Books
 

The Composer's Landscape
The Pianist as Explorer - Interpreting the Scores of Eight Masters

published by Amadeus Press (AmadeusPress.com)

Derived from a popular series of lecture-recitals presented by Carol Montparker over the past several years, The Composer’s Landscape features eight insightful essays on the piano repertoire. Each chapter focuses on a single composer: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Chopin, and Mendelssohn. Montparker uses landscape as a metaphor for the score, whether it be a well-tended garden of Mozart or the thorny thickets on a Schumann page: the topographical peaks and valleys, the circuitous melodic lines, the thoroughfares where all the voices convene, and so on. The discussions include thoughtful suggestions for navigating these landscapes, which differ so greatly from one composer to the next, taking note of the essential technical and interpretive elements, as well as the challenges for the “explorer pianist.”

As an actively performing pianist, lecturer, teacher, music journalist, and author of six other books on music, Montparker has the experience and understanding to guide readers through these issues while elucidating the finer points. Woven into her text are excerpts from her interviews with world-renowned pianists, from Alfred Brendel to André Watts, conducted during her many years as senior editor of Clavier magazine. The book also includes images from original autograph manuscripts and a CD of Montparker performing selections by composers featured in the book.

A prolific writer and renowned pianist, Carol Montparker is a familiar name to anyone interested in the piano as a literary subject. Her previous volumes received praise from critics and public alike. In fact, one particular endorsement of the Anatomy of a New York Debut Recital (1981) caught my attention: “This superb diary was, without question, one of the most up-put-downable bits of music journalism that I have come across in many years.” That endorsement was written by Glenn Gould. I immediately bought a copy and started reading.

Montparker’s new book, The Composer’s Landscape, reflects the writer’s passion for the art of the piano, and inspires the reader to pursue further reading and listening. Especially helpful are the numberous quotations from a wide variety of experts in the field, including acclaimed concert pianists, celebrated teachers, and writers.

The relaxed writing style makes reading Montparker’s books a very pleasant activity. Her many years as a senior editor of Clavier (forerunner to this magazine) provide deep insights into the world of piano, piano literature, pianists, and audiences. Each of the book’s eight essays, inspired by her lecture series The Composer’s Landscape, is dedicated to the works of one composer. A “page from any score,” she says in the introduction, “is a landscape, with its own countours and terrain... a kind of visual depiction of the language.” Throughout, Montparker uses creative metaphors to describe the works descussed, while at the same time engaging help from pianists she interviewed for Clavier.

The essays are filled with pianistic gems. In particular, the writer’s direct connection to Chopin (through her teacher Leopold Mittman, who studied with Alexander Michalowski, who in turn studied with Carl Mikuli, Chopin’s most famous student) makes the chapter about Chopin an especially rewarding one. In addition, the book’s two appendices are taken from two of Montparker’s Clavier articles about the Chopin Barcarolle and the fourth Ballade. In those articles, which appeared in the magazine in 1983 and 1994-5 respectively, great pianists share their ideas about these masterworks. Almost every sentence becomes an aphorism, and it is enlightening to observe occasionally opposite points of view about the same work.

Montparker’s combination of personal experience with the works and input from celebrated masters creates an insightful collection of articles that can be equally enjoyed by both professional musicians and amateur music lovers. The attached CD, which includes the author’s beautiful performances of works by Bach, Chopin, Mozart, Shubert, Brahms, Beethoven, and Shumann, is a great addition. Highly reccomended. (Amadeus Press, 259 pages. $29.99)

ALEXANDRE DOSSIN
Professor of Piano, University of Oregon
Clavier Companion, March/April 2016

“Carol Montparker, a leading authority in the piano world is a superb teacher, an in-depth interviewer, the author of dozens of revelatory articles and books, including her admirable short story collection, The Blue Piano and Other Stories; but above all she is a distinguished concert pianist. Her first book, The Anatomy of a New York Debut Recital, has become a classic.

