‘Literary Review’ – review of my book

2nd August 2021 | Books, Reviews | 0 comments

There’s a review by Gulliver Ralston of my new book in the August 2021 issue of Literary Review. As part of it is behind a paywall, some excerpts:

‘…Completed just as lockdown began in the UK last March, these short essays open worlds of sound and history, illuminating familiar and forgotten works with succinct vignettes. They make up a book that encourages you to listen to and explore gems from the piano repertoire. Susan Tomes has chosen great pieces from across the centuries and brings them alive with just enough historical, biographical and musical context. …Tomes is adept at sketching political and personal backgrounds with few words, letting flashes of world events break through.

‘Her love for jazz pianists, in particular Art Tatum, is infectious. … There is also a great short essay on Nancarrow’s Studies for Player Piano 3a-3, a piece for mechanical piano designed to be played at a superhuman speed.

‘…The history of the jazz piano is still centred on men, and here Tomes’s elegant prose has teeth. The same is true when she turns to ambient music, where the best-known exponents are also men, ‘often in priest-like black’ and ‘happy with “guru status”‘. ‘To me’, she writes, ‘listening to them is often like waiting and waiting for the actual music to begin and then discovering that the piece is over.’

‘…In June 2020, the New York Times reported that sales of pianos had gone up as a result of the pandemic. Live music may have suffered, but it’s heartening, as Tomes says, to think that the piano, ‘being such a good companion’, may have entered ‘a new chapter of its history’.

Master Keys


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

FT Best Summer Books of 2024

FT Best Summer Books of 2024

My book on women pianists has been chosen by the Financial Times as one of their Best Summer Books of 2024. Music critic Richard...

read more