The editor of the Guardian recalls his months trying to deal with significant international news stories while also practicing a moving Chopin piece so difficult to play that he often wondered if it was beyond him.
In the summer of 2010, Rusbridger, impressed with a fellow amateur who played Chopin’s G Minor Ballade, resolved that he would take a year to learn the piece then perform it the following summer. But life interrupted. Intervening were several massive news stories, including the WikiLeaks/Julian Assange controversy and the revelations that members of Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World staff had hacked telephone accounts. (Rusbridger’s publication was out front on both stories.) In addition to editing the paper, writing editorials and practicing Chopin, the author was playing in some ad hoc chamber groups, traveling the globe, building and furnishing a music studio, looking to buy a classic piano, attending concerts, and dining with friends, family and notables—and, one wonders, sleeping? Written in the form of a journal, the volume sometimes resembles the autobiography of a startled wren. The author does maintain an appealing tone of self-deprecation when he confronts Chopin (the piece continually frustrates and even defeats him), and he adds a thin glaze of self-help/inspirational icing (it’s good to challenge yourself, he says, whatever your age), but what’s missing (other than a few words in the acknowledgements) is any sense of the enormous gratitude he surely felt for the numerous talented (and in some cases celebrated) musicians who helped him prepare, the wealth and health needed for all the travel, lessons, research and equipment. It’s one thing to say, “challenge yourself”; it’s another to have the wherewithal to do so. He concludes with an account of his public performance, which occurred some months after his original deadline.
The chronicle of a passionate professional and musical life lived at breakneck speed.