Talking about Piano Books

        Sometimes we talk about piano books in our daily forum commentaries, but we have not a place where we can make a collection of our book recommendations to all Tonebase pianists. So, my suggestion is that we share here a brief review about these books that we have read in relation with our love for the piano.

        What kind of books are we talking about? Of course, not only books of piano technique, but all kind of books: history of the piano, biographies of composers who are strongly related to the piano, novels in which is relevant its presence one way or another and so on... In two words: piano books.

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    • Juan Carlos Olite
    • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
    • Juan_Carlos
    • 2 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    "Playing the piano for pleasure" by Charles Cooke

            Among many suitable possibilities to open this section, I have chosen a classic book known by many piano lovers, but that it deserves to be here. The main reason is that I think all the amateur pianists that enjoy Tonebase could deeply identify with the philosophy of the book expressed by Charles Cooke in the preface:

            "Remember, you amateurs are more fortunate in your playing than most professionals are in theirs. For you there is no grim grind of practicing; no exhausting burden of responsibility; no fierce competition; no endless facing audiences regardless of the condition of auditoriums acoustics, or the state of your soul. For you the work is pleasure, as all hobby work is by its nature; the results a satisfaction to yourself, your fellow hobbyists, and such sympathetic listeners as you may find..."

            You see, more words would be needless. Just tell you about some of the topics covered: suggestions about repertoire, transforming weakest passages into strongest, memorizing, sight reading, scales, arpeggios and special exercises...  But above all, an inspiring message for amateur pianists.

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    • Juan Carlos Olite thanks for the recommendation! Sounds like a great book. I think I'll try and get my hands on a copy. 

      Like 1
    • Juan Carlos Olite What a great topic! I love the quote you shared. As you probably know, the word amateur is derived from the word 鈥渁mare鈥, meaning 鈥渢o love鈥. I always think of that when I hear the word amateur, because it鈥檚 a such a beautiful thing to be an amateur.

      Thank you for recommending this book! I did not know about it.   

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    • Juan Carlos Olite Thanks for the book suggestion and yes, great topic! Just found it on scribd and will be certain to read it-

      https://www.scribd.com/book/574378896/Playing-the-Piano-for-Pleasure-The-Classic-Guide-to-Improving-Skills-Through-Practice-and-Discipline.

      Like 1
      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Natalie Peh Sindre Skarelven Vidhya Bashyam I am very glad that you thought that it was a good idea. I missed something like this in Tonebase and I am very sure that we can share our readings in the same way we share our videos. Thank you so much for being an extraordinary group of piano lovers! 

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    • Juan Carlos Olite I remember my mother checking this book out of the library when I was a child, and I read it then and was impressed even though much of it didn't mean anything to me. But I kept remembering it over the years and finally bought a copy when I went back to playing the piano about 15 years ago. FWIW, I mentioned it once to an excellent pianist I used to play with when I was a cello major (she is now head of collaborative piano at a big university music department and performs worldwide), and she gave the book a thumbs down. But I think it does have some merit.

      Like 1
      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Harriet Kaplan Thank you very much for your comments, Harriet! Maybe a professional pianist could find this book very simple or not interesting, but when I read it I remember experiencing the feeling of a passionate message from an amateur pianist to another amateur pianist.

      As far as I know, there aren't many books of this nature, written from the enthusiasm of an amateur (perhaps "Play it again. An Amateur Against the Impossible" by Alan Rusbridger; but that is another story which deserves a full review to do another day). 

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    • Juan Carlos Olite
    • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
    • Juan_Carlos
    • 2 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    "Music Comes Out of Silence" by Andr谩s Schiff

            Since nobody writes about piano books 馃, I will continue writing 馃檪

            This time I want to share my admiration for Andr谩s Schiff and his book "Music Comes Out of Silence". It contains a set of conversations with Martin Meyer (a Swiss author and journalist) and another set of essays, analysis and portraits that Schiff writes about his favorite works and composers.

            A lot of interesting information the reader can find here. First at all, the knowledge of the personality, points of view and fine sense of humor of Andr谩s Schiff. Besides his comments about his musical formation, teachers, Hungary political and educational context of his early years, more interesting if possible are his personal opiniones about composers like Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Chopin...  And, between them, Bach is the gravity center of his refections: the million of colors to be discovered in the huge keyboard legacy of Bach; the sustaining pedal as "deadly enemy" of the clarity of execution (one of Schiff's favorite sentences: senza pedale ma con tanti colori); a guided tour through the Goldberg's Variations and so on.

            It is impossible to summarize the content of the book in a few words. Just a piece of advice on what should preside piano practice (the development of a "third ear"):

                "No time-wasting! Concentration and intelligence! Nothing mechanical, nothing motoric! (...) The art of playing the piano consists of achieving the best possible distribution or balance of the voices"

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    • Juan Carlos Olite Thanks for this recommendation and summary! I have enjoyed watching Andras Schiff鈥檚 many masterclasses on YouTube (he is a great teacher). Looking forward to reading this.

      Like 1
    • Juan Carlos Olite this one sounds very interesting. Thanks!

      Like 1
    • Juan Carlos Olite I'm making a note of the books you have introduced here. I haven't read many books lately, but would like to make time for these ones. 

       

      Thanks for the book recommendations. It's also really nice that you include a quote from the book in your description.