In her latest excursion, published by Amadeus Press, titled The Composer’s Landscape; the Pianist as Explorer she has written an indispensable volume of pianistic and musical wisdom. Her prose is clarity itself, but every page spells passion. This is hardly a volume for just pianists, but for anyone that cherishes the Art of Music. It is divided into eight chapters exploring in depth, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Chopin, and Mendelssohn. In each chapter of The Composer’s Landscape Carol Montparker roams far and wide, indeed revealing new vistas. The book contains an important bonus, a CD of her own beautiful playing of these composers she loves so well.”

DAVID DUBAL
Author, Pianist, radio host, Professor at Juilliard School of Music

Carol Montparker is a well-known author and editor. She has written six previous books and was the senior editor of Clavier Companion for 15 years. However, what makes her new book The Composer’s Lanscape so intriguing is her unique perspective, gained over many years, as an active recitalist. Montparker’s “landscape” refers to the score and its topographical look, including musical valleys and mountain peaks. This book is based on a series of lectures she gave as a Steinway artist covering eight landmark composers: Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Chopin, and Mendelssohn. Each chapter is devoted to an overview of one composer and representative examples of his keyboard music. The book is a fascinating mixture of Montparker’s personal insights and 31 interviews with such famous pianists as Andras Schiff, Claude Frank, Byron Janis, Nadia Reisenberg, Gary Graffman, Rudolf Firkusny, James Tocco, Ruth Laredo, Jerome Lowenthal, Garrick Ohlsson and Radu Lupu, among others.

The book is intended for the serious pianist, not the beginner. Montparker’s writing style is both clear and concise. Her imagery is effective and even poetic. “When we first open a page by Bach,” she writes, “we should feel like a child with crayons, confronted with a fresh page of a coloring book.” Her views are also refreshing. For example, she feels that Bach music must “breathe” and have some degree of freedom or rubato. Mozart’s piano music is operatic and contains characters and caricatures. Beethoven’s music expresses his humanity. Chopin’s beautiful but often difficult music requires attention to careful and consistent fingering. There are many more examples.

One of Montparker’s central themes is that imagination is critical for a truly artistic performance of any composition. It is that quality that separates mediocre pianists from artists. A second theme is that there is never one single right interpretation or approach to a composer. For example, Montparker writes honestly about her own thought process and agony when she added her own cadenza to a Mozart concerto. A third theme is that Montparker prefers to interpret the great masters on modern instruments rather than on period insturments preferred by musical fundamentalists.

The book contains a wealth of information and would make a fine addition to any talented painist’s library. The appendix contains a more detailed discussion of Chopin’s Barcolle and Fourth Ballade. There is also an accompanying CD of Montparker’s performances of pieces by seven of the eight composers.

ERNEST J. KRAMER
Northwest Missouri State University

 

A Pianist's Journal in Venice

available on (Amazon.com)

A Pianist's Journal in Venice is a fanciful departure from the essays and stories of pianist Carol Montparker's other books. This latest book is, first, a celebration of the beautiful city from the pianist's personal experience: a kind of musical travel journal, from the tintinnabulation of church-bells to the song of the merlo nero, from Bach played on old church organs, to the ubiquitous strains of Vivaldi; and finally, to Chopin's own paean to Venice, the Barcarolle.

The book is also an exploration of how three modes of expression: music, painting, and writing, coalesce into one inspired attempt to capture the magical atmosphere of Venice. Last, there is the fantasy-within-the-journal, an imaginative and mysterious réverie in an ancient rose-colored palazzo.

 

A Pianist's Homecoming: Chronicle II

available on (Amazon.com)

Carol Montparker’s newly published sequel to the well-loved book, Anatomy of a New York Debut Recital, that became a little classic, and an essential part of music libraries in universities and conservatories. One pianist’s compelling personal accounts in diary-form of the emotional roller-coaster of preparation and performance-- the sheer exhilaration to the anxieties, told with humor and surprising candor, have proven to be universal, according to the overwhelming number of responses from students to renowned artists over the years.

