Author: Anna Goldsworthy
Reviewed By Fran Lewis
Memoirs are really quite unique as they reflect the inner most thoughts of the person writing them as they create a world for the reader comprised of their most memorable moments, important events and their passions shared. Anna Goldsworthy’s world at an early age was her love of the piano, music and pleasing her family. Striving for acceptance and hoping that she would be the best at a young age she dedicated her life to the piano, the music and becoming one in the same with her keyboard. Playing the piano and feeling the emotions evoked by the composition, the message that the composer is relating to the pianist and interpreting and presenting it listeners requires more than just a basic understanding of the piano, the composition and the composer. Eleonora Sivan was the woman who would change her world, open up her eyes and teach her to become the concert pianist and artist she is today. Sit back, close your eyes, and listen to the sounds, as music Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and many others will fill the pages of this outstanding memoir we can hear the concertos, the sonatas and the sympathies as we learn what how one young woman strives for success from the beginning. Auditioning for Mrs. Sivan with her Mozart Sonata the first movement, she hopes to not only make a positive impression but also make her grandfather and mother proud. Little does she learn until later that her performance was not quite up to par and the teacher felt a definite need to help this student whose skills were definitely as she states, “ ill equipped.”
Eleanora Sivan required more than just sitting at the piano when a student was taking a lesson or playing during a concert. Anna Goldsworthy, although only 9 when she began her lessons with Sivan, entered the same world as adults, high school students and Mrs. Sivan to become a concert pianist, child prodigy of the magnitude required not only by others but for herself as well. Anna’s journey began with five minutes of practice required by her former instructor whose standards did not mark those of Mrs. Sivan. Increased to 2 hours of practice daily as a more realistic regime for a serious music student, would she rise to what was expected of her?
The memoir related her personal musical journey to reach the heights needed when studying under such a devoted and dedicated teacher. It is truly a testament to herself and to Mrs. Sivan. They story is centered in Australia from her first meeting with Mrs. Sivan to her enlightenment when taking her first lesson. Eye opening, illuminating and definitely at times deflating for Anna. As Sivan explains the first steps required before placing her fingers on the notes or even beginning to play. Sivan explains, “The fingers are the orchestra musicians.” Anna needed to learn how to sit, finger, position and place her hands before beginning. “ You are playing not listening, you have to hear a sound- hearing the sound creates our imagination and then relax.” Understanding the sound, strong fingers the hands speak as Sivan explains. The breakthrough came when she was asked to create a story for Mozart’s second movement in one of his Sonata’s. Sivan had a difficult childhood and by having her students create a story within the music she hoped to regain much or some of what she lost when growing up. Each chapter the author introduces the reader to a different composer and artist. In each chapter we learn the history of the artist, become familiar with his music and hear it when Anna plays throughout the entire book. From taking the Third Grade exam to receiving high marks to the disappointments within herself when she did not receive the accolades she wanted this is one interesting memoir that helps students of music, or in any field understand the dedication and fortitude needed to rise above the rest and reach your own ultimate goals.
Her technique could not be beautified as she struggled to find the correct sound, the correct inner emotion to present her music to the world. But, one question rang loud and true in her mind, “ Did she want to be acclaimed for her piano performances?” As Sivan elaborates and explains to Anna that pianism has to be completely out of your inner emotion. Playing the piano is a projection of your inner emotion.” Not an easy concept for most adults to grasp no less a nine year old. `
Entering Pembroke, hoping to gain some popularity, told she would not be a concert pianist, still attending her lessons and learning more about the many composers, their uniqueness their special message conveyed in their music is part of what kept Anna focused. A family totally devoted to her, to helping her form her future yet allowing her make her own decisions, Anna began to try and find her own way yet there was much more to learn. Accolades and academic awards were great but the real recognition for her music and who she was has yet to come as Mrs. Sivan has much more to teach her many more understandings to impart and lessons that still have not been taught not just to her but others too.
Reading about the piano, learning about the mysteries of it and not always playing the notes or practicing might have helped her gain a better perspective. From wanting to be like the other girls to having a father who guided her much of the way taking copious notes at every lesson in order to help her not only write this memoir but understand what she needed to do to improve and learn, Anna’s childhood seemed quite structured, pronounced with organization and even her own brand of self discipline. At times I was hoping that she would just have some real fun and doing something silly like any child or teen would. She was serious about her education, followed the rules wherever she went and rarely spoke out in her own defense against friends or adults. Even the great composers spoke out, rebelled against the times and created their own voice or inner most personality in their music.
Many people can define freedom in many ways, as you will learn from reading this memoir and the many definitions related. But, the greatest joy is freedom in your music, as the sounds beckon you and you enter a special world only you can understand and hear. Then, I decided to hear and listen for myself as I closed my eyes and listened to the author play a Chopin Nocturne and then watched this time seeing the emotional connection in her hands, face and entire being when did more than play the Nocturne she told her own magical story. Hearing Helen Warner tell how she launched the book and the author in a video called Piano Lessons Behind the Scenes you begin to understand more about the memoir, her relationship with Mrs. Sivan and her family.
Her eighth grade exam proved an eye opener, disappointment and for most young girls, but not Anna a defeat. As the examiner, an organist did not appreciate her program and her Mozart but what follows will show you what happens when her resolve comes through, her determination to succeed wins and her five years with Mrs. Sivan would continue on to many more. Freedom in her music but not in her own life as Anna became more determined to focus on her music, her practicing and as Mrs. Sivan stated more secure. So focused on her music that it seemed she lost sight of her herself, her friends and everything else teens were into. Did she want to remain are prefect, would she ever speak her mind or was the piano her only voice?
The many disappointments, her family dynamics changing the concerts she played for and the awards she one but one thing remains constant is her loyalty and love for Mrs. Sivan who has inspired, taught and loved so many musicians and who more than just enriched Anna’s life. Emergencies, accidents, concerts, fear of losing someone close and one young woman who would never give up on her music, the composers, the freedom it brought her and the Piano: Who chose her. This is one memoir that all music students should read, those serious about becoming musicians and for everyone that wants to learn more about Mozart, Chopin my favorite, Liszt and so many others. Where is she now and what is our author doing? Read the memoir. Hear her voice and hear the music. But: only bit by bit. Written from the heart and told in her own voice as the reader learns just how powerful music can be in someone’s life and how words are not the only form of expression.
Fran Lewis: Reviewer
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