Top positive review
November 7, 2014
Exactly what the title says -- a social history of the piano, pianists, and publishers. Loesser (a superior Beethoven pianist, teacher, and half-brother to songwriter Frank Loesser) had a revelatory insight and linked the rise and fall of the piano to the fortunes and circumstances of the middle class in Germany, Austria, England, France, and the United States, He also traces the technical development of the piano from the virginal through the harpsichord to Cristofori through Steinway and even reproducing pianos. He demonstrates over and over that the piano was more than a mere instrument; it also conferred upon the middle-class status and respectability. The prose is witty, and it's often a mean wit. Loesser is particularly hard on women who "took" lessons in order to acquire "accomplishments" that increased their value in the marriage market. Nevertheless, this book is a model of what an intellectual or cultural history should be and a tale well told and compulsively page-turning.
P.S. I read the Kindle edition. I strongly suspect the publishers put the printed book through an optical character reader, because the electronic object annoyed me with many "typos" that made no sense at all from the viewpoint of manual QWERTY keyboard input. Still, this did not quash my enthusiasm for Loesser's work.