Customer Reviews


13 Reviews
5 star:
 (9)
4 star:
 (2)
3 star:
 (1)
2 star:
 (1)
1 star:    (0)
 
 
 
 
 
Average Customer Review
Share your thoughts with other customers
Create your own review
 
 

The most helpful favorable review
The most helpful critical review


34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A History of the Piano for the True Aficionado
This book can be tough going at times -- over 600 pages of text alone, densely written, finely detailed, full of endless descriptions of how early pianos were built in the great days of Cristoferi and Silbermann. Then why read this book? Because it is, simply, fascinating. There are chapters on the role of the piano in the works of Jane Austen, the piano as an aid to...
Published on July 14, 1999

versus
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great premise but repetitive
The beginning of the book should be read by anyone interested in history, but the author blows his wad at the beginning and just keeps proving his premise by going from different countries.
Published 17 months ago by Gardener


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A History of the Piano for the True Aficionado, July 14, 1999
By A Customer
This review is from: Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Books on Music) (Paperback)
This book can be tough going at times -- over 600 pages of text alone, densely written, finely detailed, full of endless descriptions of how early pianos were built in the great days of Cristoferi and Silbermann. Then why read this book? Because it is, simply, fascinating. There are chapters on the role of the piano in the works of Jane Austen, the piano as an aid to courtship, on Beethoven's paean to his Broadwood, on the quest for "brilliant but not difficult" music, long descriptions of 19th century mechanical devices of pianistic torture -- there is a great deal of interesting esoterica here, and much to learn. The book is a classic, and I'm glad it's on my bookshelf.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A bravura performance!, October 16, 2000
By 
kellytwo "kellytwo" (cleveland hts, ohio) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Books on Music) (Paperback)
If you love music, especially that of the piano, then you should definitely make room on your musical bookshelf for this wonderful and comprehensive book. The author, Arthur Loesser, was a well-known concert pianist who was also a gifted writer, critic and annotator--shades of that earlier duallist, Berlioz! This dandy, thick book, detailing the history of keyboards, also includes many of the personalities involved in music-making through the centuries. The hard-cover edition--originally published in 1954--is long out of print, making this trade-paper version even more welcome. Once it's yours, you'll be in possession of nearly everything you ever wanted to know about these keyboard instruments--and then some! And, once you begin reading, you'll find it difficult to put it aside, even for a moment.
Each major country had its own beginnings with music and the keyboards that brought that music to life. This book is, therefore, a geographical as well as a musical tour. Beginning in about the mid-1500s and continuing to more recent times, Loesser informs us of the musical progression in Germany, Austria, England, France, and finally the US. Whether you begin with the English in the 1500s or the Germans in the 1600s or the French in the 1700s, you'll be intrigued by the variety of instruments unveiled in these pages for your delectation, as well as his humorous side trips into more human endeavors. (There's an entire chapter [Section Three, Chapter Eighteen] on the use of music in the novels of Jane Austen, for example.)
Loesser skillfully utilizes his dry and frequently wry wit in detailing the history and usage of keyboard instruments, as well as those who merely were the players of them. It's quite obvious that, to Mr. Loesser, the instruments themselves were the more worthy, and he skillfully educates the reader in the evolution of today's piano, including the advantage gained by the availability of steel framing.
There are many types of keyboard instruments, some more well-known than others, but none are slighted in this comprehensive retrospective. In addition, social history is also brought into prominence, as well as those artisans who have moved us with their performances.
Another bravura performance from this noted musician.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining, witty and profound chronicle, June 9, 2005
This review is from: Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Books on Music) (Paperback)
Arthur Loesser, pianist, composer and longtime faculty member at the Cleveland Institute of Music, was also a historian and writer of talent, as evidenced by this "social history" he penned in the 1950s.

"Men, Women and Pianos" is many things. It is partly a history of the instrument itself: Loesser shows how the desire of musicians for a keyboard instrument more versatile and/or powerful than the existing clavichord, harpsichord and organ led makers in several countries more or less simultaneously to invent the basic action of the piano at the turn of the eighteenth century. It is partly, of course, a history of great pianists and composers and their particular regards and attitudes toward this newfangled contraption. It is partly a history of instrument makers and their innovations, from Bartolomeo Cristofori, who is widely credited with the actual invention of the "pianoforte," to the Steinways, whose instruments still set the standard in piano-making today. Perhaps most important, however, it is a chronicle of the instrument and its relationship to everyday people and society, at times amusing, at times sobering. Along the way Loesser examines questions that may never have occurred to other historians before him, such as how ladies played four-hand music in their enormous hoop-skirts, or how much of the appeal of a third-rate salon piece of the early 1900s called "A Maiden's Prayer," still in print, may have emanated from its title.

Summarizing Loesser's work can give but a faint idea of his wide-ranging interests, or the dry humor of his writing. This is a book that appeals even to the non-musician, but which should be required reading for musicians. It ends on a downbeat note in 1954, with piano sales declining in the face of increased competition from electric gadgets such as television and the phonograph. One wonders what Loesser would think of the scene today, with digital technology enabling musical reproduction at speeds and with an ease he never could have imagined. There is a whole other book to be written about what has happened to the keyboard and home music-making since 1954, when Loesser's chronicle ends: one only hopes that whoever finally writes it has a fraction of his erudition, wit, and love of music.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's all here, January 25, 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Books on Music) (Paperback)
When it comes to the history of the piano, if it's not in this book, you don't need to know it. Loesser writes this "biography" of the piano with accuracy, detail, plenty of anecdotes, good judgment, and an abundance of humor. You'll be hooked after a few lively chapters--even if you thought you had only a passing interest the pianoforte.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rare elequence combines with humor, March 16, 2005
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Books on Music) (Paperback)
The writing is articulate beyond belief, reflecting the author's fluency in multiple languages, and the thoroughly tongue-in-cheek tone--the "digiterferous bank accounts" of the wealthy--makes it fun to read. And of course there's the story itself, beginning in the era when Democracies were replacing Monarchies, the 18th Century, and ending in the US around the First World War, when the instrument began its abrupt decline, using old newspapers, magazine articles, publishers' catalogs, etc., as sources, translated as needed by the author.

