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June 11 , 2008

A Natural History of the Piano

The Instrument, the Music, the Musicians - from Mozart to Jazz and Everything in Between


A beautifully illustrated, engrossing celebration of the piano, and the composers and performers who have made it their own. Stuart Isacoff — pianist, critic and teacher — explores the history and evolution of the piano: how its sound provides the basis for emotional expression and individual style, why it has so powerfully entertained generation upon generation of listeners. A Natural History of the Piano distills a lifetime of research and passion into one brilliant narrative. We witness Mozart unveiling his monumental concertos in Vienna's coffeehouses, using a special piano with one keyboard for the hands and another for the feet; European virtuoso Henri Herz entertaining rowdy miners during the California gold rush; Beethoven at his piano, conjuring healing angels to console a grieving mother who had lost her child; Liszt fainting in the arms of a page turner to spark an entire hall into hysterics Ranging from the groundbreaking music of Mozart, Beethoven, Liszt and Debussy to the breathtaking techniques of Glenn Gould, Oscar Peterson, Arthur Rubinstein and Van Cliburn, Isacoff delineates how classical music and jazz influenced each other as the uniquely American art form progressed from ragtime, novelty, boogie, bebop, and beyond, through Scott Joplin, Fats Waller, Duke Ellington, Herbie Hancock and Bill Charlap. Here is the instrument in all its complexity and beauty. We learn of the incredible craftsmanship of a modern Steinway, the peculiarity of specialty pianos built for the Victorian household, the continuing innovation in keyboards including electronic ones. And most of all, we hear the music of the masters, from centuries ago and in our own age, as brilliantly evoked as its most recent performance. This wide-ranging volume is an essential for music lovers, pianists, and the armchair musician.
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