Friday 20 February 2015

Piano Lessons

Most of the time I listen to work related podcasts when I'm driving to and from work. But sometimes I need a break from that, and the occasional audio book suits me very well at those times. Recently I was browsing at my library and found Piano Lessons. I'd meant to read the book when it came out, so the audiobook was a perfect solution, and a perfect interlude.

Anna Goldsworthy is daughter of GP and author Peter Goldsworthy. She was to grow up to be a concert pianist, and so she understands music on a level that I never will. Some passages are meaningless and confusing for the non-musician at times, but the story of her progress and growth carries the story along.

Piano Lessons starts with 9 year old Anna beginning lessons with Mrs Sivan, a Russian emigre in suburban Adelaide in the early 1980s. We watch Anna grow up, as a person and a musician, both under the careful tutelage of Mrs Sivan (who looks just like I imagined her). Much of the book is a love letter to Mrs Sivan, a larger than life character who seems to inspire devotion in all her students. She is emphatic, knowledgeable, talented and warm. Of course the lessons Mrs Sivan teaches are not just about the piano and the lives of the great composers. They are lessons in life, in beauty, kindness and philosophy all delivered with typical Russian emphasis.

Of course.

There are also some rather fascinating insights into Peter Goldsworthy, and some of his writings. I've read a few, but certainly not all of his books, most recently His Stupid Boyhood (see my review). Peter attended Anna's childhood piano lessons for many years, taking her each week, and sitting and watching the proceedings, these events were to inspire one of his early works, Maestro. Anna also watches her father's creative process along the way, and we gain little insights into his work too.

At times I really wished that there were musical interludes to help explain the music for the non musician, although I see now that there was a companion CD of Anna playing some of the music from the book, but it doesn't seem to be all that available. Whilst I know most of the classic composers whose names mark the chapter names,  I'm not familiar with all of their individual works, such as Chopin's Etudes. Any of the etudes, let alone particular etudes.

You can hear Anna Goldsworthy interviewed about Piano Lessons on RN's The Music Show.

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