Wednesday 16 June 2021

Book Review: The Piano - A History in 100 Pieces by Susan Tomes (Non-Fiction/Music)

Title: The Piano - A History in 100 Pieces
Author: Susan Tomes
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication Date: 13 July 2021
Format: eBook - EPUB
Genre: Non-Fiction/Music
Source: ARC via NetGalley 

A fascinating history of the piano explored through 100 pieces chosen by one of the UK’s most renowned concert pianists

An astonishingly versatile instrument, the piano allows just two hands to play music of great complexity and subtlety. For more than two hundred years, it has brought solo and collaborative music into homes and concert halls and has inspired composers in every musical genre—from classical to jazz and light music.
Charting the development of the piano from the late eighteenth century to the present day, pianist and writer Susan Tomes takes the reader with her on a personal journey through 100 pieces including solo works, chamber music, concertos, and jazz. Her choices include composers such as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Robert Schumann, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Gershwin, and Philip Glass. Looking at this history from a modern performer’s perspective, she acknowledges neglected women composers and players including Fanny Mendelssohn, Maria Szymanowska, Clara Schumann, and Amy Beach. 


The Piano - A History in 100 Pieces by Susan Tomes is a fascinating and delightful read. Through her chosen works, Tomes considers the history of the instrument, including the development of its capabilities and the innovative ways musicians and composers have used it over the years. If you are a classical music fan, you will doubtless find this an interesting book. However, it will probably have more impact if you are also a musician yourself (especially a pianist), as you will then understand all the references Tomes makes in her dissections of each piece: details that might be incomprehensible to those with no grounding in musical notation and theory. The only downside was, after three hundred pages, I began to feel a little weighed down by all the detail, so perhaps it is a book better dipped into, one piece at a time, rather than read cover to cover in one go, but for any piano aficionado, it is well worth the investment of your money and time. It gets 4.5 stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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