      Like 1
      • Gail Starr
      • Recently retired MBA (international consumer products/luxury goods/classical music mgt.)
      • Gail_Starr
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Juan Carlos Olite Thank you for ALL your insightful and inspiring books!  I am going to start reading all of them as soon as I finish my current selections.

      Like 1
    • Juan Carlos Olite Yes this is a brilliant book and would definitely recommend it. What a musician and human being!

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  • I just finished Jeremy Denk's memoir Every Good Boy Does Fine and enjoyed it very much. Some people do not like his snarkiness, but it didn't bother me because it seemed honest and much more realistic than some of the more sanitized pieces of writing out there. He's a good writer and talks a lot and deeply about music, not just about himself. 

    Like 3
    • Harriet Kaplan thanks for the recommendation, I will add that to my reading list too. I think I recall reading his article somewhere as well

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      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Harriet Kaplan I think "Every Good Boy Does Fine" by Jeremy Denk is an excellent book. I agree with you. Putting aside some of his comments, very personal and obviously subject to discussion, there is a lot of information about many piano and chamber music works and, even more if possible, all the process of growth and maturation of a musician, a pianist in this case. It is a wonderful story of how different teachers and experiences contribute to the formation of an artist.  

      Like 1
      • Sam Smith
      • Sam_Smith
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Harriet Kaplan I did not care for Denk鈥檚 book. Sure, there may be some musical insights, but the comments he made about people in his life were in poor taste. Do we really need to know that a former teacher had bad breath? How would you feel, if you were a teacher and read this book by your former student who is now famous, only to discover what he really thought about you? I think a lot less of Denk now that I have read his book.

      Like 1
      • Gail Starr
      • Recently retired MBA (international consumer products/luxury goods/classical music mgt.)
      • Gail_Starr
      • 1 mth ago
      • Reported - view

      Harriet Kaplan I actually studied with the SAME teacher as Jeremy at Eastern Music Festival and during the school year a couple of years before he was there.  Her family was NOT amused by the negative things he said about her.  His comments even hurt MY feelings because she was one of the most important people in my childhood.  I don't think I would have been inspired to practice as much as I did, had Bernice Maskin not been my teacher from ages 10-13.  She gave me the foundation to keep playing now, even though I didn't major in music at university.

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    • Gail Starr interesting ... I felt his comments about that teacher were more a negative reflection on him than on her. He came across as a clueless annoying kid.

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  • That鈥檚 a great topic Juan Carlos Olite ! Thank you all for great recommendations. I鈥檇 like to add Seymour Bernstein鈥檚 book 鈥淲ith your own two hands. Self-discovery through music.鈥

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      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Andrea Buckland Thank you very much, Andrea! I have this book in my list of future readings... I have watched the documentary "Seymour: An Introduction" and want to read his book because of the fascinating Seymour Bernstein personality.

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    • Andrea Buckland Another wonderful book! I read it as a student but still refer to it. Fantastic!

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    • Michelle R
    • Michelle_Russell
    • 2 mths ago
    • Reported - view

    What a wonderful topic. I ordered the Andras Schiff book for my son (Thurmond - y'all have seen him on TB), who watches all the Schiff videos he can get his hands on. 

    Not a book, but Thurmond has been perusing copies of "Etude Magazine," which was published from 1883 - 1957. Many (maybe all) of the issues are scanned in and available free online. The ads are especially enjoyable, but many articles are informative and interesting.

    He thoroughly enjoyed CPE Bach's "The Art of Keyboard Playing," and is currently enjoying "Playing Bach on the Keyboard: A Practical Guide" by Richard Troeger. 

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      • Juan Carlos Olite
      • Philosophy teacher and piano lover
      • Juan_Carlos
      • 2 mths ago
      • Reported - view

      Michelle R Thank you very much, Michelle! I am sure that Thurmond will enjoy Schiff's book. I take note of your recommendations. Precisely, Andr谩s Schiff writes about CPE Bach's "The Art of Keyboard Playing": "is the most important book on music of all time. I used to read it like a Bible, and still do".

      Like 2
    • Sam Smith
    • Sam_Smith
    • 1 mth ago
    • Reported - view

    How about some fiction?

     

    Body and Soul by Frank Conroy: The author is not a musician, but he captures every myth and anecdote about growing up to become a performing pianist. Fun to read, especially for someone who has struggled with piano lessons. My only criticism is that it seemed a bit too easy for the hero - I wanted a bit more struggle. Still, a great read.

     

    Madame Sousatzka by Bernice Rubens: Another story about coming of age with piano lessons, but this one centers on the mysterious teacher, Madame Souzatska. A great read, which was made into a movie starring Shirley MacLaine. They changed the book for the movie (don't they always?), but still both are worth it.

    Clara, A Novel of Clara Schumann by Janice Galloway: Galloway is a great author, and she does a fantastic job with a fictional account of Clara Wieck Schumann's life. There are lots of fascinating details imagined by the author. It is a story of the men in her life too, from the contentious relationship with her father/teacher, to her love affair with Robert, Robert's slow decline through illness and madness to his death, and her friendship with Brahms. It's a bit grim at times. Clara was definitely an iron lady.

     

    The Final Retreat by Stephen Hough: Not a novel about a musician, but a novel written by a musician. A Catholic priest struggles with his homosexuality. Well written and gripping, but not a book that you read to cheer up...

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