Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible

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Macmillan, Sep 17, 2013 - Biography & Autobiography - 403 pages
14 Reviews

As editor of the Guardian, one of the world’s foremost newspapers, Alan Rusbridger abides by the relentless twenty-four-hour news cycle. But increasingly in midlife, he feels the gravitational pull of music—especially the piano. He sets himself a formidable challenge: to fluently learn

Chopin’s magnificent Ballade No. 1 in G minor, arguably one of the most difficult Romantic compositions in the repertory. With pyrotechnic passages that require feats of memory, dexterity, and power, the piece is one that causes alarm even in battle-hardened concert pianists. He gives himself a year.

Under ideal circumstances, this would have been a daunting task. But the particular year Rusbridger chooses turns out to be one of frenetic intensity. As he writes in his introduction, “Perhaps if I’d known then what else would soon be happening in my day job, I might have had second thoughts. For it would transpire that, at the same time, I would be steering the Guardian through one of the most dramatic years in its history.” It was a year that began with WikiLeaks’ massive dump of state secrets and ended with the Guardian’s revelations about widespread phone hacking at News of the World. “In between, there were the Japanese tsunami, the Arab Spring, the English riots . . . and the death of Osama Bin Laden,” writes Rusbridger. The test would be to “nibble out” twenty minutes per day to do something totally unrelated to the above.

Rusbridger’s description of mastering the Ballade is hugely engaging, yet his subject is clearly larger than any one piece of classical music. Play It Again deals with focus, discipline, and desire but is, above all, about the sanctity of one’s inner life in a world dominated by deadlines and distractions.

 

What will you do with your twenty minutes?

 

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Review: Play it Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible

User Review  - Dan Anderson - Goodreads

While the technical details of piano playing could be tough to understand for a non-musician, I enjoyed the manifesto on the value of amateurism and hobbies and the narrative of trying to explore his ... Read full review

Review: Play it Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible

User Review  - Ugh - Goodreads

In which Alan, the editor of the Guardian (until about a day ago) and an amateur pianist, diaries his attempt to learn the fiendishly difficult Chopin Ballade No 1 - a piece that strikes fear into the ... Read full review

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About the author (2013)

Alan Rusbridger has been the editor of the Guardian since 1995. Born in Northern Rhodesia, he was educated at the University of Cambridge and lives in London.

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