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This new French translation of a book that originally appeared in Italy in 2012 (La musica è un tutto) collects speeches, articles and musings by the Israeli pianist and conductor Barenboim, born in Argentina in 1942. Piano lovers will be intrigued by his recollections of conversations with eminent keyboard artists, such as Arthur Rubinstein (1887- 1982), who claimed that at the start of his career, 75 per cent of any recital audience ‘could play most of the works’ in his programme, whereas half a century later he felt lucky if 25 per cent owned one of his recordings. Barenboim reveals that Rubinstein had such a photographic memory that he recalled not just notes but also coffee stains on pages of his piano scores. Barenboim is less reliable on other pianists, such as Claudio Arrau (1903-1991), whom he claims underwent psychotherapy ‘to free himself from the need to please’, whereas Arrau himself stated that he did so because of ‘something in [himself] which worked against having to perform and to be in the public eye’. Barenboim laughs off questions during a 2008 interview in Milan, included here, with the Italian music critic Enrico Girardi, who tries to compare three Barenboim recordings of Beethoven’s ‘Waldstein’ Sonata. The pianist retorts: ‘That’s a boring question. These are things of the past.’ And when Girardi relays a student’s question about how he managed to memorise the complete Beethoven Sonatas, Barenboim likewise jests: ‘I have a good memory because I can’t read music, and play by ear.’

BENJAMIN IVRY Read the full review on Agora Classica


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