"Piano Roles" by James Parakilas

Piano Roles Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano James Parakilas

Publication date:
11 Mar 2002
Yale University Press
448 pages: 197 x 127mm
14 b-w + 47 color illus.

 The piano puts whole worlds of musical sound at the fingertips of one player, evoking the singing of a solo voice, the textural richness of an orchestra, and the rhythmic impetus of a dance band. It has been background or center stage in concertgoing, parlor singing, choir rehearsals, theatrical tryouts, and many other activities, forging a common bond among people of very different social spheres. This delightfully written and copiously illustrated book examines the place of the piano in classical and popular musical cultures and the piano’s changing cultural roles over the past three centuries.

Eminent authorities discuss the impetus for the invention of the piano; the innovations in its design, manufacturing, and marketing that promoted its growing significance in concert life and domestic life; and the importance of the piano lesson in the upbringing of the young—especially of girls. They explore the relationship between the piano on the public stage and the piano in the parlor; the spread of the piano to all parts of the world; and the images formed around the piano in literature, art, and movies. And they eloquently describe what the piano has meant to different eras, as it evolved from the plaything of European aristocrats to companion of people of all classes and cultures.

James Parakilas is the James L. Moody, Jr. Family Professor of Performing Arts and chair of the music department at Bates College. He is also a performing pianist.

Winner of the 2000 PSP Award in the category of Arts given by the Professional/Scholarly Publishing Division of the Association of American Publishers; Selected as an outstanding book by University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries

?Piano Roles is an exceptional and thoroughly researched anthology. It explores all relevant factors, examines important data in piano history and manufacturing, provides technological insights, analyzes musical styles and performing traditions, sketches out social and political trends and business strategies, and touches upon scores of other related and engaging subjects. . . . Without a doubt, anything and everything related to the piano will be found on these pages. A great number of facts (musical, stylistic, artistic, historic, cultural, political, commercial, mechanical, psychological, personal, medical, and more) have been presented in this coherent, well-written, and eminently readable treatise. . . . Piano Roles is a remarkable accomplishment, worthy of its stated goal of celebrating 300 years of piano history.??Marek Zebrowski, Boston Book Review

?This book presents a wealth of historical information in a delightfully entertaining format. Parakilas treats both the history of the piano and the social and cultural changes of the past three centuries as they relate to and affect the development of the piano and piano playing. . . . Highly recommended for all music collections.??Choice

?An audaciously impressive collection of essays beautifully illustrated and lovingly written. . . . Piano Roles is a book to be savored. Music lovers will probably be unable to help themselves from reading it front to back, but pick any section and you?ll be able to jump right back in.??Al Brumley, Dallas Morning News

?A book that will tell you everything you want to know about the piano, except maybe how to play it. . . . [The book] is replete with artworks, photos, history, anecdotes and reminiscences.??Herbert Kufferberg, Houston Chronicle

?A lavishly illustrated history of the piano.??Kirkus Reviews

?Parakilas has . . . fashioned a lavishly illustrated social history of the piano directed at informed lay readers. Interweaving a chronological treatment of the piano?s development with thematic essays, including how the piano is depicted in art, its manufacture and marketing, the role of the piano in motion pictures, the piano lesson, and its history in Japan, the authors share their warm regard and enthusiasm for this instrument. . . . [A] thoroughly entertaining and insightful book.??Library Journal (Starred Review)

?This elegant book is for those who struggle to master the instrument as well as for those who simply prefer to succumb to its beauty.??Michelle Krisel, Los Angeles Times Book Review

?This is a wonderful book?a delight to browse through, it will also change the way you hear and think about pianos, their players and their music.??Tamara Bernstein, National Post (Canada)

?A wonderful mosaic of the history of the piano and the diverse parts it has played in its 300 years of life.??Henry Sheen, New Statesman

?This graphically appealing book traces the role and evolution of the piano and its presence in parlors, on stages, in art, literature, movies, cyberspace and more.??Publishers Weekly

?[A] sumptuous history. . . . A significant work and an obligatory addition to the book collection of anyone who loves or plays the instrument. It?s solid from a scholarly viewpoint . . . [but] it could easily hold its own on the coffee-table.???Stephen Thompson, Tampa Tribune & Times

?The surprise delight of last spring for me was the appearance of a 461-page treasure book containing all I ever didn?t know about the piano. . . . [A] beautiful and surprisingly affordable volume.??William H. Pritchard, The Hudson Review

?At first glance, Piano Roles: Three Hundred Years of Life with the Piano could easily be mistaken for a lavishly produced, richly illustrated coffee-table book. Closer examination reveals it to be a substantive work on the cultural history of the piano, with more than 400 pages of text. . . . This visually striking book reach[es] out to general readers as well as musical insiders. . . . [A] fascinating cultural history.??Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times

?An insightful work on the cultural history of the piano, the extensive illustrations make this very approachable to general readers as well as musicians.??Lisa Weissenbuehler, University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries

?Wow?three hundred years later and the piano remains the most played instrument in the world. Written for the non-musician, the reader is taken through the history and evolution of pianos, piano music and piano players. A delightful social commentary, it even has a chapter on films featuring composers and pianists. A great pick up and browse book.??Susan Adland, University Press Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries

?In turns highly entertaining and very educational, full of extraordinary facts. An admirable addition to the literature on this subject.??Andr‚ Previn