Intorduction to Piano Books
We here at Pianolessons101 think of piano books as a separate category from piano music. Here are some different categories of piano books that might be of interest: virtuoso pianists of the present day, virtuoso pianists of the past, piano technique, piano history, piano tuning and piano repair. Other less common, but not less important, categories might include: piano tobogganing techniques, cooking with piano parts and solo piano lifting techniques with local hernia hospital listings.
I have always enjoyed reading about pianists and their thoughts on piano techniques. Some are very coherent and others are simply entertaining. Pianist Arthur Rubinstein (1887-1982) was both. He wrote his own memoirs, which have revealing insights into the characteristics of one of the most gifted pianists of the past century. And yet, he never really divulges any secrets about his piano technique. He did, however, write about many of his life adventures, including when he memorized Franck’s symphonic Variations for piano. Here’s the catch. He memorized the piece on a train without the assistance of a piano. He also spoke eight languages, yet he did not start speaking until the age of three. If facts like this interest you, then try visiting www.amazon.com and researching some of their pianist biographical material. Of course, book stores and libraries are always great places to browse as well.
Unlike Rubinstein, some pianists do reveal the secrets to their technical and interpretive skills. Sir Kendall Taylor, one of the Royal College of Music’s best loved scholars and professor of piano, wrote one of the most informative books I have ever read called Principles of Piano Technique and Interpretation (published by Novello). The late Sir Kendall Taylor took some piano lessons from none other than Arthur Rubinstein, and I was Sir Kendall Taylor’s pupil during my undergraduate years. And there you have it: the circle of pianists.
As for history books, try googling composers’ and pianists’ letters (or a derivative of that idea). The most entertaining way to learn about great composers/pianists is to read some of the preserved or otherwise documented letters that they wrote. They’re entertaining and very often published in book format.