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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Occasionally bits of the book seem outdated : for example the comments on concert dress (white tie and tails etc.)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!
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on 13 September 2014
This is a really interesting book. Rosen is massively opinionated, so it's important to take some of what he states as fact with a pinch of salt. That does make it an interesting read though. His thoughts on competition are amusing, and say more about his cantankerous character than anything else. He is also very disparaging about anyone other than a concert professional (and even has some bad things to say about many of these). What is encouraging is to hear about the recording practices - even the greats make mistakes that they have to make multiple attempted to cover up in the studio. All in all a good read. I would say though that if you're not at least a decent level of musician, many of the examples will be lost on the reader st the beginning of the book. The latter half is more accessible.
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on 13 July 2013
Finally a voice from the "inside" of the pianists' world. Including different views on various pianos, various pianists and various composers. Besides, a down-to-earth view on "authentic" interpretation. The author's view on Chopin's orchestration could have mentioned the rather limited sound of the pianos used at the time when he wrote his piano concertos, and the necessity for the orchestra not to overwhelm the piano. But, anyhow, a marvel to read. Simply, a delight.
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on 8 February 2015
Really enjoyed reading this. Nice and humourous in the right places with acute insight as regards masterclasses, competitions etc.
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on 15 September 2012
An excellent and fascinating read for all those interested, well worth the time and money! written clearly and in understandable language.
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on 21 June 2007
Approaching this book as a reader who is not a musical performer and has only very basic understanding of reading musical notation, I was a little bit trepidatious. I needn't have been though, as 'Piano Notes' is an enjoyable book full of anecdotes and insights into piano techniques, performance and repertoire, and any lover of classical music will get a lot from this elegantly written book.

The stories Charles Rosen weaves into each themed chapter often involve the famous names of twentieth century pianism (Horowitz, Richter, Gould etc), and he brings privileged and often quirky information into them - from the strains of memorising works, to the importance of how high (or low) the piano stool is set. I also found the chapter on recording classical music very interesting, in which he discusses both the technicalities of splicing different takes of one piece, and the artistic problems inherent in doing so.

My overall opinion then is that this book is accessible enough for non-specialists, and anyone with an interest in classical piano music will thoroughly enjoy it.
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on 9 June 2003
An ideal gift for the pianist in your life, Piano Notes is a well-organised collection of ideas and anecdotes, motifs and memories, written enthusiastically and informatively by Rosen.
His academic background and his successful performing career are the key to my accepting his writings to be both accurate and truly based on his experiences. Rosen writes with fluidity and style, engaging the reader from start to finish as you join him on a tour of the life of the concert pianist.
In the early chapters he refers to specific pieces of music, with printed extracts, which mean that the book is useful for referring back to as your own repertory increases. There are interesting discussions on the physical nature of piano playing, as well as insights into his feelings on the mental aspects of the art.
The book is accessible and not anywhere near as challenging as his most famous work, The Classical Style. For me, as a student of the piano, its success lies in being able to identify with many of the situations he presents. While his style in on occasion somewhat dramatic, and perhaps in places even self-pitying (oh! the traumas of playing piano professionally across the United States!) it is on the whole an enjoyable and informative read. In addition the 2002 edition is printed on beautiful cream paper with a lovely staggered edge to the pages.
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on 6 February 2009
Piano notes presents the experiences not only of Rosen himself, but anecdotal items which illustrate the difficulties pleasures and excitement of the performance of music. Where else would you discover that a CLEAN keyboard at the piano is not what a pro wants since it affects his grip on the keys!
It has been privilege, pleasure and a joy to realise that many of the difficulties that we experience at the lower levels of amateur and semi-professional performance are shared by those in the stratosphere of continuous professional engagement. An instructive and entertaining read!!!
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on 24 April 2010
This is an excellent book, really interesting. I would recommend it to any pianist, whether amateur or professional. It is also very easy to read, and is full of funny and interesting anecdotes. And the book is small enough to have it with you almost anywhere.
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on 26 May 2013
very well written and entertaining. it provides a good insight into some of the things that concert pianists have to face
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