Valerie Lawson reviews 'Beyond Black and White' by Roger Woodward

Valerie Lawson reviews 'Beyond Black and White' by Roger Woodward

Beyond Black and White: My Life in Music

by by Roger Woodward

ABC Books, $59.99 hb, 609 pp, 9780733323034

There are two Roger Woodwards in Beyond Black and White. One vividly brings to life his early years as an imaginative and highly talented boy whose future was determined when, at the age of seven, he first heard the music of Bach. The second presents the adult Woodward, whose memoirs relate in punctilious detail his fifty-year career as an acclaimed pianist.

It may seem contradictory for a man declared a ‘pianistic genius’ and ‘the greatest living performer of contemporary music’ (both accolades are on the book’s back cover), but Woodward’s recollections of his childhood in Sydney form by far the most lively and entertaining chapters in the book. His encounters with illustrious composers, conductors, and musicians often read like formal reports. Woodward’s inner life as an adult is overshadowed by minutiae and long lists – of people, places, musical scores, performances – so many in fact (one comprises forty-five consecutive names in a single paragraph) that they impede the narrative.

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Published in March 2015, no. 369
Valerie Lawson

Valerie Lawson

Valerie Lawson is an author and journalist, based in Sydney. Her work as a freelance writer is published in a number of newspapers and magazines in Australia and the United Kingdom, and in theatre programs, including those of The Australian Ballet. She is the author of three books, Connie Sweetheart, The Allens Affair, and Mary Poppins, She Wrote, a biography of P L Travers, author of Mary Poppins. Valerie was the editor of the Saturday features pages in The Sydney Morning Herald, the foundation editor of Good Weekend, and a feature writer and arts editor for the Herald. She has won a Walkley Award for her dance writing, and her articles have been published in programs for the Australian seasons of the Paris Opera Ballet, Ballet National of Cuba, Hamburg Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, English National Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater. Valerie is now writing a history of dance in Australia.

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