A Musician's Alphabet
By Susan Tomes
FABER & FABER pounds 12.99 (148pp) (free p&p) from 0870 079 8897
Susan Tomes's book Beyond the Notes offered a unique backstage glimpse at the world of classical chamber music. No other musician has pinned down its fugitive essence with such perceptive candour. A Musician's Alphabet mines the seam in more ruminative mode. Addressed to aficionados and fellow-musicians, it will be seized on by fans of her celebrated Florestan Trio.
Tomes is known for her crusades on behalf of women performers and pianists whose "accompanying" role leads to their being downgraded in money and respect. Here she ploughs different furrows. "B is for Background Music" looks at the music people carry stuck like a burr in their brains. So bothered was she, when recording Billy Mayerl's syncopated tunes and finding they kept her awake at night, that she had recourse to a hypnotist. "Difficulty" leads her to muse on the deceptive simplicities of Mozart, and on the good musicians she knows who are, technically, bad players.
It all reads a bit like free association, and much of this book might be dismissed as truisms, but somehow it works. Though without an ostensible theme, it does have a connecting thread, which first surfaces in "Chamber Music". …