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Play It Again

An Amateur Against The Impossible

This book can be downloaded and read in Apple Books on your Mac or iOS device.


In 2010, Alan Rusbridger, the editor of the Guardian, set himself an almost impossible task: to learn, in the space of a year, Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 – a piece that inspires dread in many professional pianists.

His timing could have been better.

The next twelve months were to witness the Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami, the English riots, and the Guardian’s breaking of both WikiLeaks and the News of the World hacking scandal.

In the midst of this he carved out twenty minutes’ practice a day – even if that meant practising in a Libyan hotel in the middle of a revolution as well as gaining insights and advice from an array of legendary pianists, theorists, historians and neuroscientists, and even occasionally from secretaries of state.

But was he able to play the piece in time?

From Publishers Weekly

24 June 2013 – The struggle to keep up an inspiring musical hobby while maintaining a manic, high-powered career animates this sprightly memoir. Rusbridger, editor of London s Guardian newspaper and an amateur pianist, spent 18 months learning Chopin s Ballade in G Minor, a piece whose treacherous rhythms, blindingly fast filigree, thunderous chords, and death-defying keyboard leaps give fits to concert virtuosos. Rusbridger s account of trying to learn this widow-maker by practicing 20 minutes a day longer sessions resulted in burning shoots of pain makes an absorbing study in the intricate, exasperating physical niceties of high-performance piano playing. (His long-winded conversations with concert pianists from Daniel Barenboim to Murray Perahia on the meaning and emotional impact of the piece are less interesting, as talk about music tends to be; their pens es are usually as inchoate as Chopin s chromaticisms.) Meanwhile, Rusbridger handles breaking news (at one point he finds himself rehearsing the piece in war-torn Tripoli) and collaborates with Julian Assange on WikiLeaks revelations. The reader follows Rusbridger as he squeezes practice and a social life built around impromptu musicales into an unforgiving news cycle; the result is a vibrant tale of work-life balance and an imaginative case for the continuing importance of amateurism in a world fixated on professional expertise. Photos.

Customer Reviews


For any amateur learning piano this is fascinating insight into one way of balancing a hectic lifestyle with goal orientated practice. Furthermore the window into the world of high end journalism is truly engaging. An excellent read...

Play It Again
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  • £7.99
  • Available on iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, and Mac.
  • Category: Biography
  • Published: 17 January 2013
  • Publisher: Random House
  • Print Length: 416 Pages
  • Language: English
  • Requirements: This book can only be viewed on an iOS device with Apple Books on iOS 12 or later, iBooks 1.3.1 or later and iOS 4.3.3 or later or a Mac with iBooks 1.0 or later and OS X 10.9 or later.

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