Piano Notes: The World of the Pianist

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Simon and Schuster, Oct 29, 2002 - Music - 256 pages
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Charles Rosen is one of the world's most talented pianists -- and one of music's most astute commentators. Known as a performer of Bach, Beethoven, Stravinsky, and Elliott Carter, he has also written highly acclaimed criticism for sophisticated students and professionals.

In Piano Notes, he writes for a broader audience about an old friend -- the piano itself. Drawing upon a lifetime of wisdom and the accumulated lore of many great performers of the past, Rosen shows why the instrument demands such a stark combination of mental and physical prowess. Readers will gather many little-known insights -- from how pianists vary their posture, to how splicings and microphone placements can ruin recordings, to how the history of composition was dominated by the piano for two centuries. Stories of many great musicians abound. Rosen reveals Nadia Boulanger's favorite way to avoid commenting on the performances of her friends ("You know what I think," spoken with utmost earnestness), why Glenn Gould's recordings suffer from "double-strike" touches, and how even Vladimir Horowitz became enamored of splicing multiple performances into a single recording. Rosen's explanation of the piano's physical pleasures, demands, and discontents will delight and instruct anyone who has ever sat at a keyboard, as well as everyone who loves to listen to the instrument.

In the end, he strikes a contemplative note. Western music was built around the piano from the classical era until recently, and for a good part of that time the instrument was an essential acquisition for every middle-class household. Music making was part of the fabric of social life. Yet those days have ended. Fewer people learn the instrument today. The rise of recorded music has homogenized performance styles and greatly reduced the frequency of public concerts. Music will undoubtedly survive, but will the supremely physical experience of playing the piano ever be the same?

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PIANO NOTES: The Hidden World of the Pianist

User Review  - Jane Doe - Kirkus

Seven essays on how a pianist relates to music, instrument, and performance (through both body and soul), from National Book Award-winner and pianist Rosen (Romantic Poets, Critics, and Other Madmen ... Read full review

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Charles Rosen as always with him sticks to every detail from Octave glissandi, and fingerings to proper playing way of canon in Chopin's Opus 63-3.
I personally don't agree with him on use of Octave
glissandi for Beethonven's Opus 15, but when you hear Mitsuko Uchida's performance (can be watched at Berliner Philharmoniker DCH), you might well be convinced with his idea.
His insistence on how to play canon in fabulous Chopin's Mazurka Opus 63-3 is extremely convincing. You can't get the soul of the music in other way.
This book overall is well-written.

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About the author (2002)

Charles Rosen is a distinguished concert pianist and music critic. He has twice been nominated for the Grammy Award, and his landmark book, The Classical Style, won the National Book Award and has been reissued several times. Today he maintains an active performance schedule around the world, as well as writing for The New York Review of Books. He lives in New York City and Paris.

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