A fascinating history of the piano explored through 100 pieces chosen by one of the UK’s most renowned concert pianists
“Tomes . . . casts her net widely, taking in chamber music and concertos, knotty avant-garde masterworks and (most welcome) jazz.”—Richard Fairman, Financial Times, “Best Books of 2021: Classical Music”
“[One of] the most beautiful books I got my hands on this year. . . . About the shaping of this maddening, glorious, unconquerable instrument.”—Jenny Colgan, Spectator, “Books of the Year”
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.
Susan Tomes is a concert pianist and writer. Renowned both as a soloist and as the pianist of Domus and the Florestan Trio, she is the author of numerous works including Beyond the Notes, Sleeping in Temples, and Speaking the Piano.
“Susan Tomes . . . casts her net widely, taking in chamber music and concertos, knotty avant-garde masterworks and (most welcome) jazz. Her inclusions and omissions are equally fascinating.”—Richard Fairman, Financial Times, “Best Books of 2021: Classical Music”
“[One of] the most beautiful books I got my hands on this year . . . about the shaping of this maddening, glorious, unconquerable instrument.”—Jenny Colgan, The Spectator, “Books of the Year”
“It’s a love letter to the instrument that connects [Tomes] and her audiences to the genius of those who created such captivating sounds across the centuries” —George Hamilton, Irish Independent
“What an interesting, entertaining, and enthusiastic guide. . . . A book that should appear on every pianophile’s wishlist.”—Michael MacMillan, Pianist
“Susan Tomes has chosen great pieces from across the centuries and brings them alive with just enough historical, biographical and musical context.”—Gulliver Ralston, Literary Review
“A genuinely inspiring and rewarding study. . . . Tomes writes like a dream and with such elegance, her erudition worn so lightly and her ‘insider knowledge’ dispensed so generously, that even those with a minimal interest in the subject must want to share this journey with her.”—Jeremy Nicholas, Gramophone
“This is a hugely stimulating book that inspires and enlightens. The overall message is positive, highlighting the huge surge in the piano’s popularity during the Covid pandemic. A fascinating and invaluable resource for music lovers, teachers and students.”—Murray McLachlan, International Piano
“This wide-ranging history of the piano takes in everything from Bach, Haydn and Mozart to the the jazz styles of Joplin, Waller and Tatum.”—Ken Walton, The Scotsman
“This comprehensive, informative and highly readable celebration of the piano and its literature is a must for pianophiles and music lovers, and for those who play, a book to keep close by the instrument to refer to, dip into, and cherish.”—ArtMuseLondon
“Quite simply an essential purchase for any piano enthusiast, offering as it does a veritable feast of salient information and insight into the instrument and music which we love so much.”—Andrew Eales, Pianodao
“Tomes allows herself a framework of 100 works on which to hang the entire history of piano music, except she goes further and wider. . . . All this could become heavy going in writing a style that flits between historical context and programme note-style analysis, but we have Tomes’ decision to include pieces that ‘involve piano’—sonatas with additional solo instrument, piano trios, even concertos—to thank for alleviating potential overkill.”—The Scotsman, “Scottish Books of 2021”
“The most remarkable thing about this beautiful book is the unique insights being shared by a musical performer. . . . The appeal of this particular volume lies in its approach to, and expression of, musical meaning and truth from a performer’s point of view (and hearing).”—Harvey Richardson, Methodist Recorder
“A joyous celebration of the piano. . . . There are many delightful insights into how the music actually feels to play. . . . Biographical and historical material is well covered with a light, non-polemical touch. The selection is no means restricted to classical music.”—Julian Jacobson, Musical Opinion
“A superb masterpiece, packed with detail, yet eloquently presenting important moments in the history (and pre-history) of piano music and how it has inspired us all—composers, musicians, and listeners—for more than 200 years.”—John Gilhooly, director of Wigmore Hall
“Susan Tomes writes as elegantly and lucidly as she plays the piano. Here she offers the perfect guide to the world of musical riches that the instrument at its best can be. This is a treasurable book for committed pianophiles and newcomers alike.”—Jessica Duchen, novelist and music writer
“This is a delightful and valuable book. Susan Tomes presents a generous history of piano literature with wonderful lucidity, understanding and conviction. Love of the piano and its music shines through every page—professional musicians and music-loving enthusiasts alike will be captivated.”—Steven Isserlis, cellist
“Susan Tomes explains why this beloved instrument has been at the heart of our musical lives, on stage and at home, from its invention up to the present day. Her love for the instrument, and the music which its composer-lovers have written for it over centuries, is infectious and instructive. A book to keep near your piano.”—Stephen Hough, pianist
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