Top positive review
4 people found this helpful
Stimulating and informative
on 18 October 2014
This is a fascinating book, which should appeal to anyone with an interest in piano performance, piano music and the piano as an instrument. The late Charles Rosen was a distinguished concert pianist and a writer about classical music . He was and remains noted for his intellectual rigour. His books often include deep analysis of musical forms and of works using those forms, frequently with copious quotations from related musical scores. For the general lay reader "Piano Notes" is a good starting point in Rosen's writings. Admittedly, in this book there are also a few quotations from musical scores and there is some musical terminology, but these should not prove obstacles. Rosen's writings can be opinionated, but this often makes it stimulating, even provocative.
I particularly liked Chapter 3 on the piano as a instrument and its susceptibility (or not) to adjustment.
The discussion of recording(Chapter 6) is also to be commended. It considers the effects of the recording space, microphones placement/configuration and many other factors including the effects of the recording process on the performer and issues surrounding post-processing of the recording media. Considering that this book was written in 2002 this chapter is prescient: it notes the limitations of CD technology for reproducing the finer nuances of piano music and foresees the advent of enhanced quality digital sound technology, which is indeed happening.
The insightful chapter "Styles and Manners" is also highly recommendable, providing a very useful survey of how styles of playing have changed as well as demolishing a few prejudices about how the great pianists of the past used to play.
Occasionally bits of the book seem outdated : for example the comments on concert dress (white tie and tails etc.) seemed definitely yesteryear: dress has become much more relaxed in the decade or so since this book was written.
I found Rosen's concluding ruminations (in his postscript) on the future of the piano unduly pessimistic. I think that there' ll always be a demand for the piano and pianists to interpret the rich repertoire of the piano and moreover to be able to hear this repertoire played live. Witness also the massive resurgence of the piano and piano playing in Asia and in particular in China. In the pop and jazz world the piano, or rather the keyboard in its various portable forms(electric piano/organ/synthesizer) is a staple. I've no fear for the piano's future in any of its forms!