The shelf of helpful and practical books on piano study is not a full one; perhaps only the books by Josef Lhevinne and by Artur Schnabel's student Konrad Wolff belong there. But Boris Berman has now added to it. Berman has taken on the difficult aspects of playing the instrument and has succeeded in several areas. Setting up opposing ideas--sostenuto versus leggiero playing, fidelity to the score versus personal interpretation--he sends pianists to the instrument with a heightened awareness of what the body wants to show us. Berman is big on images (useful ones, by and large). He talks about the importance of breath (far too rare in piano lessons) and is good on the relation of finger stroke to dynamic level. He offers one fine exercise for voicing of chords and another--a long scale in diminuendo--for finger control. A chapter on time falters a bit on tempo--lots of examples but few concepts--but covers the idea of inner pulse and subdivision of the measure in an exemplary way. Readers will want more help on fingering, but that is probably impossible in book format. There is a good deal of common sense on phrasing and repeated insistence on informed rather than mechanical practicing.
For a pianist with a performing career in Rachmaninoff and Prokofiev, Berman has a surprising amount of respect for the printed scores, and his background in early music comes through several times. At the end, he continues into performance (lots of ideas from the acting teacher Stanislavsky here) and includes a welcome chapter on teaching. This is, in fact, a book to use with your own teacher--ideas about "out" stroke, sustained relaxation ("both impossible and unnecessary"), and wrist height could be dangerous if misunderstood--but it will be provocative. Many musical examples, admirably proofread and helpfully cross-referenced, are included. --William R. Braun --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
"A very instructive, imaginative, and stimulating book." -- Radu Lupu
"Pianists will value Berman's stimulating and personal thoughts and will appreciate the opportunity to learn from this contemporary artist." -- Choice
"Readers who want to become better pianists will welcome Berman's master class. Highly recommended." -- Library Journal
"The book is neither too elementary nor too advanced for any pianist, piano teacher or piano lover. It is informative, inspiring, and entertaining." -- Claude Frank
"What makes Mr. Berman's book so persuasive and enlightening is his understanding that there is no one 'method' of teaching music - each relationship with a student is a process of discovery for teacher and student both." -- Emanuel Ax