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In America, in the modernist world, this is now and was already then just not possible. People are too disconnected from themselves to succeed in being connected with others and the few attempts at it (say the Beats, the Harry Partch or La Monte Young circles) just go to prove that the ability to create such an environment has been lost. There is much that could be written about this subject. It is vast, but it bears mightily upon Siloti's life.

This book is a magnificent contribution to musical literature and should be read by any who wonder what pianists once were: highly intelligent, cultured and at the pinnacle of society. Barber tells a good story (and there are numerous great stories to tell, including an espionage connection that would satisfy Hollywood, and ought to be made into a film). Occasionally there are lapses of chronology that might confuse and I do feel that Barber is tentative in elaborating some ideas; partly, I expect because he does not want to exceed the scope of the evidence. This is a modern failing of scholarship, but Barber knows his subject so well that he is really entitled to delve deep into Siloti's mind. I should mention that it is obvious that Barber is a conductor first and not a pianist, for he seems to me, a pianist, to have left out some things that a pianist might have been interested in. Yes, he does talk of technique, but at a distance.

There are also a couple of interesting omissions from Siloti's life. For example, why did Siloti never invite Ferruccio Busoni to St Petersburg, or Moriz Rosenthal, or Arthur Friedheim? Probably he did, but they declined, being averse to Russia (that is certainly the case with Busoni). But Moriz Rosenthal receives one mention in the book and they were both students of Liszt and lived in later years in New York. Arthur Friedheim is somewhat slighted and I think there hangs yet another story. Yet these were Siloti's friends and colleagues from the Liszt days.

The book should also go far towards rewriting the history of turn of the century St Petersburg (I hope there will be a Russian translation soon) and is an important contribution to the legacy of Franz Liszt, Siloti's teacher and inspiration. Charles Barber has achieved something extraordinary in returning from oblivion the memory and artistry of Alexander Siloti. In short: highly recommended.

Copyright © 22 November 2003 Gordon Rumson, Calgary, Canada


Lost in the Stars:
The Forgotten Musical Life of Alexander Siloti
Charles Barber

Scarecrow Press (Rowman & Littlefield), 2002

ISBN 0 81084 108 8, hardback,
455 pages, 31 photographs, 1 audio CD



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