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Piano Lessons: A Memoir

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3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  211 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Anna Goldsworthy was nine years old when she met Eleanora Sivan, the charismatic Russian émigré and world-class pianist who became her piano teacher. Piano Lessons is the story of what Mrs. Sivan brought to Anna’s lessons: a love of music, a respect for life, a generous spirit, and the courage to embrace a musical life.
Beautifully written and strikingly honest, Piano Lesso...more
Hardcover, 243 pages
Published October 12th 2010 by St. Martin's Press (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 546)
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C.
I have played a lot of music in my life - for fifteen of my first nineteen years I was towed off to multiple music lessons, made to practise nightly, coerced into joining consorts, ensembles, orchestras, quartets, choirs. At my peak I played four instruments competently to well (no longer, but that's another story), and there were people who said I had talent, though frankly I had no interest in developing it. Nonetheless, I had no idea there was as much to music as there is in this book. The wa...more
Lisa
I don’t usually read memoirs, but Anna Goldworthy’s Piano Lessons attracted me from the moment I first heard about it. When I was a little girl I had wanted to be a pianist and a writer: Goldsworthy is both and I wanted to know how she did it…

It wasn’t just talent, though she has it (and I never did). It wasn’t just hours of dedicated practice, though she realised long before I did that desultory efforts with the piano are not enough for success. Her story traces the elusive path of dreams and a...more
Gretchen
Dear Mrs Miller: Thank you for taking on a gangly, awkward 14yo, and helping me to find my voice. 25 years later, I still get comments on what a great high school choir director I had. My response is that I did, but more than that, I had a great personal mentor. I miss you, and wish I had been able to say thank you before you left us.

Piano Lessons is Anna Goldsworthy's thank you letter to her teacher, Elenora Sivan. We meet them both when Anna is 9, and has her first encounter with her new piano...more
Susan
Nov 17, 2010 Susan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: pianists, artists, fans of memoir
Recommended to Susan by: goodreads
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Hannah
I was sceptical about this book when it first appeared on a reading list for one of my university classes. It was very enticing to say the least. But, I have found myself turning page after page late into the night as if it had some magical hold over me. I have no idea what it was! It is well written, and the process behind learning to play the piano is fascinating, and yet nothing much happens. Nothing much at all - the tale is so simple. Maybe I'm missing something, but I really don't mind as...more
Rosemary
Absolutely delightful story of a magnificient piano teacher, but also a determined, almost(?) obsessive student growing up into a fine musician, a concert pianist.
Elizabeth Sutton
LOVED this book, as a child that grew up in the same era, played piano, clarinet and went to the Elder Conservatorium to study a bachelor of music. Some of the people in this book were real people I knew as were the places. It was a wonderful journey through memories for me. Sadly I was not as talented or dedicated as Anna so did not rise to great musical heights and ended up dropping out of my degree after first year. But I didn't have Mrs Sivan as a teacher ! After reading this book I wished I...more
Kelly
I won Piano Lessons from First Reads, and it's taken me awhile to formulate a review in my head. I didn't care much for this book but it's difficult for me to articulate why. While other readers say they flew through reading this book, I found the opposite to be true. I really struggled to finish it and honestly, if I hadn't won it from First Reads and promised to write a review, I'm not sure I ever would have. It's well-written but the subject matter just seemed to be lacking something. I took...more
Barb Terpstra
I love music. I was brought up with it in my home as my mom played both the piano and the organ. Learning to play the piano was a struggle for me (I really never progressed much beyond being able to play some hymns and maybe 3 years of piano books?), so I really admire those who have the gift to bring such beautiful music out of the piano. I enjoyed "Piano Lessons" so much! Anna's portrayal of her teacher, Mrs. Sivan, and her own (Anna's) growth as a pianist is written in an engaging way. I part...more
Jillwilson
If I were a smartarse, I would write: "As a writer, Anna Goldsworthy makes a great pianist" but the book deserves better than that. It is a memoir - of her growing up and learning to become a pianist under the tutelage of Mrs Sivan, an accomplished teacher. It's a very gentle book - even though the struggle to become an accomplished musician is clearly there along with the doubts and some teenage angst.

