– In honor of the Republican presidential candidates, I have been reading The Plot Against America, Philip Roth’s counterfactual novel in which Charles Lindberg, sympathetic to the Nazis, beats FDR for the presidency in 1940. Told from the point of view of a nine-year-old Jewish boy in Newark, NJ, the book is a deeply sad story depicting fear’s destructive power.
– Piano Lessons with Claudio Arrau: A Guide to His Philosophy and Techniques, by Victoria A. Von Arx is a book to set beside Joseph Horowitz’s marvelous Conversations with Arrau. It provides welcome additional detail from Arrau on technical matters and fine points of interpretation. The opening portions of the book provide historical perspective and discuss what it calls the “Arrau Technique”. It’s not easy to convey instrumental technique in prose, yet I feel I learned from the latter section. I must admit to being a bit uncertain about how to execute some of the physical strategies discussed; this is probably related to the limitations of my own pianistic training. Much of the book is devoted to transcriptions of recorded lessons and master classes conducted by Arrau in which he gives meticulous, often note-by-note advice on interpretation and technique, covering works by Chopin, Beethoven, Ravel, and Strauss. I found this portion truly fascinating. You will want to read the book at the piano, given its multitude of musical examples. Throughout, it is painstakingly edited for maximum clarity.