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A Pianist Under the Influence (Kindle Single) [Kindle Edition]

Jonathan Biss
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“Most of what I know about myself, I have learned from playing Schumann.”
—Jonathan Biss

World famous pianist Jonathan Biss has had a special relationship with composer Robert Schumann since he was a child. Avoiding traditional biography and dense musical criticism, Biss writes a moving tribute to one of the most vulnerable composers in classical music history in his second Kindle Single: A Pianist Under the Influence. Biss's first Kindle Single, Beethoven's Shadow, has been a bestseller on Amazon since its release in December 2011.

A Pianist Under the Influence reflects on Biss's life-long, intense, multi-layered relationship with the composer's music and historical treatment. As Biss writes from the unique position of performer, scholar and fan, his Single is both a personal and professional love-letter to the 19th century composer.

An engaging read for anyone interested in the creative process, the Single also includes an annotated audio guide for readers who wish to delve further into the material. A Pianist Under the Influence is an important aspect of Biss's 2012-2013 focus on Schumann, during which Biss and several hand-picked collaborators will perform Schumann's work, music by his notable influences such as Beethoven, Schubert, and Purcell, and selections from his long list of successors ranging from Berg and Janáček to 26-year-old composer Timothy Andres. At the core of the project is four sets of concerts, curated by Biss, including series at Wigmore Hall, the Concertgebouw, Carnegie Hall and San Francisco Performances.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Biss has appeared with the foremost orchestras of North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. Widely regarded known not only for his artistry and poetic interpretations but also for his deep musical curiosity, Biss performs a diverse repertoire ranging from Mozart and Beethoven, through the Romantics to Janáček and Schoenberg as well as works by contemporary composers such as Gyorgy Kurtág and including commissions from Leon Kirchner, Lewis Spratian and Bernard Rands. Biss has a noted recording career. His recordings include an album of Schubert sonatas and two short Kurtág pieces that was named by NPR Music as one of the best albums of the year. In January 2012, Onyx Classics released the first CD in a nine-year, nine-disc recording cycle of Beethoven's complete sonatas. The second album of Beethoven sonatas will release in January 2013. Biss studied at Indiana University and at The Curtis Institute of Music, where he was appointed to the piano faculty in 2010.


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 168 KB
  • Print Length: 39 pages
  • Publisher: RosettaBooks (27 Sept. 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009IPQKLQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #180,195 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Pianist Under the Influence 2 Jun. 2014
By S Riaz HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Author Jonathan Biss has written two kindle singles – the first about Beethoven and this, about his relationship with the music of Robert Schumann. Biss recalls that he first remembers playing his music at the age of nine, in a home where he grew up surrounded by music, in a family of musicians. Yet, although he states that he felt awe for so many other composers, for Schumann he felt love; musing that “he knows the meaning of solitude, and he can translate it into sound.” This is a very personal essay and it is obvious that Biss feels a sense of protectiveness about Schumann – taking criticism of his music very personally.

Although this is a short book, I like the kindle single series – they are wide ranging and informative. Biss discusses both Schumann’s music and his life. Plagued with doubts, suffering rejection and suffering professionally from his wife’s greater success, he was a man who undoubtedly found life difficult. The author discusses Schumann’s life, plus his own feelings, and discusses them in relation to many of Schumann’s compositions. An interesting read and a good, heartfelt, introduction to the work of Robert Schumann.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well packed product delivered on time 11 May 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Well packed product. The bulbs work perfectly and delivered on time. An excellent purchase at a very reasonable price and well worth five stars.
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Amazon.com: 4.1 out of 5 stars  30 reviews
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pianist Jonathan Biss discusses Robert Schumann... the man, his music and its influence on the author 13 Oct. 2012
By R. Nicholson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
"A Pianist Under the Influence" a short dissertation on the music of Robert Schumann by pianist Jonathan Biss. This Kindle e-book was a 140 Kb download (approx. 39 printed pages) and was priced at $1.99 at the time of writing this review.

Background:
1.) I'd previously read Biss's account of the musical influence that Beethoven had on his life and musical career, in his work called "Beethoven's Shadow". So when I saw he had another composer from the 19th century (Robert Schumann) as his latest endeavor, I was interested to see what he had to say.

2.) Although I've no musical capabilities, I've always loved classical music... especially that of Beethoven. But Schumann was another case altogether... never liked his music as judged by the few pieces or small segments I've heard, before turning them off. So I was unsure of whether the examination of this composer would retain my interest or not. It did... in spades!

Some thoughts on "A Pianist Under the Influence"...

Written by a pianist and musician... only an individual with some degree of interest in musical history plus having the extraordinary abilities of a concert class pianist could ever undertake a project such as found in this short book... and so deftly pull it off.

Author Biss takes great pains to make sure the reader is aware of the influence that the music of Schumann has had on him since age nine to present day. Although not really a history of Schumann's life (although there was the occasional reference here and there) this was rather a series of anecdotal accounts as to how his lack of social and communication skills forced him express himself in the one way he knew how... through his music. An appreciation that was not shared by many people... even some celebrated musical personage throughout the years to present day. These historical tibbits in turn, had a subsequent influence on the author's understanding, playing and intrepretation of his subject's compositions.

Rather than ramble on, I decided to use a few quotes from the book to reflect the author's feelings towards this often misunderstood and maligned composer...

