Musical Opinion review of ‘The Piano – a History in 100 Pieces’

2nd November 2021 | Books, Reviews | 0 comments

The quarterly magazine Musical Opinion has a review of my book in its October-December 2021 issue.

Some excerpts from Julian Jacobson’s review:

‘Susan Tomes’ new book is aimed at the informed amateur or mélomane, in the untranslatable French word: the Radio 3 (perhaps rather than Classic FM) listener or Wigmore Hall and festival devotee. Analysis is kept to a minimum and couched in general rather than technical terms, however there are many delightful insights into how the music actually feels to play. Biographical and historical material is well covered with a light, non-polemical touch.

The selection is by no means restricted to classical music: Tomes’ own experience in jazz, extending to a period of study in Boston with Jaki Byard and her performances of the jazz-inflected salon music of Billy Mayerl, lead her to include a whole section on jazz, and her experience as a celebrated ensemble pianist has engendered penetrating essays on major chamber works of Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, Dvorak, Fauré and others. Rightly she sees this as essentially not separate from the great solo repertoire.

…Ultimately the book is a joyous celebration of the piano, its central place in musical and general life, and its range of style, emotion and density from Scott Joplin through the virtuosity of Islamey and the third Rachmaninoff Concerto to the lofty heights of the Goldberg Variations, Beethoven’s Appassionata and the Ives Concord Sonata. There are no music-type examples: everything is described in terms which will enhance the listener’s experience without intimidating those who do not read musical notation.’

For more reviews of this book, click here (and scroll down to the bottom of the page)


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