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Proof that music is not just in notes; it’s also in words.

A potpourri of pieces (most about music) in a variety of keys and rhythms.

A prolific classical pianist, recording artist, and writer, Hough (The Final Retreat, 2018) has a lot on his mind. There are scores of entries here—the table of contents consumes eight pages—as the author addresses countless topics, from “The Soul of Music” and “Can Atonal Music Make You Cry?” to “Debussy: Piano Music Without Hammers” and “The Three Faces of Francis Poulenc.” Some are adaptations of previously published pieces, and others are versions of Hough’s blog posts. His subject matter ranges from music (history, technique, personalities, pianos, autobiography, even some obituaries) to sexuality (he writes in several places about being gay) to religion (he’s a Roman Catholic) to art museums, abortion, and more. All of the pieces are tightly focused—some are not even a page long, some of which readers may find themselves skimming over—and most are articulate and packed with questions for readers to ponder. (“I’m allergic to telling anyone what to do,” he writes early on.) Hough educates us on his routines, including how he likes to dress up to play and his practice methods while on the road, and he is unafraid to point out his own embarrassments—e.g., a broken pants zipper just before a performance. The author also consistently credits others who have greatly affected him: early teachers, colleagues, performers from earlier eras. Of course, some of the more technical pieces about playing the piano—uses of the pedals, how to play trills—will be of principal interest to other musicians. But much of the book is for general readers: Hough’s thoughts about wallpaper music (he hates it), comments about smoking, generous remarks about Americans (he’s from the U.K.), and discussions of favorite writers (he loves Willa Cather).

Proof that music is not just in notes; it’s also in words.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-374-25254-0

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Nov. 18, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996

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An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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