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Fire & Water Piano Sheet Music Book

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In this collection of scores, Ji Liu showcases an exploration of keyboard virtuosity and the colourful world of sound with his own arrangements, performance commentary and composition. Enjoy a collection of works that elegantly reflect the calming character of water, alongside contrasting intense and fast-paced pieces inspired by the element of fire.

  Aquarium from The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns

My piano arrangement of Saint-Saen's Aquarium from Le Carnaval des animaux (”The Carnival of the Animals”) was written during preparations for my fourth solo album, 'Fire and Water'. While I was curating the programme for the album, I particularly wanted to guide my listeners through this musical journey with something fluid, mysterious, intriguing, colourful, pianistically brilliant, yet light and elegant, which would prepare for the album’s darker and more brutal works.

I find that the Aquarium is particularly interesting in terms of its orchestration, texture and harmonic pro- gression. And it goes very well with The Swan. Therefore, I decided to arrange the Aquarium into a solo piano version, and pair it with the transcription of The Swan.

While I was looking to explore the shimmering, atmos- pheric, yet metallic sound that a modern concert grand piano would produce, I deliberately kept the running passage of the right hand in the higher register to reflect the sound of the flute and glass harmonica in the original version. The figuration of the right hand is also a homage to Chopin's Étude Op. 25 No. 1, while the first note of each group is treated as the melodic line and the rest of the decorative notes are drawn in a unified wash of sound that depicts the dynamism, yet serenity, of the Aquarium.

Critical Commentary

The score contained within this arrangement is based on the 1922 edition published by Durand & Cie, Paris.

  The Swan from The Carnival of the Animals by Saint-Saëns

Le cygne (”The Swan”), is the 13th movement of ‘The Carnival of the Animals’ by Camille Saint-Saëns. It was originally written for solo cello accompanied by two pianos; however, as its nature is of utmost beauty, this work has been transcribed for various instruments. Indeed, this is the only movement from ‘The Carnival of the Animals’ that the composer allowed to be played in public, during his lifetime.

When I was preparing and curating the track-list for my “Fire and Water" album, at first, I intended to record the famous arrangement of The Swan by Godowsky, which is more well-known and more regularly played than Siloti’s version. However, as I happened to come across Rachmaninov's recording of Siloti’s arrangement, its originality, purity, simplicity and beauty caught my ears and heart immediately. Of course, the ultra-warmth and sense of eternity in Rachmaninov's playing, from the golden era of the greatest pianists, added an extra glittering shimmer to this piece. As Chopin said, "Simplicity is the highest goal, achievable when you have overcome all difficulties. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art." So, instead of recording Godowsky's version, I thought I should introduce this less-played yet beautiful arrangement that amply purveys the pure essence of Saint-Saën's original work to my audience. After releasing the album just two years later, when I revisited the piece to prepare for the publishing of its sheet music (during the Covid-19 lock- down), I then added some of my own interpreting directions, as well as my further arrangements, to the piece. For example, when the melody comes back from bar 18 and onwards, I have layered an extra melody line on top of the original, so that the performer can have the freedom to discover more colours and possibilities that the modern piano can offer.

Critical Commentary

The score contained within this arrangement is based on the 1922 edition published by Durand & Cie, Paris.

  Spring Waters Op. 11 No. 14 by Rachmaninov

Rachmaninov's Vesennie Vody (”Spring Waters”) has always been one of my favourite songs by the composer. The idea of transcribing it to a solo piano piece had long been haunting my mind until the preparation of my fourth recital album, ‘Fire and Water’, in 2017. The transcription itself then came into fruition while I was finalising the track-list, as the passion of the original song and associated ‘water’ component reflect a perfect metaphorical combination between the two elements.

While I was examining the composer's original song, I noticed that even though it was a work for voice and piano, the piano accompaniment part still played a vital and indispensable role in completing the entire musical experience. As one of the great composer-pianists, Rachmaninov's understanding and instinct for writing piano music shone through the piano part, which supports and backs up the singing melody perfectly.

