Men, Women and Pianos: A Social History (Dover Books on Music)

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An internationally renowned pianist presents a delightful "piano's-eye view" of Western European and American social history from the 16th through 20th centuries. With wit and erudition, Loesser traces the history of the instrument's design and manufacture and its music, from the clavichord and harpsichord to the modern spinet and concert grand.

Product Details

  • Series: Dover Books on Music
  • Paperback: 672 pages
  • Publisher: Dover Publications; Revised ed. edition (March 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0486265439
  • ISBN-13: 978-0486265438
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 1.3 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds

Customer Reviews

My favorite book on pianos

2 people found this helpful.
 on April 9, 2014
By Richard H.
“Men, Women, & Pianos : A Social History” is my favorite book on pianos, and I read many of them while researching for my own music book. The full title says it well; it’s a history of the development of the instrument, but it also scrupulously documents the ongoing role of pianos through decades of Western music and culture. I’m sure some would find this tedious–one Amazon review said that–but I couldn’t wait to pick up the book each day to read stories of yet one more pianist’s performance of the tired concert warhorse The Battle of Prague, how many thalers it cost to purchase everyday items in various countries of Europe long ago, or how many people used to be employed in the onetime major industry of manufacturing and selling pianos. This book is great for many of the same reasons any art is great, it puts one inside the experience of someone else, even if that person lived 300 years ago.

Charming scenes featuring pianos

 on June 30, 2016
By M. Heiss
This book is well and lovingly written. A pleasure to read.


 on November 7, 2014
By Steve Schwartz, Austin
Exactly what the title says — a social history of the piano, pianists, and publishers. Loesser (a superior Beethoven pianist, teacher, and half-brother to songwriter Frank Loesser) had a revelatory insight and linked the rise and fall of the piano to the fortunes and circumstances of the middle class in Germany, Austria, England, France, and the United States, He also traces the technical development of the piano from the virginal through the harpsichord to Cristofori through Steinway and even reproducing pianos. He demonstrates over and over that the piano was more than a mere instrument; it also conferred upon the middle-class status and respectability. The prose is witty, and it’s often a mean wit. Loesser is particularly hard on women who “took” lessons in order to acquire “accomplishments” that increased their value in the marriage market. Nevertheless, this book is a model of what an intellectual or cultural history should be and a tale well told and compulsively page-turning.

More than a book-it’s an adventure

8 people found this helpful.
 on May 11, 2006
By James Allen
This book is really more than a book, it’s an adventure. First of all, it is rather long, so it is not a book to be casually perused. Rather, to read it will require a fairly serious amount of time and concentration. What I find most striking about it is how thorough and in-depth it is. The author clearly went through every piece of literature he could find concerning the piano in the 18th and 19th centuries-brochures, sales records, newspaper articles, concert programs, all in multiple languages- and incorporated it all into his study. The scholarly scope and erudition of the work is staggering. However, it is not annotated.

fascinating book

 on April 2, 2015
By Aaron B. Krosnick
This is an incredibly interesting book. As a musician, of course, I am aware of many things Mr. Loesser discusses, but in treating the piano as a social phenomenon he covers many things not ever taught in Music History courses.

A "must read" for the history of piano development. A Classic.

 on February 3, 2017
By Mark S
This is a “must read” book for any serious pianist or any one with a real interest in the history of the development of the piano. My only warning. . . it’s quite long and quite detailed. Reading this book could get “dull” for the casual reader.

The best social history of the piano

One person found this helpful.
 on January 18, 2013
By David Adler
If you love the piano and want to know how it developed and how the public responded to it, this is the book to read.

Enjoying it very much

 on September 22, 2016
By Sharon
Fun book if you are interested in the history of the piano. The author draws a lot of disparate ideas together and has fun stories to tell about famous composers and so on. Fun for any pianist who has an interest in history.

Rare elequence combines with humor

14 people found this helpful.
 on March 16, 2005
By misterbeets
The writing is articulate beyond belief, reflecting the author’s fluency in multiple languages, and the thoroughly tongue-in-cheek tone–the “digiterferous bank accounts” of the wealthy–makes it fun to read. And of course there’s the story itself, beginning in the era when Democracies were replacing Monarchies, the 18th Century, and ending in the US around the First World War, when the instrument began its abrupt decline, using old newspapers, magazine articles, publishers’ catalogs, etc., as sources, translated as needed by the author.

Four Stars

 on April 16, 2016
By Gordon R. Flygare
Possibly more than one needs to know about keyboard instruments, but since you asked, this is The Reference Book.

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