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Chopin's Piano: A Path Through the Romantic Century
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Chopin's Piano: A Path Through the Romantic Century

3.60  ·  Rating details ·  123 ratings  ·  36 reviews
'Beguiling ... Limpidly written, effortlessly learned' William Boyd, TLS, Books of the Year In November 1838 Fr�d�ric Chopin, George Sand and her two children sailed to Majorca to escape the Parisian winter. They settled in an abandoned monastery at Valldemossa in the mountains above Palma, where Chopin finished what would eventually be recognised as one of the great and r ...more
Hardcover, 354 pages
Published July 24th 2018 by Allen Lane
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Kortians Yes, it is just a reprint, but in paperback form. "A Journey Through Romanticism" is the UK title "In Search for the Instrument that Transformed Music…moreYes, it is just a reprint, but in paperback form. "A Journey Through Romanticism" is the UK title "In Search for the Instrument that Transformed Music" is the American title. So exactly the same thing (at least the same as the UK copy) but just in paperback form. I didn't know there was a movie coming out, but I don't think it has anything to do with that. (less)

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I remember listening to a sports talk show on the car radio a few years ago and one of the two hosts, perhaps to show the breadth of his other-than-sports knowledge, said in as challenging a tone as possible to the other host that U2 was the greatest rock band ever. As if no other opinion was even thinkable. I remember thinking: a) I couldn't name one U2 song; and b) I could probably make a case for 25 other rock bands without breaking an intellectual sweat.

I was reminded of that as I read this
Roman Clodia
Apr 08, 2018 rated it it was amazing
What a fascinating journey this book takes us on! Organised in two parts, the first explores Chopin's composition of his 24 Preludes in 1838; the second looks at the receptions of the Preludes, Chopin himself and the pianino on which he worked. Much of this second part concentrates on Wanda Landowska, a Polish Jew and brilliant keyboard player - and once we're mid-way through the C20th century both her life and her performances of Chopin get caught up in Nazi ideology.

Most of us are well aware o
Jill Hutchinson
This book touched the heart of one of my passions.....the music of Chopin, some of which I can play rather badly and most of which I can't! It is an interesting trip for the search of the instrument on which Chopin composed the Préludes while living in Majorca with his lover, eccentric authoress George Sand. There was no piano available at their lodgings so Chopin purchased one made by a local craftsman, Juan Banza. It was small and like most pianos of that time had a distinctly different tone f ...more
It’s not really about Chopin’s piano.

Oh, it starts off adhering to its title well enough: Kildea gives some background information about Chopin and his lover, George Sand, an infamous female author who liked to scandalise Parisian salon society by dressing as a man. The two moved to the island of Mallorca for the winter of 1838-39, where Chopin’s lovely Pleyel piano got held up in customs and he was forced to make do with a pianino built by a local craftsman, Juan Bauza. That is the instrument o
Sep 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
On November 1838, Chopin, George Sand and her two children, along with Sand’s Chambermaid, travelled from Barcelona to Palma, on the island of Majorca. That famous journey – one that probably contributed much to the island’s current tourist industry – has been firmly etched in our romantic imagery. Having visited the monastery and the cells in Valldemossa, I always have a vision of Chopin composing against the backdrop of its beautiful surroundings. Also well known is how the extreme weather on ...more
Danielle T
A biography of sorts for the Mallorcan piano created by Juan Bauza for Frederic Chopin during his & George Sand's brief stay in Majorca. The main significance of this instrument? It is where about half of Chopin's preludes were sketched and refined, before being finished on a Pleyel piano Chopin ordered from the mainland. The book is divided in two parts: the first, of Chopin's life starting from the Majorca trip and through his death (he left the Bauza in the monastery they stayed in) with thum ...more
Ernest Spoon
Dec 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fascinating albeit quirky book. A double biography? No. A detective store? No. Cultural history? No. And yet it is all three.

