My books pop up in recent commentary

26th June 2022 | Books, Reviews | 2 comments

Readers of my books might like to see a couple of mentions which have popped up recently in the US.

The first is in the New York publication The Browser, whose mission is to send its subscribers a daily selection of good writing from around the world. Editor Robert Cottrell writes an extensive thinkpiece each week, and at the end of May his chosen subject was books written by pianists. A short excerpt:

‘There seems to be something about pianists which makes them good writers. When I try to think of musicians whose writing I admire, I think first of Alfred Brendel, whose essays and lectures have been collected as Music, Sense And Nonsense; the late Charles Rosen, author of Piano Notes: The Hidden World Of The Pianist (and, like Brendel, a regular contributor to the New York Review Of Books under Robert Silvers’s editorship); Susan Tomes, author of The Piano: A History In 100 Pieces; Stephen Hough, author of Rough Ideas; and, of course, Andras Schiff, whose conversations, memories and writings are collected in that most beautiful and melancholy of memoirs, Music Comes Out Of Silence.

It cannot be mere manual dexterity, the easy transition from one keyboard to another, that makes pianists such good writers (oddly enough, pianists do not score particularly well on clinical dexterity tests). Perhaps it has something to do with the declarative nature of the piano. A piano dominates a room or a stage whether it is being played or not. When it does speak, it commands attention. It will not go quietly into any backpack. I wonder if the piano, like the writing of books, exerts a natural attraction on those who feel they have something to say.’ (30 May 2022)

Meanwhile, on No Dead Guys, American pianist Rhonda Rizzo’s excellent blog about new music, she writes about five favourite memoirs by classical musicians. Her five authors are Jeremy Denk, Stephen Hough, Steve Reich, Andras Schiff, and me (note: four of the five are pianists!) In each case she summarises what she likes about the book and gives a favourite quote from it. About my book she writes:

Beyond the Notes: Journeys with Chamber Music

by Susan Tomes

About the book

Published nearly 20 years ago, Beyond the Notes continues to be a favorite memoir because of the beauty of Tomes’ writing, and the truthfulness of her experiences gleaned from a lifetime of rehearsals, concerts and recordings. This consummate chamber musician—a founder member and the pianist of both Domus and the Florestan Trio—writes of the challenges and the joys of working with others, life on the road, and the passion to share great music with audiences in conventional (and unconventional) settings.

Favorite quote

“Physicists now tell us that the universe, as well as being full of the matter we can see, is full of dark matter that we can’t see, but which is vital in some mysterious way. The dark matter is observable because of its gravitational effect. In music, notation is the matter we can see. The spirit which lies beyond it is the dark matter. It can’t be defined, but without it, there is no music.”


  1. Mary Cohen

    Good to hear this news about your books being ‘mentioned’!

    And I love the ‘Favourite quote’. A teenage pupil of mine, who was not particularly gifted but who thoroughly enjoyed the musical experience of playing chamber music, said something very similar to me shortly before moving on to University. He was fascinated by the whole process of the music coming out of the mind of one person and then being so affecting to others in this mysterious way.

  2. Rhonda Rizzo

    Susan, thank you so much for including No Dead Guys in your post, and for your kind words about my site. As a longtime fan of yours, I’m deeply honored by this. Thank you for your honest, funny, heartfelt writing.


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