- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Unbound Digital (9 Sept. 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1783529822
- ISBN-13: 978-1783529827
- Product Dimensions: 21.7 x 3.6 x 13.9 cm
- Average Customer Review: 27 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 463,863 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Ghost Variations: The Strangest Detective Story in the History of Music Paperback – 9 Sep 2016
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"A thrilling read" - John Suchet, The Daily Mail Christmas Books Choice, on GHOST VARIATIONS; "Schumann's lost concerto and a virtuoso femme fatale keep you gripped and guessing in Ghost Variations. Set in 1930s London, this musical mystery by Jessica Duchen strikes a hot-blooded tune with grace notes from beyond the grave... Duchen's orchestration of such intrigue merits great applause." - The Jewish Chronicle on GHOST VARIATIONS; "Schumann's wonderful violin concerto has a tragic history unlike any other piece of music. In this splendid new novel Jessica Duchen manages to find the fine balance between facts and fiction.Her book reads like a thriller yet it's also a tribute to great music and musicians." - Sir Andras Schiff on GHOST VARIATIONS; "Enthralling... Jessica writes with an unpredictable and original voice and a dazzling perceptiveness" Joanna Lumley on SONGS OF TRIUMPHANT LOVE.
About the Author
Jessica is a versatile author with a musical bias. Her output includes novels, biographies, plays, words&music projects, poetry for musical setting, music journalism and more. Born in London, she studied music at Cambridge and piano with Joan Havill. Her novels often focus on the cross-currents between family generations, with music a recurring theme. The latest, GHOST VARIATIONS, is "the strangest detective story in music", based on the true story of the bizarre rediscovery, and Nazi propaganda conscription, of Schumann's long-suppressed violin concerto. Jessica's biographies of the composers Gabriel Faure and Erich Wolfgang Korngold for Phaidon's 20th Century Composers series have met with wide acclaim. Her writing has appeared in in The Independent, The Guardian and The Sunday Times, as well as BBC Music Magazine and Opera News, among other publications. Her music blog "JDCMB", http://jessicamusic.blogspot.com, has attracted more than 2.5m readers. She has recently written an opera libretto, SILVER BIRCH, for the composer Roxanna Panufnik - a commission for Garsington Opera 2017. Her play A WALK THROUGH THE END OF TIME often pops up at music festivals to introduce Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time and has been performed by actor teams including Harriet Walter & Henry Goodman and Janet Suzman & Michael Pennington. Jessica lives in London with her violinist husband and two big fluffy cats. She loves long walks, cooking, ballet, theatre and scouring second-hand bookshops for out-of-print musical gems. Special passions include Russian literature and Nordic Noir.
Top customer reviews
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The whole book is extremely readable: the author knows just how to keep up the excitement. Her style is beautifully limpid and flowing, the dialogue fully convincing (a stumbling block in many novels) as is the characterization. In fact my only complaint is that I found the book very hard to put down so that I finished much sooner than expected and had nothing left to read.
One of the most intriguing aspects of the story is how Jelly d’Aranyi (the grandniece of famous violinist Joseph Joachim) finds out that this piece of music existed. She was playing ‘the glass game’ (Oujia board) with her sister Adila, an avid spirit-world believer who frequently hosted séances. (Jelly lived in London with Adila and Adila’s husband and daughter.) Believing she has been urged to do so by Schumann’s spirit, Jelly makes it her mission to track down the music and bring it to the attention of the world. Whether or not you believe that the restless spirit of Schumann actually descended on the d’Aranyi sisters, the early chapter of Duchen’s novel describing that night is compelling and it’s hard not to keep on reading. The novel follows what becomes Jelly’s mission to perform the work that she feels such a deep connection with, despite the many obstacles in her path. These include the media and political storm that broke out in 1937 when the world learned of the ‘spirit messages’ and the violinist’s intention to premiere the German-written concerto. Duchen paints a vivid, sympathetic portrait of a renowned musician who feels compelled to see her self-appointed task through despite public criticism and her struggles with self-doubt, loss of confidence in her abilities and increasing physical frailty.
Jelly d’Aranyi never married, reluctant to put her violin second to some chap who might want her to look after him instead of her own talent. Another reason she stays single is no doubt her great sense of loss after the death of her Australian love Sep Kelly in World War I. Years later, her other close male friend becomes seriously ill – there’s a heartrending scene in the book when Jelly plays the violin to him. Like many of that era who were deeply affected by the early deaths of loved ones, Jelly seems to be seeking ways to reconnect with those she has lost, and find meaning in life without them.
The backdrop to Ghost Variations is Britain and Germany in the 1930s, a period which has ominous resonances with today’s dire political climate. The Nazis are targeting Jews in Germany; the intending publishers of Schumann’s last work attempt to resist Nazi plans to use it for their own purposes. One of the novel’s fictional characters, Ulli, works in Germany for the concerto’s eventual publishers and promises to help Jelly – to do this he must face his fears of the ruthless Nazi regime and in particular Goebbels, the Nazi’s head of propaganda. This strand of the novel is full of tension and poignancy, and brings an interesting unpredictability to the storyline.
I would definitely recommend Ghost Variations to all those who enjoy a vividly-told story based on real events, with touch of the inexplicable – and to anyone who is like me fascinated by the lives of great composers and musicians. Apart from d’Aranyi herself, the novel contains a host of prominent musical figures – the conductor Sir Adrian Boult, musicologist Sir Donald Tovey, pianist Myra Hess, violinist Yehudi Menuhin and others. The author’s extensive knowledge of music and music history informs the writing in the best way possible, leaving room for her characters to come wonderfully to life within the richly evoked pre-war setting.
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At the heart of this book is a poignant story of a great violinist, Jelly d'Aranyi, or "An Artist of the Floating World"( to...Read more