31 May 2014

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

Summary from Goodreads:
Walking his two young children to school every morning, Thad Carhart passes an unassuming little storefront in his Paris neighborhood. Intrigued by its simple sign — Desforges Pianos — he enters, only to have his way barred by the shop's imperious owner.
Unable to stifle his curiosity, he finally lands the proper introduction, and a world previously hidden is brought into view. Luc, the atelier's master, proves an indispensable guide to the history and art of the piano. Intertwined with the story of a musical friendship are reflections on how pianos work, their glorious history, and stories of the people who care for them, from amateur pianists to the craftsmen who make the mechanism sing. The Piano Shop on the Left Bank is at once a beguiling portrait of a Paris not found on any map and a tender account of the awakening of a lost childhood passion.

I picked up a copy of this book quite some time ago - certainly before I moved and was able to purchase my piano - but never got around to reading it until now.  This is a lovely short memoir - with a bit of history about piano construction thrown in for flavor - that demonstrates that a chance meeting can cause the return of a childhood passion.  For Carhart, that was the discovery of a piano restoration workshop/store in his Paris neighborhood; he had played a lot as a child but had let his lessons lapse.  Befriending Luc and purchasing a restored piano brought his love of music back.

I've been there.  Shortly after I moved into my new house I watched a documentary on the making of Steinway pianos, visited the Steinway website out of curiosity, asked for a catalogue to be sent via email, and then got an email from the local Steinway dealer about an upcoming factory sale.  Fast forward about a month and I purchased a beautiful upright - I play more now than I did during my last year of high school when I had a full schedule of practice and performances.

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