Finding literature about the piano that is worthy of reading is difficult. There aren't very many out there that artfully describe the bond that pianists share with their instrument. But, here are a few pieces of piano literature that do justice to the subject of pianos and that we think you will find rewarding.
The Piano Shop on the Left Bank- by Thad Carhart
Walking his two young children to school every morning, Thad Carhart passes an unassuming little storefront in his Paris neighborhood. Intrigued by its simple sign—Desforges Pianos—he enters, only to have his way barred by the shop’s imperious owner. Unable to stifle his curiosity, he finally lands the proper introduction, and a world previously hidden is brought into view. Luc, the atelier’s master, proves an indispensable guide to the history and art of the piano. Intertwined with the story of a musical friendship are reflections on how pianos work, their glorious history, and stories of the people who care for them, from amateur pianists to the craftsmen who make the mechanism sing. The Piano Shop on the Left Bank is at once a beguiling portrait of a Paris not found on any map and a tender account of the awakening of a lost childhood passion.
Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey- by Perri Knize
Embarking on piano lessons in middle age, environmental journalist Knize sets out on an ancillary quest to find the perfect piano on a limited budget. She scours North America's piano outlets, immerses herself in the colorful online subculture of piano aficionados and grows fluent in the language of keyboard connoisseurship (a thin, shrill, brittle treble, she sniffs at a Steinway). Then she falls in love with Marlene, a Grotrian-Steinweg grand with the sultry and seductive tone of Dietrich herself; she's so smitten that she mortgages her house to buy it. Then disaster strikes: when shipped from the New York showroom to her Montana home, the piano sounds weird and echoey, and its glorious treble is dead. Desperate to restore Marlene's voice, Knize mobilizes an army of eccentric piano technicians (these lowly craftsmen emerge as wild-eyed artists in their own right), delves into the subtle intricacies that influence a piano's sound and ponders the haunting evanescence of music. Sometimes the mysticism—music is a way of exiting the petty self and entering the Over-soul... it's about existing at a certain vibration —gets thick enough to cut with a knife. But Knize writes in a wonderfully evocative, lushly romantic style, and music lovers will resonate to her mad pursuit of a gorgeous sound.
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A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould's Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano- by Katie Hafner
A grand tale of obsession about the brilliant Glenn Gould and the unique, temperamental instrument he came to love beyond all others, by a top New York Times writer.
Glenn Gould was one of the most complex, brilliant artists of the twentieth century, a musician famous for bizarre habits: he wore a hat and gloves even on the warmest summer day; refused to shake hands for fear of germs or damaged fingers; hummed and conducted himself while he played; and traveled the world with a battered old chair, refusing to perform while sitting on anything else.
But perhaps Gould’s greatest obsession of all was with a Steinway concert grand known as CD318. To explain that relationship, which Gould himself described as “a romance on three legs,” Katie Hafner introduces us to the important figures in Gould’s life, including Verne Edquist, his longtime, long-suffering, blind tuner. She offers a fascinating history of the art of tuning, and takes us inside Steinway during the war years, when CD318 was built. And she dissects Gould’s life with the piano, from his first encounter with it to the endless coddling and tweaking that Edquist performed over the years. Hafner includes Gould’s stormy, sometimes outrageous, correspondence with Steinway, and describes his despair when CD318 was fatally dropped from a loading dock.
The book will appeal to fans of books like The Piano Shop on the Left Bank, as well as to those looking for a rich story of obsession like The Orchid.
Stay tuned for more piano literature, we always have our eyes open for newly published piano books.