The Piano Student by Lea Singer
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Translator: Elisabeth Lauffer
The Piano Student centers on an affair between one of the 20th century’s most celebrated pianists, Vladimir Horowitz, and his young male student, Nico Kaufmann, in the late 1930s. As Europe hurtles toward political catastrophe and Horowitz rises to the pinnacle of artistic achievement, the great pianist must hide his illicit love from his wife Wanda, the daughter of the renowned conductor Arturo Toscanini. The affair is narrated by Kaufmann in the 1980s to another music devotee, who comes to him enchanted by Schumann’s Träumerei and awakens memories of the thwarted relationship. Kaufmann is spending his final years playing in small-time Zurich bars, never rivaling his teacher’s musical mastery and rapturously received concerts. Based on unpublished letters by Horowitz to Kaufmann that author Lea Singer herself discovered in Switzerland, the book portrays the anguish that the acclaimed musician felt about his never publicly acknowledged homosexuality and the attendant duplicity of his relationships. It’s a riveting and sensitive novel about musical perfection, love, and longing denied, with multiple historical layers and insights into artistic creativity.
Year first published: 2020