A discerning examination of eight composers
and their masterworks, through a pianist's eyes.
Derived from a popular series of lecture-recitals presented by
Carol Montparker over the past several years, The Composer’s
Landscape ($29.99, September 19, Amadeus Press) 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.
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.”
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
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
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 series of Audio Books based on
the series of CDs (below) is being produced by Amadeus Press, to
begin appearing in September as well.