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.
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...
As a former music librarian I must mention that no library should be without Nicolas Slonimsky's "Baker's Dictionary of Music". Slonimsky had a way with words and has injected a fair amount of wit into the many entries in these books. Much more fun than you might expect a reference book to be. I use mine all the time! His Biographical dictionary of musicians is also worth checking.
"Fryderyk Chopin. A Life and Times" by Alan Walker
Superb biography written with narrative mastery for all who love Chopin and who want to know his real life without dubious additions. It starts with a beautiful and true sentence: "Whatever the time zone, the sun never sets on Chopin's music". And besides all the adventures and misfortunes of his life, and the corresponding historical context, there is a special chapter for pianists: Chopin and the keyboard "The Raphael of the piano"; using the expression of the German poet Heinrich Heine, in which Alan Walker analyzes the main characteristics of Chopin's music. I have enjoyed this reading so much and want to share it with all the Tonebase Community.