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England's Piano Sage

The Life and Teachings of Tobias Matthay

Stephen Siek

Hardback
Pianist and teacher Tobias Matthay (1858-1945) widely believed that science could unlock the secrets of artistic success. Thus began a program of musical instruction and writing on piano technique that bespoke his reverence for observation and reasoning in the playing of piano. His students would later include major concert pianists of the post-World War I era—York Bowen, Dame Myra Hess, Sir Clifford Curzon, Harriet Cohen, Eileen Joyce, and Dame Moura Lympany—who advanced British pianism in the 20th century.

In England's Piano Sage, scholar and pianist Stephen Siek tells the story of Matthay, who began teaching at London's Royal Academy of Music in 1880 and two decades later had so many students that he had to open his own piano school in London. After World War I, student enrollments approached some 500 students, and no conservatory in the world produced so many finished pianists. By 1925 his towering status in Britain reached across the Atlantic with the founding of the American Matthay Association and the adoption of his ideas by Yale and Juilliard. From these heights, Matthay's reputation would experience a precipitous fall, from his forced resignation from the Royal Academy to the barrage of criticism attacking his theories.

Rich in detail, Siek's book chronicles the personal and professional story of a remarkable man whose monumental achievements now largely lay forgotten but clearly deserve a second look. In this comprehensive biography, Siek offers a modern reassessment of Matthay's contribution, exploring not only the great piano theorist's life but also his musical compositions, writings on piano technique, relationship to the Royal Academy of Music, his successful piano school on London's Wimpole Street, and the many world-famous pianists he would come to train on both sides of the Atlantic.

Drawing on archival documentation, including dozens of letters that have never before seen print, England's Piano Sage will be of interest to music historians, piano enthusiasts, and professional musicians, who will find in Siek's narrative both the story of a great theorist and the history of the theoretical tradition of piano technique.
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Scarecrow Press
Pages: 472Size: 6 3/8 x 9 1/2
978-0-8108-8161-7 • Hardback • December 2011 • $76.00 • (£49.95)
Stephen Siek is a pianist and musicologist with an extensive background in the teaching principles of Tobias Matthay. He is professor of music at Wittenberg University.
An astonishing book ... it serves as a brilliant condensation of ... fascinating insights into the lifetime and lifestyle of this deep-thinker into all matters pianistic.
Piano Journal


Anyone interested in piano pedagogy or great piano teachers ... will find this book a fascinating and instructive read by simply opening [it] up to any page.... Highly recommended.
The Classical Music Guide


Scarecrow Press have produced an impressive volume. ... This book. . . will encourage me to explore the legacy of his pupils with greater interest and understanding. For someone who majors in performance technique this book is a treasure trove. There is also much to interest the specialist of English music: Matthay’s compositions for piano and orchestra are explored in some depth.
MusicWeb International


Stephen Siek has written a defining work about Tobias Matthay, a valuable addition to any piano library. At a time when the piano world is changing rapidly, Siek's detailed research into the late Victorian musical world in London is enormously readable, and places Matthay's evolving theories about piano art in context to the musical world of his times.
John Kenneth Adams, professor emeritus of piano, University of South Carolina


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