Piano Lessons – Anna Goldsworthy (2009)
I read Australian pianist, Anna Goldsworthy’s debut book Piano Lessons during my early uni years, when I was having a bit of a crisis about learning the piano, and tired of reading stuffy accounts of classical piano technique written mostly by very dead Europeans. I was very fortunate to come across it; Goldsworthy's account of her complicated but wonderful relationship with the piano and classical repertoire felt relatable and refreshed, and helped to revitalise my own.
The book is, in many ways, a tribute to Goldsworthy's first teacher, the formidable 'Mrs Sivan' who proclaims to the nine-year-old Anna in their first lesson that her approach to piano teaching is about ‘teaching philosophy and life and music digested’. While this feels like a bit of a heavy description for a nine-year-old, it is clearly memorable and forms the basis of Goldsworthy’s own attitude towards learning the piano. Throughout the book, she pays homage to Mrs Sivan's strict but truly imaginative approach to teaching and explanations of style and idioms of the classical repertoire which left a lifelong impression on the pianist. She backdrops descriptions of the mostly-European repertoire she journeys through against the Australian suburban landscape and her depictions of her youth, growing up in in Adelaide.
This book is very accessible and readable, even for those not studying classical piano. It is a testament to the special influence of the teacher-student relationship in music tuition.