I have a passing acquaintance with Chopin. I attempted to learn his Polonaise Militaire in A Major, Op. 40, poorly, though others, outside my parents, thought it admirable. These days I couldn't tell you the difference between an arpeggio and a glissando--I'm even surprised I can dredge up those words?

I found myself drawn into this depiction of the final years of Chopin
Apr 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Esoteric and fascinating. The book is focused on a still missing piano on which Chopin composed his preludes while living in a monk’s cell...with George Valldemossa, Majorca. The piano’s first journey “up the mountain” for delivery to Chopin, eventually to France to the home of the great Wanda Landowska, confiscated by the Nazis, later returned to the Landowska estate...and currently missing... is told in detail. This book makes a point that pianos of our era so differ from those of Ch ...more
Rob Banks
Oct 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall an interesting book. I enjoyed the glimpses of Chopin and Wanda Landowska but did get somewhat bogged down in the middle basically losing track of the titular piano. I would recommend it.
Jan 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book has a slightly unusual structure but overall it works well. The title focuses on something very specific yet descriptive, then uses this as an opening into the broader cultural and artistic scene of the mid-18th century, which I found fascinating. The second part jumps to more modern times and takes up the story of Wanda Landowska, the prominent pianist and promoter of the harpsichord, who left Europe for America because of the uncertainties of the second world war. The book was well w ...more
Andrew Howdle
Mar 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: most-loved-books
Chopin's piano is exactly what it says-- study of Chopin's pianos, and one in particular, his Bauza, a pianino/upright on which he composed a number of his Preludes, whilst (supposedly) recovering from illness in Mallorca. The first half of the book examines the Preludes and their place in Chopin's music. The second half is a quest for the missing Bauza, which passed into the hands of the harspsichord virtuoso Wanda Lewinska-- a quest for the Chopin holy grail. Kildea writes knowledgeably and en ...more
Oct 11, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Didn’t finish. Painfully disjointed book, lacking in any coherent structure.
Terry Anderson
Dec 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: arts-and-history
This book is a great history lesson of classical music from the early 19th century onward.

I studied the sciences in college, and like most good colleges, mine also required that I take few courses in the arts to make me a well-rounded person. Thus, I was introduced to classical music. I’ll stop what I’m doing if I hear Grieg’s Holberg Suite, the Adagietto from Mahler’s symphony No. 5, or Beethoven’s Pathètique. And then there’s Chopin and his Nocturne No. 1. Yet besides knowing what I like, I do
This is a beautifully written book and should make Chopin and Wanda Landowska fans happy. It may not have much for the layreader.

The mystery of the piano mentioned is a non-starter. If you want to read about it, begin with the book's opening chapters about Chopin and Sand in Majorca (and do not expect salacious tidbits about their relationship) and then read the penultimate chapter. In between is a discourse on the life and performance art of Wanda Landowska, arguably one of the finest if not t
Jeremy Hatch
I’m a pianist who grew up on Chopin, so this book held a lot of interest for me. But it’s unfocused at best, unfortunately, and does a pretty weak job of justifying its claim on the reader’s attention. The instrument upon which Chopin wrote the 24 preludes “transformed music”, we are told. Well... not really? As in, a totally unsupportable claim? And the narrative thread promised by the title basically disappears for long stretches. Too thin a thread to hang a whole book on, it would seem.

Charlie Corn
Apr 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
There are some interesting passages but oh this book irritated me. The author wears his learning so heavily and includes such meandering and ponderous references - I groaned when he spent a paragraph talking about the Tin Drum only in order to say ‘just like Chopin’. The book is a bit about Chopin, a bit about pianos, a bit about the preludes but it can’t really decide and wanders between them. There are plenty of unclassifiable books like this that I’ve enjoyed but this is missing the light ton ...more
Nov 29, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is a lot of historical context presented in this book but my favorite parts were when the author wrote about the 24 preludes that Chopin wrote in Malta during the winter of 1835. I was able to listen to all 24 on YouTube while reading about their composition. I can understand more why they were distinct from anything else composed by other Romantic composers and remain very well known and popular.
Feb 13, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting read, quite dense but followed an exciting trail through history, making the nuances of WW2 and life as a pianist more tactile and real. It opened my eyes to a whole side of the war that I previously hadn't considered very much, so the insights this book gives both historically and musically is worth the read. Good musical knowledge is required, and preferably a passion for history, Chopin and piano - not necessarily in that order!
Alex Christensen
3.5 stars really.

