Picks and Pans Review: Piano Lessons
This amiable but bland journal recounts the year Adams, the host of NPR's All Things Considered, spent when, at 51, he surrendered to his lifelong passion and bought an upright Steinway piano. Like any kid whose parents make him do it, Adams struggles daily to learn chords and fingering and often as not puts off practicing for hours, days, even weeks. And he despairs that he'll never fulfill his dream of mastering Schumann's "Träumerei."
There are lots of pleasant discursions into the instrument's history and players both famous and lesser known. ("From the moment I learned there were keys to be mashed, I started mashing 'em, trying to make sounds out of feelings," says Ray Charles, while ABC correspondent John Hockenberry, a paraplegic, describes how he compensated for not using the pedals.) Unfortunately their voices are more compelling than Adams's; he isn't an arresting enough writer to take us to that place where the soul, the instrument and the music achieve sublime fusion. By book's end, Adams has learned "Träumerei" and plays it for his wife, but even that emotional highlight falls flat. (Delacorte, $20.95)