Piano Notes by Charles Rosen
The World of the Pianist

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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?

About Charles Rosen

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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.
Published October 29, 2002 by Free Press. 256 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, Education & Reference, Arts & Photography. Non-fiction

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The Guardian

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Piano Notes: The Hidden World of the Pianist by Charles Rosen 256pp, Allen Lane, £12.99 Among instrumental soloists, pianists have a particularly vivid image in the popular consciousness: Chopin spitting blood on the keyboard, leonine Liszt thundering out impossible octaves, Jan Paderewski, patri...

Jul 19 2003 | Read Full Review of Piano Notes: The World of the...

Publishers Weekly

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(Mar.)Forecast:Sure to get endless plugs in the tony lit-crit rags where Rosen is omnipresent, like the New York Review of Books, this book will no doubt also benefit from Rosen's penchant for radio appearances as both interviewee and performer.

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Publishers Weekly

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Rosen is mainly concerned with the physicalities of playing the instrument, and he takes readers from concert halls, discussing the order of pieces to be performed—lest a pianist follow a work in E-flat major by one in D major—to the recording studio, examining the facility with which one can spl...

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The New York Review of Books

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Oct 23 2003 | Read Full Review of Piano Notes: The World of the...

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