by James Barron
Times, 280 pp., $24
James Barron's Piano: The Making of a Steinway Concert Grand joins Simon Winchester's The Professor and the Madman: A Tale of Murder, Insanity, and the Making of the Oxford English Dictionary and Richard Rhodes' The Making of the Atomic Bomb in the ranks of exceptional "making-of books" written for an audience beyond the academic experts who might ordinarily be expected to take an interest in their topics. For the right person, these books are page-turners, not how-to books. With Piano, one comes away with a depth of knowledge, appreciation, and perhaps affection for one of music engineering's greatest achievements, not to mention the stubbornness and glory of a company that continues to craft in the grand old tradition. While its competitors have moved into the age of mechanization and beyond, Steinway still builds an amazing amount of its pianos virtually by hand. The biography follows its main character, the Steinway concert grand named K0862, from the lumberyard to the concert stage with stops along the way to explore the history of Steinway and Sons. Painstakingly researched and engagingly written, the book is a quick and satisfying read. Now find an upcoming UT faculty piano recital at Bates Recital Hall and go listen to the crown jewel of Austin pianos, the Bates' Steinway D.
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