The late great pianist Glenn Gould called the first Chronicle “the most un-put-downable piece of music journalism I have come across in many years.”
So here it is 35 years later, another, even more probing Chronicle, written by the same pianist/author, and former Senior Editor of Clavier magazine, who returned to the same recital hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City for a Special Birthday Celebration concert.

 

The Blue Piano and Other Stories

published by Amadeus Press (AmadeusPress.com)

Carol Montparker's 31 new stories are remarkable for their frankness and emotional honesty. Creative nonfiction from a life in music, they are in turn tender and intense, lyrical and riotously funny. There is a poignant friendship with the elderly, irresistible Rudi; the anguish of a marriage that needed to end; true love found later; a narrow escape from an outlandishly surreal piano; moving tales from her teaching studio, each story with its own satisfying shape and rhythm.

Fans of Carol Montparker's previous books, A Pianist's Landscape and The Anatomy of a New York Debut Recital, and her columns for Clavier, will devour these new revelations. Carol articulates thoughts that most of us cannot articulate; she has an artist's eye, a musician's ear, and a gifted writer's knack for description, but it is her uncanny ability to evoke a response as she looks back over a real life from a vantage point of subsequent happiness that will prevent readers from putting down this collection until they have read every single piece.

This is certainly the Carol Montparker we have come to know from her other writing, but she reveals more of herself and her past. Each challenge, encounter, and turning point rings true with joy, humor, hilarity, sorrow, rage, pain, bewilderment, satisfaction, awe, peace--we trust the sensitive voice of a person who recounts aspects of her life in all fairness. Rare will be the reader who is not brought to tears and giggles by these human stories of an artist and woman of uncommon insight.

"The pianist's latest book deserves to be read by anyone who plays or wishes to play or ever wished to play the piano, and by everyone else too. She writes about music in a sane, wise, humane voice in this charming, instructive, often moving collection."
-- Michael Kimmelman, Chief Art Critic, The New York Times, pianist

"Carol Montparker, pianist and a vocational painter, writes with warm, subtle colors and lines of delicate precision. Her autobiographical stories sparkle with vignettes of people, places and pets, but their deeper subject is that of the woman pianist in a male-dominated world. The subject is not new, but Ms. Montparker brings to it a rewarding freshness of insight."
-- Jerome Lowenthal, Faculty Juilliard School, pianist

"Carol Montparker has revealed the very nerve center of her inner life as a woman and musician. These thirty-one short stories are full of surprises, adventures, indeed, sensitivities of many kinds. They are tender-hearted and passionate, each polished in prose that rivets the reader---perfect cameos which linger long in the heart."
--
David Dubal, Author, Host, Reflections from the Piano, WQXR radio, pianist

"If you buy only one book this year, it should be this one. Many teachers may remember Carol Montparker from her column in Clavier magazine. Ms. Montparker is a Steinway Artist and performer of solo and chamber music. She is a teacher, visual artist, writer, and beautiful person. This book is a collection of stories from her life. They are written in such a way that I felt as if she were communicating them only to me, and, after reading them we became very close friends. The stories were inspiring, funny, poignant, and need to be read again and again. This is the book you buy and give to special friends. Carol Montparker has written a book that is a treasured glimpse into the life of an extraordinary person."
-- Dr. Vicki King,
Piano Guild Notes

"Of course it is deliciously apt that this unusual, well-written collection of 31 autobiographical stories by concert pianist, painter, music teacher, writer, editor, and gardener, Carol Montparker, should be published by a press called Amadeus, (the author’s favorite composer.) Although all the stories in The Blue Piano have music at the center, they radiate and resonate as a sustained creative narrative about “reckoning” with life, musically and personally. The collection sings with a lyrical beauty about the pleasures and pains of being a professional artist´┐Ż Clearly Montparker has mastered the pitch, rhythms, and colors of good prose as well as those of the keyboard. Though basically chronological, the stories reflect a knowing sense of the elements of good story-telling selective structure and details, continuity of theme, and a diverse cast of secondary characters."
--
Joan Baum,
The Independent (L.I.--the Hamptons, and North Fork)

