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A thoroughly absorbing and entertaining read for anyone whose rekindled amateur passion for a musical instrument seduces them into punching way above their technical weight. Alan Rusbridger, Editor-in-chief of the Guardian newspaper, walks a mile or six in his pianistic moccasins and this account of his courageous (not to say outrageous) project will surely prod many of his readers to attempt the same.His bar by bar dissection of the trials and tribulations of tackling a virtuosic Chopin Ballade inside 12 months and then performing it in public is bang on the money - you will sweat, tremble, rage and weep every step of the way with him. It undoubtedly helps that he has a genie-like facility for summoning up a succession of distinguished concert pianists, who drop by to dispense timely words of advice and wisdom. But not much, and there's no escaping the eagle-eyed gaze of his piano teacher who can spot every misplaced finger from the far end of a Steinway grand.

Even those who think they haven't a musical molecule in their bodies will find this book well worth reading just for its back story - Rusbridger's exhausting editorial, cultural and social schedule, and the struggle to manage a series of iconic national and international news stories as they explode all around him. Piano magic, newspaper hell! Or is it the other way around? Take a look at the annotated score in the book's appendix and decide for yourselves...

Rececca Foster

Even for someone like me who has never taken a single music lesson, this book is a fascinating, unpredictable, and wide-ranging gem. It’s also a reassuring tale of setting a seemingly unattainable goal at a (somewhat) advanced age and a frantic time of life – the stereotypical triumph of the human spirit, but with a melodic and pleasant freshness that will keep you reading.

Faith McLellan

Splendid and absorbing. Sending me back to the piano!