T.E. Carhart has written the literary equivalent of Two Pianos, Four Hands. The Piano Shop On The West Bank lacks the humour of that smash hit play, but it traces the author's love affair with the piano with a ton of charm.The book begins when American expatriate Carhart meets Luc, the proprietor of a piano shop in the Paris quartier where the author lives and writes. Inspired by his new connection, Carhart decides to take up the piano again decades after leaving it behind. This flimsy narrative, though, is just a device on which to hang his reveries on the piano's social history, its inner workings and what it takes to get a beautiful sound out of it.
There are personal recollections, too. Carhart had his share of sadistic teachers -- didn't we all? -- but based on what he remembers and his experience auditing master classes in Paris, he comes up with some perceptive insights into the art of teaching.
Since the object of his passion, a glorious Stingl baby grand purchased with Luc's help, is in his own home, it's curious that Carhart's wife and children are almost completely absent from the proceedings. You get the sneaking suspicion that the personal discussion isn't entirely complete. But anybody trying to get great music off the page and into the keys will find The Piano Shop fascinating.
An excellent gift for the pianist in your life.