A Choice Outstanding Academic Book of 2001
A Defense and a (Sometimes Erotic) Celebration of Great Pianists
A bravura performance!
Vigorous, opinionated, and always entertaining, here is a personal essayist of great charm and sincerity. Mitchell’s erudition—his collection of odd and illuminating bits of knowledge—is always a delight and adds a sauce piquanteto the whole dish!" —Edmund White
...a literary work of real élan, vibrancy, and grace—the very qualities that in his view define the virtuoso. [Mr. Mitchell explores] the traditional linking of musical and sexual virtuosity, the ethical implications of the original instruments’ movement, the near deification of Mozart in Anglo-Saxon culture, and, in a particularly witty section, the relationship of the virtuoso to his stool. Throughout, Mr. Mitchell's prose is humorous, intimate, and unapologeticaly polemical." —Cynthia Ozick
The artistic merit of performers with superior technique has long been almost ipso facto denied. At last, Mark Mitchell launches a counterattack. In essays crackling with pianistic lore, Mitchell takes on topics such as encores, prodigies, competitions, virtuosi in film and literature, and the erotics of musical performance. Liszt, Horowitz, and Argerich share these pages with the eccentric Pachmann, Ervin Nyiregyh ("the skid-row pianist"), and Liberace. The illustrations include rare portraits of long-forgotten girl prodigies, historic concert programs, and stills from a lost 1927 film on Beethoven. Punctuating this celebration of personal voice are vignettes, running from the beginnings of the author's obsession with the piano to the particularities of concert-going in Italy (where he now lives).
Mark Mitchell's piano studies led to a friendship with Vladimir Horowitz and other pianistic luminaries. With David Leavitt he co-authored Italian Pleasures and co-edited Pages Passed from Hand to Hand. He also edited The Penguin Book of International Gay Writing.
“"Right from the opening page of this volume, the reader can tell this is a book of extraordinary charm and insight. . . . As a pianist himself, he is passionate about the instrument, its literature, and its virtuosi. . . . A wonderful and thought-provoking read . . . " —Choice
" . . . Mitchell delivers a manifesto in favor of a pure, unschooled adulation for classical piano that subverts the critical project of 'the academy.' In this learned, selective survey-cum-experiential narrative, Mitchell does an artful, indulgent and coherent job." —Publishers Weekly
" . . . passionate and charming defense (and occasional erotic celebration) of great pianists." —Vanity Fair
"A witty, literate and often polemical look at piano virtuosi." —ForeWord
"A literary work of real élan, vibrancy, and grace." —Cynthia Ozick
"Vigorous, opinionated, and always entertaining . . . a personal essayist of great charm and sincerity." —Edmund White
In essays crackling with pianistic lore, Mitchell takes on topics such as encores, prodigies, piano-stool neuroses, and the portrayal of virtuosos in film and literature. Liszt, Horowitz, and Argerich share these pages with the eccentric Pachmann, Ervin Nyiregyházi ("the skid-row pianist"), and Liberace.”
“Right from the opening page of this volume, the reader can tell this is a book of extraordinary charm and insight. Through a series of essays of varying length—some personal and autobiographical, others more universal in topic—Mitchell lovingly expounds and defends the world of the pianist/virtuoso. As a pianist himself, he is passionate about the instrument, its literature, and its virtuosi. An exceptional essayist, the author uses his firsthand knowledge of performance and concert attendance, a wide array of quotations from various writers and critics, much behind-the-scenes insider information, and considerable humor to argue in favor of the artist who uses virtuosity and not just cold intellect in the performance of great piano literature. He includes some rare illustrations and recital programs and an extraordinary bibliography containing a panoply of citations that extend to such esoteric references as the Tabatha on the Keyboard episode from the television series Bewitched. A wonderful and thought-provoking read, this book is highly recommended for all libraries. —D. L. Patterson, University of Wisconsi”
— Eau Claire , 2001may CHOICE.
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Table of Contents
Preliminary Table of Contents:
The Less Fractious World
1. The Triumph of Marsyas
2. "Le concert, c'est moi"
3. The Critic and the Spider
After Two Concerts
4. Notes on Gourmandism
5. The Circus
6. The Nature of the Bis
7. "The Colour of Classics"
8. Some Virtuosi in Literature
9. The Virtuoso at Home
10. Possibilities of a Homosexual Aesthetic of Virtuosity
12. "The pianola 'replaces' Sappho's barbitos"
13. Musical Chairs; or, Il virtuoso seduto
14. "Aut Caesar, aut nihil"
15. Muscles and Soul
16. Mephistopheleses in Soutanes
The Angel of the Mud