"This collection by Carol Montparker, providing 31 short stories covering musicianship and adventures in the music world, is hard to easily categorize: the stories represent very real insights into the music world and sensibility, yet contain the passion and vivid descriptions of fiction. Suffice it to say that musicians in general, and pianists in particular will relish these lyrical first-person insights."
--
The Midwest Book Review

"Carol Montparker has enriched the lives of music teachers for many years through her work as an editor and regular columnist for Clavier, and her first two books. In her latest book she weaves together a collage of short vignettes concerning her multi-faceted life. This book’s 31 short chapters gracefully narrate a wide array of subjects reminiscences, reflections Montparker’s ability to bring matters of the heart to the printed page is evident throughout.her craftsmanship as a wordsmith shines through. She willingly shares the highs and lows of her life, provoking joy at one moment and serious contemplation the next. Through her skillful writing, she draws the reader into her world and graciously recounts significant moments and experiences.

A wonderful volume for vacation or leisure reading, this book is a perfect accompaniment to a day at the beach or an evening by the fireplace with a good cup of coffee. The stories will warm your heart and hopefully remind you of the profound joys of music-making, music teaching, and life."
-- Steve Betts, American Piano Teacher

"Anyone who appreciates culture and nature will enjoy The Blue Piano and Other Stories by Carol Montparker. This book is almost therapeutic for teachers ..I was moved by many of the chapters, yet found myself laughing out loud in others. Her love of writing, traveling, watercolor painting, gardening and nature come through. For pianists and teachers the stories of her work with students are especially inspiring. Montparker is a wonderful storyteller, and her straightforward, open style is refreshing."
-- Lynette Zelis, Clavier

"The author's ability to balance the tragic consequences of human frailty with an erudite if obstinate optimism gives this book the rare quality of being untiringly readable. . . . The Blue Piano powerfully conveys the endogenous talent, hard work and self-discipline required to succeed as a professional artist. Yet the author communicates the positive value of all her experiences so entertainingly that it's not so much her success as a concert pianist the reader admires as her understanding, her talent for witty observation and her enviable peace of mind."
-- Good Reading Magazine

". . . [Carol Montparker] evokes a true sense of atmosphere in real life stories that are forthright and witty. . . [Her] boundless enthusiasm for life far exceeds the parameters of a musician's life and her responses to challenges and encounters along the way will ring true for all readers, not only pianists. Compelling and delightful reading." 
-- Music Teacher Magazine

"Readers will be moved to both tears and laughter as they work their way through these clever and intriguing stories that are torn from real life. It is a real treat."
-- Alan Caruba, www.bookviews.com

" . . . The stories represent very real insights into the music world and sensibility, yet contain the passion and vivid descriptions of fiction. Suffice it to say that musicians in general and pianists in particular will relish these lyrical first-person insights."
-- The Bookwatch

 "These short stories and essays are some of [Montparker's] memories, 'harvested' from the life of an unusually widely talented, perceptive and sensitive artist . . . . It is her talent for communication that makes this book so totally engaging. . . . The charm of these stories will fascinate musicians and non-musicians alike." 
-- Piano Professional UK

 

This personal diary kept by a pianist preparing for her Carnegie Recital Hall debut in New York, is a provocative account of the entire experience from the moment of decision, through months of work and development to the event itself.

Told with humor and surprising candor, it probes and reveals her innermost responses and takes the reader along on a roller-coaster of emotions from terror to exhilaration.

Excerpts from this Chronicle by Carol Montparker about her Carnegie debut recital, were included in the extraordinary book titled, Ariadne’s Thread; A Collection of Contemporary Women’s Diaries and Journals, edited by Lyn Lifshin and published by Harper and Row (1982.) Some of the other women whose journals were excerpted in this anthology are Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, May Sarton, Maxine Kumin, Eleanor Coppola, and many others.