Therefore, I strongly felt and believed that my transcript- ion should keep the originality of Rachmaninov's writing style as much as possible, since the piano part from the original song had been so well written. During my com- positional process, I always pondered how Rachmaninov would possibly write it as a solo piano piece. As one an see from this arrangement, I tried to maximise the expression of both musical parts on the keyboard by combining the singing and piano part and expanding the piece into a more pianistic and ultra-romantic work with a brilliant Rachmaninovian ending.


Critical Commentary

The score contained within this arrangement is based on the 1922 edition published by Gutheil, Moscow.

  Ritual Fire Dance from El amor brujo by de Falla

Danza Ritual del Fuego (“Ritual Fire Dance") is a movement from the ballet El Amor Brujo ("The Bewitched Love"), written by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla in 1915. The piece was also influenced by the traditional, religious ceremony of a fire dance.

In this ballet, Candela, a young Andalusian gypsy girl, is haunted by the ghost of her dead husband. To vanquish him, all the gypsies make a large circle around their campfire at midnight. Candela then performs the Ritual Fire Dance. This causes the ghost to appear, with whom she then dances. As they whirl around faster and faster, the ghost is drawn into the fire, making it vanish forever.

This orchestral piece has been arranged for solo piano by several composers/pianists: among the most notable are the composer himself, Rubinstein, and Cziffra. However, due to its orchestral nature, the potentiality in arranging the piece with great musical varieties can be difficult. Therefore, all these arrangements seem to em- brace a similar musical foundation with slight differences.

In Rubinstein's autobiography, "My Young Years", he claims that he made his own arrangement. 'Could you lend me the score of this dance?' Rubinstein asked the composer. 'I would love to arrange it for the piano and play it in a concert.' de Falla laughed. 'Of course I will let you have it,' he said. 'But I doubt if it would have any effect.' Rubinstein's arrangement has never been published. However, in his famous recording of the piece, the piano arrangement that he played is identical to composer's own version. Henceforth, the authorship of the original piano version of the piece has become quite ambiguous. Nevertheless, this phenomenon has given performers a certain freedom in adapting the piece and building a version that might suit their own playing. As a performer and an arranger myself, I have further arranged the piece by adding some voices to make it more effective and pianistically brilliant. At the same time, in several places, I have offered alternative performance suggestions for smaller hands.

Critical Commentary

The score contained within this arrangement is based on the 1921 edition published by J. & W., London.

  Reflections in the Water by Debussy

Reflets dans L'eau ("Reflections in the Water") is the first of three piano pieces from Debussy's Images Book I. It was written in 1905. It has several brief melodic elements, and it is one of the many pieces Debussy wrote about water. We can hear its various shapes lighting the surface and transforming. The piece creates an image of water in motion. It is also an example of the new tone colours that Debussy discovered for the piano at this stage in his life. Although he later refined this style, Image Book I marks Debussy's new achievement in composing for piano.

Critical Commentary

The score contained is based on the 1905 edition published by A. Durand & Fils, Paris.

  The Submerged Cathedral by Debussy

Debussy usually named his pieces after the exact image for which he was composing. However, for his Prelude Book I and II, he placed the title at the end of the piece, either to allow the performer to respond intuitively to the music before finding out how Debussy intended the music to sound, or to apply more ambiguity to the music's allusion. This prelude from Book I is based on a legend. Therefore, it can be considered programme music. This piece is based on an ancient Breton myth in which a cathedral, submerged underwater off the coast of the Island of Ys, rises up from the sea on clear mornings when the water is transparent. Sounds of priests chanting, bells chiming, and the organ playing can be heard across the sea. Accordingly, Debussy uses certain harmonies to allude to the plot of the legend, in the style of musical symbolism.

It is one of Debussy's most famous piano pieces of all time. It contains instances of one of the most significant techniques found in the music of the Impressionist period, called Parallelism, which is then further developed by other 20th-century composers, exemplified by Stravinsky's Petrushka.

Critical Commentary

The score contained is based on the 1910 edition published by Durand & Cie, Paris.

  Tragicomic Trilogy by Ji Liu

coming soon


The ISMN has been corrected to:

  • Print 9790708169185
  • Digital 9790708169192

The spelling El Amor Brujo has been corrected.

The spelling Vesennie from Vesennie Vody has been corrected.

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