Book of the month: The lost pianos of Siberia
by Sophy Roberts
I have always loved to share my readings but this story, so a true story, has moved me so much and is so much part of the construction of my musical universe, that I finally find a real motivation, even obligation, to report to you. I write it for all of you who love books, music, music in books, men and women of music, musicians and especially all pianists, who if they do not already know this book, will surely find themselves there.
It is also the first newsletter on my site. Good discovery!
Sophy Roberts is a writer and journalist. This story tells of her quest for a piano in Siberia for the young Mongolian pianist talent, Odgerel Sampilnorov. Odgerel is wonderfully gifted and studied piano at the Perugia Conservatory in Italy. Back in Mongolia, she plays an old "out of whack" Yamaha half-tail that she drags around in the steppe. It was there in a gers, a Mongolian tent, that Sophy Roberts discovered her in 2015 and became friends with the 19-year-old.
It is already a fabulous story to imagine this concert where Chopin's music rises in the middle of the steppe, mingling with the rustling of the camp, herds of yaks, fires where the goat meat crackles, that will be tasted after the concert! Here is a version of the oriental musical salon that I find quite exciting! But that's not the purpose of the book... This is just the prologue. Then begins this long quest in time and space of Siberia. The orientation of the reader is facilitated by the presence of maps where the stage cities are highlighted. A chapter, a region and with a little bit of luck some lost pianos... and above all the history of a country-continent and its men and women.
I learned at school the key steps of history of this empire, which became the USSR and Russia that we know today, the names of its leaders: Catherine the Great, the last tsar, Stalin, Gorbachov... Many places have magical sounds, such as Baikal, Altai or the famous Akademgorodok City of Sciences. And unfortunately we cannot talk about Siberia without thinking of the horror of the gulags, the camps where all opponents of the regime were sent, and this since the time of the tsars.
But what will remain of this story are the multiple and yet unique encounters of the author with the inhabitants of these countries where the living conditions are so harsh: men and women who have lived a thousand lives and terrible experiences, and yet who joke, are curious about this English journalist and her completely crazy quest... and who will help her.
Of course, the book is rich in music. We will learn how exceptional pianos arrived in these remote corners of Siberia, why there are concert halls throughout Siberia... And we will understand why this quest is so important not only for the author but for each of us. You don't have to be a fan of musical antiques to be touched by this story, which simply tells us that music can save your life.
We will of course meet composers, Chopin, Shostakovich, Tchaikovsky ... the great Russian performers, the brothers Rubinstein and Richter, who himself traveled to Siberia to give concerts (journey retraced by Valentina Tchemberdji in "Sviatoslav Richter, chronicle of a trip to Siberia".)
I think I will write more posts on this book. But here is already the first draft. In addition to the maps, the chapters are punctuated by moving black and white photos, a rich bibliography and a very practical historical chronology... and there is obviously the discovery of this pianist, Odgerel Sampilnorov and the eponymous site www.lostpianoofsiberia.com
Thank you for leaving me your comments and sharing!
I would also like to thank the bookseller of " Feuilles d'Encre " in Colmar who recommended this book to me during my last visit seeing my interest in all books on the theme of music!