This book just became available in the US, although it's been out in the UK for quite a while, and I thought I would share my thoughts on it.
I didn't think I would like it, but I was pleasantly surprised. I thought it was yet another account of an amateur pianist tackling a piece beyond their abilities, and we see plenty of that at Piano World, and, with the rare exception, it ends badly. Rusbridger takes on the Chopin 1st Ballade in g minor opus 23, a difficult piece to be sure. There is one forum member that I know of who has successfully played the ballade and did a very good job of it - Sam Rose.
Rusbridger is definitely not a beginner though, but a re-starter, like so many here (myself included). And he seems to have a high level of skill at sight reading, since he regularly takes part in 4 and 8 hand playing sessions of transcriptions of orchestral works. He also does accompanying, and attends a summer music camp in France.
Working against him is his demanding work schedule. He tries to practice 20 minutes a day, but rarely is able to string more than a few days in a row together.
He does achieve his goal of playing the ballade for a group of friends, but it takes him eighteen months.
The value of the book, and what made it interesting for me, are the interviews and lessons he has with famous pianists. Rusbridger is what we call in the States, "a powerful and influential member of the media". He is able to talk to, and ask questions of, people like Emanuel Ax, Murray Perahia, Stephen Hough, Daniel Barenboim and others. I might even be able to play the ballade if I had that kind of encouragement! He also has lessons from multiple teachers. By the end of the book he has two grand pianos, a Fazioli and a Steinway!
But, as my mother always told me, "don't envy the rich" - he also has a demanding job with lots of pressure.
So the book is inspiring and a good read. The comments and insights by the professionals are the best part.
An annotated score of the ballade, including many of the professional comments, is available at Rusbridgers web site
. Very interesting reading.
So am I now going to tackle the g minor ballade? Probably not anytime soon. I prefer to work on pieces within my ability or slightly above my level - there is plenty of challenge there and some beautiful music.