American Record Guide review of ‘The Piano – a History in 100 Pieces’

6th March 2023 | Musings | 0 comments

I have just been sent an American review of my book The Piano – a History in 100 Pieces. The review actually came out a year ago, but I was not aware of it until now.

A pity, as I would have liked to use a quote from it with the other quotes on the cover of the paperback version!

It’s a long review which describes the contents of the book in some detail. Here are some excerpts from the general remarks:

‘The Scottish pianist Susan Tomes, widely admired especially as a chamber musician, has emerged in recent years as a significant writer on musical topics. This is her sixth and largest book; I have read three of the earlier ones and enjoyed them greatly. They are thoughtful, engaging and brilliantly written, as is this new one.

‘..Each chapter on a classical piece consists of a general part followed by a specific part. The general parts are delightful and interesting. Tomes weaves her own thoughts as a performer into the fabric of historical facts, mentions little-known details, and recounts amusing anecdotes. … Tomes’s diplomatic way of handling opinion-laden topics such as the use of historic versus modern pianos in playing Haydn and Mozart is admirable. She rarely takes sides but simply presents the alternatives. Her even-handed and always positive ways of looking at things were also evident in her earlier books.

‘…The specific parts are descriptions of the music, similar to what one finds in the liner notes of recordings. Interspersed are various ideas from performance practice, and those are particularly interesting and useful. As for verbal descriptions of music …  Tomes’s text is as good as it gets, suffused with palpable love of music and thorough knowledge of the challenges it poses to the performer. Moreover, it is spiked with numerous felicitous expressions that stimulate the imagination, such as the pianist in Beethoven’s Fourth Concerto “playing the part of a silver-tongued poet”.’

American Record Guide, Jan/Feb 2022 issue, reviewed by Bruno Repp

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