Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Review Tuesday: 'Piano Lessons'

Today’s ‘Review Tuesday’. Piano Lessons [1] is a 2009 memoir by Adelaide-born Anna Goldsworthy [2, 3]. It traces her musical life from her early childhood piano lessons through to her 20s by which time she’s a nationally and internationally known pianist. All of this is under the watchful, wise and humble tutelage of her teacher – initially called Mrs Sivan, then later Eleonora. Piano Lessons documents Anna’s numerous pianistic triumphs interspersed with some disappointments. But the memoir’s real hero’s Mrs Sivan whose broken English adds to the profundity of her understanding of music and life (which to her are one and the same). Anna portrays herself as intelligent and driven – even in her sub-teen years. But those qualities don’t guarantee a book that works. Most of its 240 pages are little more than narrative. With more ‘tell’ than ‘show’, e.g. ‘The more I practised, the more I wanted to, as I discovered the rapture of virtuosity, of physical mastery’. It’s only towards the book’s end, when Eleonora falls ill and Anna fears her teacher and mentor may die, that she opens up and puts herself into her story. But too little, too late. I expected the well-reviewed Piano Lessons to give me, as a musical know-little, insight into Anna’s take on her musical world. But it left me wanting to know more of her feelings about her life’s path. She wrote: ‘I was still trying to work out what I thought’. Indeed.

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