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Fiction and Nonfiction About Classical Musicians

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Yesterday, I review The Ensemble: A Novel by Aja Gabel. Today I’m presenting more novels that deal the world of classical music.

Fiction

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Richard is a renowned concert pianist struck down by A.L.S. His ex-wife Karina must step in to care for her ex-husband, the father of her child. Heart-wrenching as only Lisa Genova can make a story. Every Note Played.

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Superfluous Reading introduced me to this one via their review last week. The story is of Susanna, an adopted child still struggling with her birth mother’s “rejection.” Suddenly she loses her “spark” right when a big audition promises to launch her career as a pianist. I have not read this one yet. The Sound Between the Notes by Barbara Linn Probst.

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Claude is a poor kid with a bad piano and a gift for music. It takes him out of his world and into a new one. Frank Conroy was one of the first author’s I had to read in college and I still love Stop Time, the book I had to read. This one, which I read years ago when it came out, is just as amazing. Body & Soul: A Novel by Frank Conroy.

I teenage cellist Mia is in a life-changing accident: Does she choose to live or die? The first book is from her perspective, the second from the point of view of her boyfriend, Adam. I couldn’t put these two down and I am not a big YA fan. If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Foreman.

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This book, from 1981, caught my attention when it came out. I fell in love because the main character was from Hammond, Indiana, not New York City, she played the clarinet in a school band, but took private lessons and became good enough to study at Indiana University. I was at I.U. when this came out. The School of Music was then excellent. Violinist Joshua Bell was a child prodigy and Leonard Bernstein spent a semester as Composer In Residence–all while I was an undergraduate. This is also an older man/younger woman story–so there was a lot to recommend it to me. It’s been too long for me to comment on the quality of the writing or anything, but I’m including it in this list for sentimental reasons.

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Another one from 1981, Playing From Memory, tells the story of a violinist  in a successful string quartet, a husband and father, who develops Multiple Sclerosis. I remember crying when I read this one back in the day. I also still have a copy of this one somewhere. Playing From Memory by David Milofsky.

Nonfiction

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This was MY orchestra–just like the Cubs and the Bears were our family’s sports team, the Chicago Symphony and, of course the nation’s favorite, the Boston Pops with Arthur Fiedler, were a fixture in my teen years. I had several recordings. On a trip to Chicago I found this book on the remainder pile and snapped it up. I loved seeing the “real life” of the famed conductor, Sir Georg Solti, his much younger wife, and the entire orchestra as they went on tour. The Chicago Symphony is mostly a book of photographs.

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Think of this as Bobby Knight and Season on the Brink but for classical music!  A Season With Solti by William Barry Furlong.

And One Movie

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While not as good as it should have been with such an excellent cast, The Quartet is still worth watching.

Other Lists

Ten of the Best (and Worst) Novels About Composers link

Twelve of the Best Books Featuring Classical Music link

Barnes and Noble Classical Music–Fiction link

11 Musical Novels That Hit the Right Notes  link

7 thoughts on “Fiction and Nonfiction About Classical Musicians

  1. As you might suspect, several of these look interesting to me. I love your history with the Chicago Symphony and the Solti book. I loved the few times I got to hear classical concerts in my youth (thanks to Community Concerts bringing symphonies to town). I read “Mozart in the Jungle” when it came out and was horrified by that author’s description of what it was like to be a professional musician. I can only hope she’s an aberration!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh gosh! I forgot that one! LOL Mozart in the Jungle! Oh well, I’ll start a list for Post II lol You might enjoy The Ensemble knowing that there WILL be that pesky p.c. person—but she isn’t around for long.

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  2. “this is also an older man/younger woman story–”
    Me: *ziplining to an Interlibrary Loan request faster than you can play a clarinet note*

    I didn’t know how much I wanted stories with classical-music themes until I started scanning down your list and they all started looking wonderful. I’ve been meaning to read the first one and the Gayle Forman duology, but the others are all new to me. I especially love that the premise of Every Note Played seems like a variation on Playing From Memory, so maybe I can get a 2 for 1. Or at the very least, if one doesn’t live up to my expectations, I’ll have a second chance…

    –RS

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I loved looking at your list of books. I read Every Note Played by Lisa Genova. I gave it a very high rating, 5 Stars. Since I love classical music, I know I’d really enjoy so many of the books on your list.

    Liked by 1 person

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