"He (Schumann) writes music because it is the only form of speech available to him - his only voice."

"It is the music (Schumann's) I play at the end of the day, when my practice is completed, for no one but myself"

"Schumann's music < > remarkably similar to loving a human being, in that even its flaws begin to seem life-giving, wondrous, revelatory."

"But it is only with Schumann that it (music) becomes a diary as well. < > because Schumann's music is a record of his private thoughts."

"But why do we listen to music, if not because it says the unsayable? < > that is what Schumann was after in his last works. The mix of tenderness and sadness is almost more than one can bear."

"No one, before or since, has written music so personal, emotionally specific, and unflinchingly honest."

and finally... "How beautiful he was, and how unfit for the world."

In 1854, an increasingly troubled Robert Schumann tried to commit suicide by throwing himself in to the Rhine River, but was rescued. He died two years later in an insane asylum near Endenich in 1856... he was 46 years old.

Conclusion:
Not a book or an author for everyone... not only is this dry material but comes across as deeply subjective and philosophical from many points of view. However I loved it, and came away with a different appreciation for Robert Schumann. And although my limited musical talents (none... lol) still don't allow me to enjoy his compositions any more than before, it does give me some positive feelings towards a man that I'd have barely given a passing thought to before reading this.

I would have loved to learn a bit more about his relationship with his wife Clara and maybe a little more detail of Schumann's mental problems.

As it is... 5 Stars.

Ray Nicholson
raynicholsonsreviews@hotmail.com
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Better than Program Notes 25 Oct. 2012
By Yours Truly - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
As someone who loves Classical music but is not a trained musician, I wish everyone who wrote about that music could do so with the insight and passion of this author. I've often felt distanced from Schumann for just the reasons Biss cites from his detractors--all that intensity without a discernable purpose, the lack (sometimes) of variation, and several other attributes familiar to anyone who has looked at a concert program and felt a little disappointed to see the name of Schumann.

This opened the music up to me in ways I had not expected, and I'm going to try again, using some of the recordings that Biss mentions, including his own. I wish that Amazon had found a way to insert musical excerpts into the manuscript as links. As someone interested in the psychological implications of music and aware (although not always consciously) of its power over the psyche, I was fascinated by the idea of Schumann's baring his soul so unsparingly. This book is highly recommended.Now on to Biss's thoughts about Beethoven.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Don't Read This at Bedtime 21 Sept. 2013
By Teresa Willett - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
This wasn't the pre-sleep wind down I was expecting -- not even close. As someone completely unversed in classical music (Romantic era composers, or otherwise), I was totally unprepared for the depth of my reaction to Biss's extraordinarily touching tribute to Robert Schumann. This short piece is exceptional in so many ways -- from the author's singular writing to the details of Schumann's awkward life, unusual marriage, and protracted mental decline. But what really created a frisson of emotional excitement in me (actually two things) was the author's effusive, heartfelt expression of what the composer has meant to him since the age of nine (and I gotta wonder -- did Schumann's mama even love him this much?) and Biss's absolutely compelling descriptions of Schumann's music. (You WILL want to hear what the author hears, even if it is 1 A.M.) I can't recommend this enough.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A meditation on Schumann 5 Dec. 2012
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
Jonathan Biss's earlier book, "Beethoven's Shadow" was largely autobiographical whereas this one is more personal. While the first book felt like a collection of events and critical observations centring on Beethoven's musical genius, in this book the writing appears closer to the heart. It is a very sensitive, empathetic portrayal of Robert Schumann who comes across as the author's tragic hero. Throughout the book, Biss evokes brilliantly the loneliness that Schumann lived with and which permeated his music. Schumann left the gift of his music to posterity, but that music would not ameliorate the pain and sadness in his own life. Biss writes that his experience of Schumann's is tremendously powerful. But he can put it aside when it becomes dangerously so. For Schuman though there was no such escape as "he was permanently trapped inside his fantastic, blighted mind".
Biss acknowledges that the sentimentality of the music of the 19th century sits uncomfortably with today's music, where image and irony is everything. It is as if Biss wants to deliberately thumb his nose at this attitude - "the soft bigotry of received wisdom" which has led to Schumann being so misunderstood - by adopting a reverent and wistful tone while speaking of Schumann's music.
The book is not all about Schumann, though. Biss includes also a short review of the works of some of his favourite composers from the 20th and 21st centuries, all of whom, Biss opines, share an ache for the past. This survey includes some not so adulatory observations about Schumann too. There is nevertheless an undercurrent of love and reverence that pervades these critical notes on the life and works of Schumann. It is almost like a doting mother writing about her child, loving the offspring in spite of - or even because of - the child's flaws. In the end, this book may be for some the next best thing to listening to Schumann's music itself. But others, who may not be such great fans of Schuman, may not appreciate and relate to this elegy so much. The book may thus get mistaken for an unrelieved monotone rather than a well-rounded symphony.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars hats off 2 Oct. 2012
By toronto - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is such a beautiful tribute to Schumann, and so searching in its soulfulness. It is interesting that he, like Charles Rosen, singles out the return of the landler in the Davidsbundlertanze as the quintessential Schumann moment. I think this piece captures key, mysterious, qualities in Schumann that are almost impossible to articulate, but Biss does. The only pity is that this piece is so short. More, sometime very soon, please.
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