des soupirs - Barcarolle - La Fontaine aux oiseaux - Septembre à Deauville - Valse de la Belle-Epoque