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

Valerie Lawson

Valerie Lawson

Valerie Lawson is an author and journalist, based in Sydney. Her work as a freelance writer is published...

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

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