Black Inc., $27.95 pb, 224 pp
Piano lessons have been a source of joy or frustration for generations of Australians. By the early twentieth century, there was a piano for every three or four Australians. Skill at the pianoforte was an accomplishment that bourgeois parents desired for their children, especially daughters.
Anna Goldsworthy’s beautifully written memoir tells the story of the Melbourne pianist’s coming of age through music. ‘It was my grandfather who found her,’ the first line reveals. Reuben Goldsworthy chanced upon Eleanora Sivan, who was teaching in a western suburbs high school. Mrs Sivan described him as ‘a man of natural authority’. He said, ‘You will teach my granddaughter.’ At the time, Anna was aged nine. After her success in the First Grade exam, he said it was time for a change in teacher. Thus began a remarkable and affecting partnership. Mrs Sivan, as she is known throughout the book, unlocked a musical universe and taught her attentive young student how to appreciate both the composer and the composition.