"This superb diary was without question, one of the most un-put-downable bits of music journalism that I have come across in many years."
-- GLENN GOULD

"I was on my way to do a recital on the West Coast when I read your book. Seeing how much it meant to you to have the privilege of playing the great works, and sharing the miracle of their creation with your public, and your humility throughout, awoke in me that which was temporarily dormant...my own feeling of being privileged to be a concert pianist. Thank you for your inspiring book."
-- HORACIO GUTIERREZ

"I greatly admired your Anatomy of a New York Debut Recital when it first came out and just now I have hunted it down in my library and found it to be just as good as I remembered it. Rereading it gave me a flush of satisfaction. Over the years I have always been impressed by your thoughtful, direct approach."
--
DONAL HENAHAN, The New York Times

"Probably the best book about music anywhere!"
-- ROBERT SILVERMAN, Publisher, The Piano Quarterly

"I read your book with delight and I plan to write about the pleasure, enlightenment, and interest it gave me."
--
ANDREW PORTER, The New Yorker

"Pianist writes Jewel of a Journal...a delicious little book...quirky insights."
-- ROBERT FINN, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

This book is sold exclusively at this website. To purchase a copy of Anatomy of a New York Debut Recital please go to the Order page or click Here.

 

 

A Pianist's Landscape
published by Amadeus Press (AmadeusPress.com)

I find your playing to be unfailingly graceful and affecting. You are a real artist, which is also made clear by your book....It is a model of its kind, touching and clever and invaluable as a chronicle of musical self-exploration.
MICHAEL KIMMELMAN, The New York Times

I found your book quite fascinating--full of detail and informed by your warm musician's heart.
TIM PAGE, The Washington Post

One of the chief delights of A Pianist's Landscape is that it is so engagingly well written: it opens things up to the lay reader without the slightest hint of awkwardness or pretension. Montparker talks about what musicians think, how they interact, their foibles, joys and fears, with the ease of someone talking about what's growing in her garden. The writing is direct, the expression of thoughts and feelings remarkably concrete. And yet there is great finesse as well. As an avid watercolorist, Montparker naturally knows that much can be suggested by a small gesture. She paints a picture of her own domestic life, surrounded by objets d'art and serenaded by avian songsters, that immediately invites the reader to share in her pleasure. TED LIBBEY, The Washington Post

I would like to tell you how much I enjoyed your book. It is beautiful, full of colour and vitality, moving forward, yet dwelling so lovingly over many significant details. You paint very touching portraits and know so well how to tell a story. You have insight and describe things with so much candor and sensitivity. RADU LUPU

A Pianist's Landscape reveals the interior world of a total musician. Carol Montparker writes with courage, grace, wit, and passion about the mundane as well as the sublime aspects of being a pianist. From the magically inspiring song of the thrush to the amusing anxieties of concert hall disasters--this landscape is filled with riches for the reader's pleasure. Professionals, non-musicians, and all the degrees between the two will be captivated by the musical heart and mind revealed in this book.
ANDRE WATTS

"Although I confess not to have read every word of your manuscript, (as most of my spare time is occupied by my own scribbling or poetry readings) what I saw of your book is truly charming. You have the rare gift of engaging the reader, an effortless command of words, and an ingratiating turn of the phrase." ALFRED BRENDEL

"The unquenchable and world-straddling nature of [Montparker's] interests, to which this book bears witness, . . . confirms why she is such an inspired interviewer. . . . Her sensitive antennae allow her to pick up all that is most characteristic in the musical culture of her era..Having spent so many years interviewing the great an the good of the musical profession-framing questions for others to answer it must be as much a relief for Carol Montparker as it is for us, her readers, to have her at last dealing herself with these same issues in the depth, eloquence and personal candour they deserve. In fact, one might describe the whole book at an interview conducted this time with herself" 

MALCOLM TROUP, Piano Journal, Winter 1999

"Her sense of music as a spontaneous adventure and her reverence for the piano as a link to ones inner life show through in this variegated collection of essays. Her explorations of the pianist’s predicament are like variegated preludes in such keys as memorizing, practicing, choice of instrument, performing, teaching, and child-rearing."Keyboard Companion, 1999

