Gillian Wills reviews 'A Coveted Possession: The rise and fall of the piano in Australia' by Michael Atherton

Gillian Wills reviews 'A Coveted Possession: The rise and fall of the piano in Australia' by Michael Atherton

A Coveted Possession: The rise and fall of the piano in Australia

by Michael Atherton

La Trobe University Press, $34.99 pb, 288 pp, 9781863959919

In Australia’s golden age of piano production, between 1870 and 1930, the piano was, as Michael Atherton notes, ‘as much a coveted possession as a smartphone or an iPad is today’. The First Fleet imported an eclectic assortment of items, including dogs, rabbits, cattle, seedlings, and a ‘Frederick Beck’ piano. The latter belonged to the naval surgeon George Wogan, who played it on the long voyage. Pianist and historian Geoffrey Lancaster maintains that a piano, of the same brand, now in a collection of 130 instruments owned by the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts, is Wogan’s piano.

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Gillian Wills

Gillian Wills

Gillian Wills writes for ABR and has published with The Australian, Limelight Magazine, Courier Mail, The Strad (UK), Cut Common, Loudmouth, Artist Profile and Australian Stage Online. Gillian is the author of Elvis and Me: How a world-weary musician and a broken racehorse rescued each other (Finch Publishing), which was released in Australia, the UK, Canada, New Zealand, and America in January 2016.

Published in October 2018, no. 405

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