Reasonable Words: Play it Again

TLS has a review of a new entry in the “middle age journalist writes a book about playing the piano” genre. (Well, there are two, so maybe genre is over stating it).

The lead (whole review behind their paywall, sorry:

Screen Shot 2013-07-23 at 10.29.36 AMThe businessman Gilbert Kaplan decided to master the art of conducting for a single piece: he taught himself Mahler’s Second Symphony, and has become a world expert on the work. That was a quixotic undertaking, for if he could conduct one piece, why not another? Alan Rusbridger undertook a similarly limited task: during the few minutes he could find each day while being Editor of the Guardian, he taught himself to play Chopin’s Ballade No 1, Op 23. Unlike Kaplan as a conductor, Rusbridger was already a good amateur pianist, and was not starting from scratch; perhaps he was deliberately conceiving a literary as well as a musical conceit, so that the process of mastery could be turned into an approachable diary. The result is an absorbing and technically detailed book, in which the daily events of a newspaper during a tempestuous year play only a walk-on role. Rusbridger has to bring in Arnold Bennett to vouch for the importance of his leisure-time activity; he is inspired by regular chamber music playing with a group of upmarket intellectuals, and by the words of the critic Irving Wardle, who coins the delightful aphorism: “I am an excellent pianist. The only snag is that I don’t play very well”.

That Wardle bit describes me to a T! I didn’t know about Kaplan, but certainly do know the Ballads, which I am unequal to as a pianist, and will ever be so.

Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, mentioned at the end of Nicholas Kenyon’s lively review certain is equal to it and then some.

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