I failed the book - I don't have a good grasp of classical music an dtherefore did not appreci...more
Jo Case
Black Inc. is building a reputation for breaking important new Australian non-fiction writers. In recent years, the debut memoirs of relative unknowns Craig Sherborne (Hoi Polloi) and Alice Pung (Unpolished Gem) achieved considerable critical and commercial success and launched major writing careers, despite the handicap of the writers’ relative anonymity at the time of publication. Both memoirs boasted distinctive voices, fluid and engaging storytelling, and a cultural resonance well beyond the...more
Fran
Piano Lessons

Author: Anna Goldsworthy

Reviewed By Fran Lewis


Memoirs are really quite unique as they reflect the inner most thoughts of the person writing them as they create a world for the reader comprised of their most memorable moments, important events and their passions shared. Anna Goldsworthy’s world at an early age was her love of the piano, music and pleasing her family. Striving for acceptance and hoping that she would be the best at a young age she dedicated her life to the piano, the...more
Louise Allan
I learned piano as a child and gave it up at fourteen, a decision I will regret for the rest of my days. My kids now learn music, all four of them. I’m quite, how should I put it, uncompromising, some say obsessed, about their music. Perhaps it’s because of my unfulfilled dreams, but I don’t think so. Nor do I think it’s because of the benefits to their brains or their academic learning.

Anna Goldsworthy’s list of credentials is as long as your arm, as are her awards and positions. She is Researc...more
Blake Baguley
This couldn't be any more different from Stephen Fry's autobiography that I just finished, but still I really enjoyed this book, from cover to cover. A lot of it seemed like an unintentional slap in the face -- saying here's everything that you missed when you were learning piano. But I did really enjoy following Anna's whole journey and getting the chance to sit in on her lessons like a fly on the wall almost.
Some other reviewers are giving her a bit of grief over her writing style, but I have...more
Linda
Oct 27, 2011 Linda rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: no
Recommended to Linda by: myself
My anticipation was great before I opened the book and as I read through the storyline I found many parts of it boring but I drudged through it hoping that events would be interesting. For some reason unable to to have any like for Anna the pianist. At first I wanted to sympathize with her because it seemed her parents sorta pushed her into playing piano. Her desire was to sing professionally but I think that was just a child's dream as it seemed she did not possess talent in that musical endeav...more
Suzy
Bit of a mixed view for this book. Anna Goldsworthy is a good storyteller and manages to draw you into situations, which is good as I have a limited knowledge of music and don't play any instruments. However, because I'm not a musician I felt I didn't really get anything from this book, didn't feel inspired and quite often left wondering why this privileged girl complains so much.

She had an inspired, but eccentric piano teacher who was quite hard to follow with her various sayings. I understand...more
Denise
I feel that this book would only be interesting to those people who have more than a passing knowledge of music. It is a look into the life (and early training) of a concert pianist. The depth of the love of music and composers is beyond what most of us understand. But I did enjoy the story of Anna's journey with her amazing piano teacher. I also liked the insight she shared into some of the composers she was studying, though I would have liked more exploration of their lives than she gave. This...more
♫Angielee♫
I really like this book, but hesitate recommending it to any of my piano teaching peers. Although it has great analogy from Mrs. Sivian, the teacher from Russia, it also had a lot of material that would offend some of my nice friends.

As I started reading this book, I was surprised that it was based in Adelaide, Australia. I didn't realize that before i started reading. Being from Australia, however, means it at lot more laxed in language and subject material then my elderly fellow teachers are...more
Bea
I am not sure what I expected when I chose to read Piano Lessons, but I was delighted by this book.

As a child, I also took piano lessons. My 8 years of study never inspired me like Mrs. Siwan did for Anna. I am very sure that my talent for the instrument is much less than Anna's, but it did give me a connection to this memoir and an appreciation for what she experienced.

