Enthusiasm, experience and expertise


Charles Rosen Piano Notes:
the World of the Pianist 
Penguin 2004

The late Charles Rosen, who died in 2012 aged 85, is remembered as both pianist and writer, and Piano Notes is in large part a personal response to the art and pleasure of keyboard playing. I found this a wonderful book, full of enthusiasm, experience, expertise, knowledge and humour, and it helps that this reviewer largely shares the writer’s philosophy (though, sadly, not the experience, expertise and knowledge). The first couple of chapters are a little hard going, even for someone like me with a comparatively meagre piano background — this despite a music degree and a piano teaching diploma — but the remainder of the book flows easily and is greatly enjoyable for both pianists and the general reader.

An abiding notion that I associate with this book is Rosen’s assertion that an assiduous pianist can sight-read their way through most of the solo classical repertoire in just a few years. Though I did wonder how feasible this is I of course bow to his professional opinion; after all he has recorded much of that repertoire, from Bach to Schoenberg and from Brahms to Stravinsky and Boulez.

Above all I love the sense of continuity of tradition reaching back to his teachers and beyond that to Liszt, and I rejoice that I’ve had lessons with someone who had lessons with him. This is a book that I may find I have to re-read every so often to get the most out of it.

piano keys

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