Friday, January 21, 2022

The Piano Shop on the Left Bank

This is such a dear little book. Piano in Paris. If you love good writing, music, and France, you will probably love this book. 

Here is why James Mustich thinks it should be one of the 1000 Books You Read Before You Die:

Every morning, as he walked his children to school through his Paris neighborhood, American transplant Thad Carhart passed a modest storefront that intrigued him. “Desforges Pianos: outillage, fournitures” announced its stenciled sign, and the tools and components of piano repair displayed in its window—tightening wrenches, tuning pins, pieces of felt, small pieces of hardware—illustrated the work that went on behind the glass. Venturing inside on several occasions to express his interest in acquiring a used piano, Carhart was mysteriously rebuffed. The shop seemed as determined in its reserve as the most punctilious Parisian aristocrat. Carhart’s cracking of the code of that reserve—he must, he learns, be recommended to the shop by one of its existing customers—is his first step into the “intricate world of mutual trust and obligation” that is the city’s hidden community, “the complicated network of local relationships that it was extremely difficult for a foreigner to penetrate.” Carhart effortlessly delivers an informative course in the history and construction of pianos and offers more insight into the French temperament than you might discover in a dozen weightier tomes. Best of all, he introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters, including the tuner Jos, who sleeps in empty trains; Carhart’s Hungarian teacher, Anna, who reacquaints the author with the pleasures of Bach and Bartók, Schumann and Schubert; and, most memorably, Luc, the master of the atelier, whose expertise and gift for friendship is portrayed with great affection.

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