It reads like a novel but is actually a memoir. By the end of it, I came to admire Anna Goldsworthy and wanted to know more ab...more
Kolumbina
What a selfish person! No thoughts and sympathy for anyone. The book and a person without any love for anyone except herself.
Georgie
Nov 26, 2010 Georgie rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those who have taken music lessons or parents of children who have lessons.
I enjoyed this book having grown up in a similar environment and having gone through the music lesson mill myself. I did find the voice of the piano teacher a little irritating at times and also felt that the author had little choice but to become a musician given the enthusiasm of her father sitting in on two hour lessons etc. And I did wonder how you could fail an exam (6th grade?) with so much practice and such a brilliant teacher - something odd about that. A nice idea for a book and I enjoy...more
Susan Reed
good story, interesting.
Jane
That went fast! A very enjoyable read. Anna does a great job of writing about herself as a child and teenager, with a lot of honesty and humour about herself and her failings. It was harder for me to get caught up in her discussions of music. Perhaps it would have helped if there was an accompanying CD of the pieces described. It was a bit like reading about Chippendale chairs and not knowing what they look like, or an in-depth restaurant review of food you'll never get to eat. It made me hungry...more
Marsha
What an amazing book. It was an epiphany for me in my struggle to play the piano well. Listening to what you play is as important as learning the notes. Anna Goldsworthy's teacher, Mrs. Sivan finally got to me after many years of just learning the notes. Goldsworthy writes so well that you think you are taking the lessons that she experienced. She also has a website and is on YouTube so that you can hear and see her.
Dilly Dalley
Piano lessons has a lighthearted and humourous tone that overlays a story of strength, determination and a deeply held, almost spiritual attachment to the teacher implied by the title. Ultimately it is a story of gratitude and appreciation. Anna GOldsworthy pays tribute to her piano teacher, Eleanora Silvan, who we come to respect and admire through the twenty years covered in the book.
Kari
I received this book as a Christmas present from John & Erika and started reading it almost immediately.

It is an interesting memoir based around Anna's piano lessons - who is certainly a more dedicated piano player than I am. If I had Mrs Sivan as a piano teacher I think I would have quit lessons after the first month! A nice book and it was interesting reading the bits about Pembroke.
Sharon Malcolm
This beautiful book needs to be read aloud, particularly the wonderful passages when Ms. Goldworthy's Russian emigrant teacher, Eleanora Sivan, is talking. You have to do the accent, and then it all makes sense. Wonderful stuff indeed, even if some of the musical references went a little over my head. An absolute must for anyone who teaches, learns or sits in on music lessons.
Anna
Dec 29, 2010 Anna rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: gifts
Eleanora Sivan is such a wonderful piano teacher! (I love my own piano teacher who also speaks English as a second language.) I loved Goldsworthy's portrayal of her lessons and her teacher. And the arrangement into chapters under composers was cool. I wonder what Goldsworthy's piano playing sounds like?
J.
Lovely book. Anyone who's ever studied piano at even a somewhat advanced level, esp if you've studied with a great teacher, can identify with Goldsworthy. I've been privileged to have 4 truly great teachers and I've taken away so much from all of them and am profoundly grateful for everything they gave me.
Rachael
This book made me think back to the time I was learning piano, and the surnames of composers sounded like familiar friends. And how much I hated practicing for an hour a day. Oh whoops, this was a book review... I had wiped that period out of my memory, but Anna Goldsworthy's writing brought it all back...
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Anna Goldsworthy is an Australian classical pianist and writer. In October 2009 her memoir Piano Lessons was released in Australia by publisher Black Inc. In November 2010 it will be published in the US by St Martin's Press (Macmillian). From 2010 she will be Artistic Director of the Port Fairy Spring Music Festival. Anna is also a Board Member of the Australian Book Review, Artist-in-Residence at...more
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“I tell you a secret about Chopin, piano is his best friend. More. He tells piano all his secrets.” - piano teacher Eleanora Sivan.” 21 likes
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