NEW YORK: knopf, 2011
A Natural History of the Piano
The Instrument, the Music, the Musicians—from Mozart to Modern Jazz and Everything in Between
A beautifully illustrated, totally engrossing celebration of the piano and the composer and performers who have made it their own.
With honed sensitivity and unquestioned expertise, Stuart Isacoff—pianist, critic, teacher and author of Temperament: How Music Became a Battleground for the Great Minds of Western Civilization—unfolds the ongoing history and evolution of the piano and all its myriad wonders: how its very sound provides the basis for emotional expression and individual style, and why it has so powerfully entertained generation upon generation of listeners. He illuminates the groundbreaking music of Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt, Schumann, and Debussy; analyzes the breathtaking techniques of Glenn Gould, Oscar Peterson, Vladimir Ashkenazy, Art Tatum, Arthur Rubinstein, and Van Cliburn; and gives musicians including Alfred Brendel, Andras Schiff, Murray Perahia, Menahem Pressler, Vladimir Horowitz, André Watts, Bill Charlap and Billy Joel the opportunity to discuss their approaches.
Isacoff delineates how classical music and jazz influenced each other as the uniquely American art form progress from ragtime, novelty, stride, boogie, bebop, and beyond, through Scott Joplin, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, Chick Corea, Herbie Hancock, Cecil Taylor and Dave Brubeck.
A Natural History of the Piano distills a lifetime of research and passion into one brilliant narrative. We witness Mozart unveiling his monumental concertos in Vienna's coffeehouses, using a special piano with one keyboard for the hands and another for the feet; European virtuoso Henri Herz entertaining rowdy miners during the California gold rush; Beethoven at his piano, conjuring healing angels to console a grieving mother; Liszt fainting in the arms of a page turner to spark an entire hall into hysterics.
Here is the instrument in all its complexity and beauty, in a text that probes its innovations and its place in social history. There has never been a piano book like it.
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