We learn of the influential Germans, who nurtured the instrument's development in the beginning, took a back seat to the English and French for a while, then regained the lead in the latter half of the 19th century as they became an industrialized nation, and the origins of Classical music--that is, the performance of dead composers' works--which replaced the usual practice of concert performers playing variations of well-known grand opera tunes when that died out as Liszt and others fled for their lives during the Second French Revolution of 1848.

The story ends in the US. In the later 19th Century, the piano was the focus for entertainment in the Victorian home and popular sheet music sold millions of copies--but changing culture, as much as technology, soon doomed the instrument.

In all, a tale of music's role in modern Western society told effortlessly by someone who's spent a lifetime gathering the facts.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More than a book-it's an adventure, May 11, 2006
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Books on Music) (Paperback)
This book is really more than a book, it's an adventure. First of all, it is rather long, so it is not a book to be casually perused. Rather, to read it will require a fairly serious amount of time and concentration. What I find most striking about it is how thorough and in-depth it is. The author clearly went through every piece of literature he could find concerning the piano in the 18th and 19th centuries-brochures, sales records, newspaper articles, concert programs, all in multiple languages- and incorporated it all into his study. The scholarly scope and erudition of the work is staggering. However, it is not annotated.

As for the content of the book, we can almost say it is a Marxist analysis of the history of the piano. He mostly discusses the life of the piano and its use in society from the point of view of class differences, as well as from the point of view of means of production and organization of labor. Much of the motivation for the middle classes to own pianos was to emulate the higher classes, he says. In this sense I felt like I was reading Paul Fussell's excellent book "Class." Both books contain a derisive attitude toward the middle classes, depicting them as motivated solely by their desire to appear more high class than they really are, and as not really having their own independent minds, but as being swept away in whatever trend has been recently marketed to them by those who can only make a profit by selling their mass-produced inventory.

A final note: Keep a dictionary handy when reading this book. The author's vocabulary is enormous, and he's not afraid to use it.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars My favorite book on pianos, April 9, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Books on Music) (Paperback)
"Men, Women, & Pianos : A Social History" is my favorite book on pianos, and I read many of them while researching for my own music book. The full title says it well; it's a history of the development of the instrument, but it also scrupulously documents the ongoing role of pianos through decades of Western music and culture. I'm sure some would find this tedious--one Amazon review said that--but I couldn't wait to pick up the book each day to read stories of yet one more pianist's performance of the tired concert warhorse The Battle of Prague, how many thalers it cost to purchase everyday items in various countries of Europe long ago, or how many people used to be employed in the onetime major industry of manufacturing and selling pianos. This book is great for many of the same reasons any art is great, it puts one inside the experience of someone else, even if that person lived 300 years ago.

More relevant today is the recent role of pianos in our daily home entertainment, and how there is a long history of piano playing being expected of young girls, along with their sewing, cooking, and other everyday activities known as accomplishments.

As one who has performed a great deal of research for my book project, as a professional researcher, and while employed by the Library of Congress, I am well aware that this book is all the more a stunning achievement because its author, Arthur Loesser, had helpful librarians working with him to gain access to the majority of his extensive research materials via interlibrary loans. My success rate with getting materials through ILLs is spotty at best. Kudos to Mr. Loesser's resourceful, professional librarians who managed to call in deeply arcane items published in many languages from around the world, to Cleveland in the early 1950s, a time when state-of-the-art searching was performed with 3x5" cards in long drawers.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Great premise but repetitive, May 28, 2013
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
The beginning of the book should be read by anyone interested in history, but the author blows his wad at the beginning and just keeps proving his premise by going from different countries.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best social history of the piano, January 18, 2013
By 
David Adler (Cape Cod, MA, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Books on Music) (Paperback)
If you love the piano and want to know how it developed and how the public responded to it, this is the book to read.
I have the original from 1954 but bought this new copy as a gift for a friend. It has an introduction (from 1990) by Edward Rothstein which is very well written. The book covers the development of the piano in various countries from its beginning up to the present. It is well researched and written with humor and will be a valuable addition to anyone's library.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


5.0 out of 5 stars What a wonderful book!, June 13, 2014
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Books on Music) (Paperback)
Written in the more flowery English of a half-century ago, this book combines cultural history with the history of the piano. One of the most enjoyable books I've read in the last few years.
Help other customers find the most helpful reviews 
Was this review helpful to you? Yes No


‹ Previous | 1 2 | Next ›
Most Helpful First | Newest First

Details

Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Books on Music)
Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Books on Music) by Arthur Loesser (Paperback - March 17, 2011)
$24.95 $19.85
In Stock
Add to cart Add to wishlist
Search these reviews only
Send us feedback How can we make Amazon Customer Reviews better for you? Let us know here.