By Madeline Goold
BlueBridge, $14.95, 280 pages
Madeline Goold’s many talents are prominently on display in her book Mr. Langshaw’s Square Piano. Goold, a piano player since childhood, buys a square piano, one of the earliest kinds of piano, at auction. This sets in motion a quest to both restore the piano as well as find out as much history as she can about its history. This book is part historical fiction, part pure history, and part explanation of a devotee’s love. Goold interweaves her imaginings of the piano on its travels with the historical story of her piano’s purchaser, Mr. John Langshaw. In between these she also explains the changing social currents in England in the late 18th and early 19th century that cause the harpsichord to fall out of favor, and be replaced by the piano, first the square piano, and then the upright.
This book will be of interest to piano players, and other readers who are interested in music of the period. The book’s biggest weakness is a slight lack of definition. Its focus is too narrow to be a true historical text, but casual readers may find it overly historically based to be read for true entertainment.
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