- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 191 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
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #205,185 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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A Pianist Under the Influence (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
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.
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.
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.
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.