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Counterpoint: A Memoir of Bach and Mourning
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Counterpoint: A Memoir of Bach and Mourning

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  31 ratings  ·  13 reviews
As his mother was dying, Philip Kennicott began to listen to the music of Bach obsessively. It was the only music that didnt seem trivial or irrelevant, and it enabled him to both experience her death and remove himself from it. For him, Bachs music held the elements of both joy and despair, life and its inevitable end. He spent the next five years trying to learn one of ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published February 18th 2020 by W. W. Norton Company
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Heather  Erickson
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I chose to review Counterpoint: A Memoir of Bach and Mourning by Philip Kennicott for two reasons. Ive been in mourning since my husband died in April 2019 and I love baroque music (JS Bach is the master). The author is a gifted writer. Philip Kennicott is the chief Art and Architecture Critic of The Washington Post. Kennicott won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. What I got from the book was different from what I expected.

Csimplot Simplot
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book!!!
Hank Stuever
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, upsetting, redemptive, informative -- written with such care. A strange but brilliant melding of memoir and music education, going deep on a troubled mother-son relationship and the son's attempt to try something that's as difficult (playing Bach's Goldberg Variations on the piano) as coming to terms with grief for the person he struggled his whole life to understand.
Mar 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: finished-in-2020
I read a preview excerpt in the Washington Post shortly after my father died, so I took it as a sign that I should read this book. In some ways, my father had a similar temperament to Kennicott's mother in that his moods could be unpredictable at times, so the author's recounting of his relationship with his mother and about her death hit me a little harder than I had expected. Kennicott's journey in learning Bach's Goldberg Variations resonated less with me, but was still enjoyable to read. I ...more
Feb 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
*Counterpoint* is an aptly titled book -- Philip Kennicott's memoir weaves together narrative strands, much as a contrapuntal piece of music weaves together melodic strands within a piece.

After his mother died, the author began to learn Bach's Goldberg Variations in seriousness. The book follows this process; additionally, Kennicott reflects on growing up with his mother (a woman suffering from her own grief at not fulfilling her own life ambitions); discusses the history of the Goldbergs and
Mar 23, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: music
This turned out to be phenomenally good. I felt compelled to write a review not only because I loved it, but because I suspect the title may give the erroneous impression that the book is only for music lovers. I strongly believe it will resonate with a lot more readers than those who care about Bach. I, for starters, root for Beethoven. And Brahms, and Dvorak, and Shostakovich. Bach is not a composer I feel the need to listen to on a regular basis. (You can judge, I'll get over it.) So, you may ...more
Kerry Pickens
Mar 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2020
I listened to this book on audiotape, and wished I could listen to the story on a loop as soundtrack to my life. There are so many issues addressed in this book that I can relate to: aging parents, the effect of hypercritical parenting, a love for classical music, and the beauty brought to your life by playing and listening to music. I was reminded of Jackson Brown's lyrics for "To a Dancer," that go "In the end there is one dance you do alone." Playing music is a basically a solitary activity ...more
Nasreen Baten-Tschan
Mar 14, 2020 rated it really liked it
Two parallel threads run through this book, the "Bach" and the "Mother" respectively. As someone who knows almost nothing about the science of music there were parts of this that were hard to read, but as someone who was invested in completing this book, I nonetheless found the extended metaphors appropriate/understandable for the music philistine audience.

The author is my favorite art critic at WaPo, the newspaper I've read since childhood, so I was eager to read this. Having a more intimate
Apr 05, 2020 rated it liked it
I liked the mix of memoir and biography/history, and it was fun to listen to the Bach pieces while/after reading about them. This made me realize that I would like a more in-depth knowledge of classical music, but then didn't quite scratch that itch.
Erika Kraus
Feb 18, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I won this book in the giveaway. I found the power of healing through Phillip Kennicott's comparisons and words. A fantastic book that is well put together.
Mar 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautifully written book. And I learned so much. I highly recommend it.
Mar 09, 2020 rated it liked it
Kennicott creates a most unusual book about Bach and grief (surrounding his mothers life. I really liked the parts where he was able to be transparent with the reader. ...more
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