Two more reviews of my book ‘Out of Silence’ have appeared. As neither is online, here’s a glimpse of what they said:
‘In my experience, highly gifted musicians often find it extremely difficult to articulate their ideas about music and reveal the secrets of their craft through writing. Not so Susan Tomes. Her latest book, ‘Out of Silence’, is packed full of fascinating material reflecting upon the difficult and sometimes intangible issues that face a busy professional pianist…Yet the approach here is anything but self-centred, as can so often be the case with autobiographical material. Rather, what emerges from these pages is Tomes’s strong sense of humility, her quirky humour, and above all her tremendous love and driving enthusiasm for her work. … a compelling read.’
BBC Music magazine, July 2010
‘A glorious collection of essays. ..After ‘Beyond the Notes’ and ‘A Musician’s Alphabet’, with this third volume Susan Tomes joins that small band of musicians whose literary skill runs parallel to their musical talent. All of them are male, most are pianists: Glenn Gould, Alfred Brendel, Daniel Barenboim and Stephen Hough, for example…
Tomes’s work reminds me of JB Priestly’s life-affirming collection of essays, ‘Delight’. I can offer no higher praise.… Tomes extracts on almost every page a life lesson for the rest of us, whether or not we are musicians.’
Editor’s Choice for July 2010, Classic FM magazine
I played a piano recital the other evening at the home of some friends. It was a lovely evening, and behind the piano, the French doors were wide open to the garden.
About ten minutes from the end of my recital, as I was sailing full steam ahead with the final piece, a black kitten wandered in from the garden. In full view of the entire audience it advanced delicately on to the oriental rug which lay in front of the piano, glanced up to make sure everyone was watching, and proceeded to describe graceful circles around the carpet, occasionally stretching its back and pointing its little feet like a ballerina. It then tiptoed over to the listeners and started to thread its way playfully in and out of the chair legs.
Of course the audience was mesmerised by the kitten. I could feel that everyone was desperately trying to keep their attention on the music, but not really succeeding. Even I was having trouble banishing the kitten’s charming antics from my peripheral vision. I had to decide whether to continue playing, but I had worked up so much momentum that I couldn’t simply stop, and in any case a little voice in my head told me that this kind of thing is just the reason that house concerts are useful practise for coping with unexpected distractions. So I ploughed on. When the applause broke out, the startled kitten shot out from between the chairs and vanished into the garden. Once again I had learned the truth of WC Fields’ advice, ‘Never work with children or animals.’
I’m off to take part in the Florestan Festival at Peasmarsh for the next few days. The festival takes place in a lovely little Norman church in the middle of the East Sussex fields (see photo).
This year’s festival, the 13th Florestan Festival, celebrates the work of Robert Schumann whose 200th birthday was on 8th June. Schumann has always had a special meaning for us because our trio is called after one of his imaginary characters, the Florestan who symbolised his active, energetic side. We’re playing all Schumann’s piano trios, and I’m also playing his wonderful ‘Davidsbuendler’ for solo piano. Robert Philip will be giving a talk on Sunday afternoon about Schumann’s struggle to ‘let both man and musician speak at once’ in his music. These are just a few of the events on offer during the festival, which also features the London Haydn Quartet, the cellists Jonathan Manson and Sally Pendlebury, and educational events provided by the Lawson Trio and by Sam Glazer. Normal service on this blog will be resumed next week.
I did an interview yesterday with Australian Radio’s ‘The Music Show’, hosted by composer Andrew Ford for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. It was broadcast in Australia a few hours ago and is now available via their website for downloading or to listen online. If you’d like to listen, or to read more about it, click here.
An exciting moment this afternoon: a friend called to say that he’d just read a review – the first one, in fact – of my new book in the Times Literary Supplement. I couldn’t find it online, so I ran down the road to the newsagent’s to buy a hard copy. Here’s a snippet of John Greening’s review:
‘Tomes has a particular understanding of humanity rare in writing about music. She has indeed looked ‘beyond the notes’ and seen how the world perceives musicians.’
Click here if you’d like to read the whole review on the ‘Out of Silence’ section of the Book Reviews page.