"Thoroughly engaging....Her essays will be enjoyed not by musicians only, but by all music lovers who want to be swept away by an honest and warm description of an artist’s life and its trials and rewards. " ALAN HIRSCH, Booklist

To purchase a copy of " A Pianist's Landscape,"
please click on the link to AmadeusPress.com

 

Polly and the Piano
published by Amadeus Press (AmadeusPress.com)

A new book from Carol Montparker about love, The Love between a Pianist and her Dog, and their Love of Music.

This beautiful story of a concert pianist and Polly, her constant companion, describes their preparation for a concert at Carnegie Hall.

Together they accomplish a memorable and extraordinary concert.

In page after page of affectionate text and spontaneous watercolors, the author, pianist Carol Montparker, depicts their work and their play. The story is a musical fairy tale that  will charm both adults and children; with a special gift to readers of a CD of the piano recital !* (Just as Polly heard it being practiced and performed-- and drawn from live performances by Ms. Montparker).

NOW AVAILABLE: Polly and the Piano - Program for schools and libraries!
Read the program description from the author, Carol Montparker.

 

"Just as much as buying for gourmands, sports fans or train fanatics, hunting down the right gift for the classical lover is treacherous business. Procuring the right gift for the novice is even tougher, with the buyer inevitably lost in rows of classical bins a mile wide and an inch deep.

Choosing classical for children? Despite the inviting illustration on the cover, the music inside can be condescending.

This year's gift bag from recording companies and publishers contains the usual marketing concepts in search of an artistic raison d'etre. Yet some diamonds are hidden among the lumps of coal.

For children:
Polly and the Piano (Amadeus Press) is about a dog who follows her pianist-owner to the stage of Carnegie Hall. Carol Montparker tells the tale from the dog's point of view, illustrating it with generous watercolors. The CD tucked in the back of the book is not related to the story, but contains Montparker performing Mozart, Schubert, Chopin and Ravel. What's surprising about the disc is that it does not speak down to children: It is absolutely adult music, played superbly, which is something children almost always respond to in a more engaged way than grown-ups expect."

-- Peter Dobrin, Music Critic, Philadelphia Inquirer

"Parents who would like to instill an appreciation of classical music in their children should check out this lovely story. . . The watercolour paintings are gorgeous . . ."
-- Modern Dog, Spring 2005

 " . . . delightful. You not only get the book, but a [CD with] selection[s] from Mozart, Schubert, Chopin and Ravel to enjoy. . . It is a heartwarming story, particularly well suited to any family that enjoys music."
-- www.bookviews.com

 

"Polly and the Piano, written and illustrated with watercolors by Carol Montparker, Amadeus Press, hardcover 1  57467-093-X, 40 pages with a previously unreleased live CD of piano music from Montparker’s debut at Carnegie Hall.

If ever a book and CD could introduce great music to children, this is the one. The story, with charming illustrations by the author, tell of her dog’s introduction to music, and her enthusiasm for the piano playing of her mistress, and preparations for her Carnegie debut.

What makes this book a standout is the CD. Ms, Montparker’s playing is sensitive to nuance, and phrased with an understanding of the big architecture of the music that marks great playing. The works by Mozart, Schubert, Chopin and Ravel are felicitous choices for children. The best way to introduce children to classical music is the through quality pieces of great beauty ravishingly played. Children and their parents will bond with this book and CD. If you only to choose one gift for a child, this is the one.

Amadeus plans to release a series of books with music for children. This first is an outstanding accomplishment. We look forward with relish to other titles, and we hope this one will be read soon in classrooms around the country."
-- RP & FK, Vocal Images

*(The CD includes a Mozart sonata, two Schubert Klavierstcke, three Chopin compositions, and the Ravel Sonatine.)
 

All content in this website is © Carol Montparker, 2001-2014. All rights reserved.

 
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