Thoroughly researched and brimming with tasty historical morsels; I particularly enjoyed the discussions of the Preludes and the varying interpretations thereof since Chopin's own time, and the delightful early section on piano tuning and temperament.

3.5 rather than 4 since there were some sections where I found my interest wavering, but well worth the read nonetheless for any enthusiast of Chopin or the piano.
Jul 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: music, history
I thought I had included this review when I posted but it somehow disappeared.

I like Chopin so I went in with a favorable bias but I still enjoyed the story, the history, the characters, and of course The Preludes. The Preludes are what this account features. Written in a musty, cold, hovel in Majorca, Spain with lover George Sand by his side Chopin changed classical music with his cycle of 24 Preludes. The history is not so much about the piano as it is about the music and who championed it af
Iwona Taylor
Aug 21, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Incredibly beautiful book, well-researched, with fascinating facts and details, giving balanced opinions on Chopin's Preludes: their origins, meaning, performance history and interpretation. It contains multiple cultural references to other excellent books, valued musicians, historical events.

I also appreciate the fact that the author acknowledges George Sand's contribution to Chopin's achievements and has Wanda Landowska as his other major subject in the book.
David Potter
A curiosity

I have been fascinated with this story of Chopin ever since as a child seeing the film, A Song to Remember. This unusual story of the search for his piano fleshed out a fresh perspective of his life and music. The author’s curiosity carries forward a strange pursuit. Were she as effective a writer as she is a researcher the book would be a more interesting read.
Jul 02, 2019 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
Chopin is absolutely my favorite composer. When listening to his music, I am transported. Each note makes its way deep into my blood, into my bones, into what I imagine would be called my soul. It's a spiritual experience really. Considering that, I was sure I would love this book, but sadly I had a hard time getting invested.
Doug Leveridge
Apr 17, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Chopin-based first section, in which the pile up of personae, both dramatic and historical, places and times, was a little overwhelming to the senses. It really kicked in for me in the second part, where the romantic era is brought into sharp relief.
All in all, a very well written and authoritative account of larger than life creative personalities and European history.
May 31, 2019 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Painfully written
deeply sad as the title is misleading and the information could have made a beautiful story of only the author could wrote with flow and style and the work was ummmm edited.
I tried so so hard to love and finish this.
Aug 21, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
You will want to have an interest in Chopin, Wanda Landowska, or old pianos, before you open this book. If you specialize in any of those, then five stars maybe. Otherwise, proceed with caution. Landowska owned one of Chopin's pianos but was considered more of a Bach performer.
Dec 29, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed the information this book contains about Chopin and about pianos. It has opened doors to other rooms for me. I will continue exploring. However, I found Kildea's style rather irritating at times. Too many long sentences full of comma-bound lists!
Tiziano Santoro
Interesting biographical notes on Chopin, and details on his compositions and the evolution of the piano as an instrument for composing and performing. The second part of the book, after Chopin's death, is much more boring though.
Oct 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I predicted a chronology of the instrument, and while it is there, it’s far more about the man who ordered it and the people he and it touched.
Paul Kerschen
Chopin in Mallorca is of course a good proxy for Keats in Italy. Wanda Landowska has a very nice picture on the cover, but it's George Sand that steals the show.
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Paul Francis Kildea is an Australian conductor and author, considered an expert on Benjamin Britten.

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