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At the Piano
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About the Author

Caroline Benser lives in La Crosse, Wisconsin where she teaches piano and writes as an independent music historian. She is the co-author of Randall Thompson: A Bio-Bibliography (1991) and the author of Egon Wellesz (1885-1974): Chronicle of a Twentieth-Century Musician (1985). Benser served as the recording review editor for the journal American Music from 2006 to 2010.

Reviews

This book consists of interviews with eight concert pianists: Leif Ove Andsnes, Jonathan Biss, Simone Dinnerstein, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Stephen Hough, Steven Osborne, Yevgeny Sudbin, and Yuja Wang. Benser (independent music historian) begins each chapter with a biographical summary of the interview subject, highlighting training, background, and professional accomplishments; at the end of the chapter, she provides a discography of recordings and notes with brief biographical data on all musicians mentioned in the interview. Due to the interview format of the book, information is presented in a nonsystematic way; the index proves especially helpful. This is an anecdotal volume providing fascinating glimpses into the minds of these pianists. This book does not serve as an exhaustive accounting of all important pianists performing today. Rather, Benser uses the eight interviews to delve more deeply into questions of motivation, approach to the instrument, repertoire, recordings, and personality....The present title would be a good supplementary resource for a piano literature course. Summing Up: Recommended. * CHOICE *
In the end it's the meat that matters -- and Benser's book has enough to make it of lasting...value to piano students, pianophiles and the peers of those included in the book. * Teaching History: A Journal of Methods *
In this volume the author provides extensive interviews and critical examinations of eight influential pianists in the world of twenty-first century music. Readers will learn more about the careers and influences of Leif Ove Andsnes, Jonathan Biss, Simone Dinnerstein, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Stephen Hough, Steven Osborne, Yevgeny Sudbin, and Yuja Wang. The pianists interviewed here are both well known for their original works as well as their interpretations of the works of Bach, Beethoven, Liszt, Debussy, and Bartok, just to name a few. In the interviews the author touched on such topics as the musicians first experience with music in general and the piano specifically, the role of their teachers in instilling passion into their performances, their favorite pieces, and the joys and difficulties of being a professional musician. There is also some unexpected information to be found here, such as the discussion on newly developed instruments and their range, the importance of keeping one's body healthy when practicing music as a profession, and the rise of pianists in China. Although a specialized volume, it will appeal to many types of musicians due to its breadth of discussion topics. It will be useful in music libraries as well as in larger academic libraries. * American Reference Books Annual *
Benser summarizes and elaborates on the eight pianists' backgrounds, struggles, and achievements, and I found that her discussion of the artists' favored instruments clarified the reasons for each pianists' preference. This book gives us a window into the life of the contemporary concert pianist. Each interview feels personal: the questions are not the same, and the answers are certainly diverse. Highly recommended. * Clavier Companion *

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