Reviews for

A Dictionary for the Modern Pianist

"This dictionary is unlike previous ones—it does not attempt to list and give details of every pianist of note, as previous efforts have attempted (and failed). It does contain biographical articles on a selection of the most important pianists of interest to our time and use. Of course it is just one man's idea of what that selection should contain, as any similar book is. Luckily Siek's choice turns out to be that of an informed and wise man."

"Siek understands that pianists don't exist without pianos, and knowledge and understanding of the history and construction of pianos is equally vital. There are even articles on specific parts of pianos, such as agraffes and capo d'astro bars, something sorely needed in a book like this, for pianists and piano students are more ignorant of their own instrument than any other musicians."

"Siek has thought long and hard about our field and the results of his broad scope and much-considered understanding are much in evidence in the volume. ... This book as a physical object is appealing and handsome, beautifully designed and laid out. ... I highly recommend it."

—Gregor Benko, cofounder of the International Piano Archives and recipient of the Medal of the American Liszt Society

"A Dictionary for the Modern Pianist is a well-produced book.... I believe that Stephen Siek has provided a wide-ranging and reliable coverage of many facets of the pianistic art."

"There are three main areas where this book is essential reading. Firstly, reviewers, critics, historians or performers wishing for an immediate 'heads up' on a pianist or pianistic matter will turn to this book as an entry point as it is specifically designed for pianists and those interested in the subject. Secondly, Siek has presented more detail about the pianists' style and technique than standard dictionary entries. And thirdly, it is a fascinating book to 'dip into' just like the ... Percy Scholes
Oxford Companion to Music. There is always so much to learn."

—John France, MusicWeb International

"On matters pianistic [Siek] knows whereof he speaks, and his Dictionary, apart from being scholarly and elegantly-written, is far more than a bald Wikipedian recitation of facts: it is a hymn of love to the piano, joining other classic volumes on the subject such as Harold Schonberg's The Great Pianists and David Dubal's The Art of the Piano."

"It's the kind of book that the 10 minutes you intended to spend in its company will stretch to 30 before you realise it. All of this is superbly handled, a goldmine of information to the connoisseur and newcomer alike.'

"If Siek has a hidden agenda, it is surely to stimulate, inspire, intrigue, and, yes, entertain those who take little heed of his subject's hinterland, historical legacy, recordings and great names of the past."

—Jeremy Nicholas, International Piano (May/June 2017)

"Siek opens with two considerations: new technologies of digital keyboards are evolving at a quick pace; colleges or conservatories increasingly emphasize music on instruments constructed during the composer's lifetime—period instruments. ... The entries for pianists include those who perform, compose, and teach classical (art music), jazz, and popular styles. ... Siek presents a bibliography of more general sources. The author uses the Acoustic Society of America (ASA) standard for pitch identification, outlined on page ix. The Modified Helmholtz system is presented for comparison, as many museums use Helmholtz. Entries include well placed cross-references in the articles (as bold print) to guide users to relevant entries. These prove especially useful in the biographies (linking pianists to their teachers), piano manufacturers, such as Aeolian Company and Knabe (linking these to mergers or competitors), and genres, such as rag or ragtime (linking to composers and notable performers). ... Siek presents quick access to major piano manufacturers and performers."

American Reference Books Annual (June 2017)

"This dictionary is a handy resource for both piano technicians and instructors. Written by pianist-scholar Siek (emer., Wittenberg Univ.), it touches on major pianists of classical, jazz, and pop genres, as well as famous teachers and pedagogical theorists. A unique focus of the work is its information about major and lesser-known piano manufacturers, featuring company history and considerable background on the production of pianos. Also included are terms related to the construction and action of the acoustic piano. Several essays that appear as appendixes in the volume shed light on historical pianos in relation to the standard repertoire, covering player, reproducing, and digital pianos. A preface by the author sets up the work's nearly 400 well-executed entries, which vary in length from a paragraph (e.g., "Aeolian Company") to several pages ("Steinway & Sons"), and include bolded cross-references pointing to related discussions. Some of the dictionary's entries offer color photographs and others have helpful diagrams. A selected bibliography concludes the work. Recommended for all libraries supporting piano performance and technician programs.

Summing Up:
Recommended. Undergraduates through professionals/practitioners; general readers."

Choice, A Publication of the Association for College & Research Libraries (July 2017)

"I would like to express my unqualified admiration for a truly worthwhile volume, Dr. Stephen Siek's A Dictionary for the Modern Pianist, and my gratitude to him for writing it at this particular moment in the history of the pianistic art. It is really more than a dictionary for pianists, but rather for anyone with a more than passing interest in piano performance and recording (or with the challenge of finding a gift for a loved one fitting one of those descriptions!) From the moment my copy arrived, it has shared company with the primary pianist reference books I consult regularly, those of Abram Chasins, Jan Holcman and Harold C. Schonberg. ... Siek's book shares the most praiseworthy attributes of each. It is meticulously researched and beautifully rendered. I can vouch for the accuracy and penetrating insight of the entries which deal with my primary scholarly interests, Sergei Rachmaninoff and Jorge Bolet. But whenever I consult an entry on any person or subject, I often find myself drawn to read others in the same alphabetic neighborhood because Siek has enriched the customary biographical detail with very uncustomary amusing anecdotes and commentary from scholars and connoisseurs expert on particular pianists. Specialized dictionaries of this kind usually have a shelf-life of a decade or two, except for the best of them. I wouldn't be surprised if Siek's Dictionary turns out to be one of those exceptions."

—Francis Crociata, Rachmaninoff scholar and President of the Leo Sowerby Foundation

"In recent years, titles in the Dictionaries for the Modern Musician series have received favorable reception, and this recent volume by Stephen Siek is no exception. ... The true value of this volume lies in the range and depth of the over three hundred profiles of major pianists and piano teachers of the last two hundred years. Each of these lengthy, fully researched biographical profiles (almost two full pages) provides information of interest for both students and professionals. More than dry recitations of facts, the multidimensional portraits of musical personalities offer a variety of viewpoints. ..."

"A Dictionary for the Modern Pianist is a worthy companion volume to the books by Hinson and Palmieri. While Hinson's dictionary offers a more extensive list of musical terms related to general performance as well as some biographical entries, it cannot compare with the extensive essays contained in Siek's volume. Palmieri provides a similar range and selection of topics, with individually authored entries and a detailed index, and offers more illustrations and diagrams. Siek's book, however, highlights a number of younger, contemporary personalities and employs a narrative style with a very engaging, personal tone, which makes what could be highly technical (and in some cases, rather didactic) material come alive for the reader."

A Dictionary for the Modern Pianist is an important reference work for public or academic libraries and university music departments as well as the private collections of pianists and teachers. Most readers will easily understand the terminology and engage with the clear and straightforward writing. The reading level is appropriate for both secondary and collegiate audiences, and the sturdy hardcopy binding will withstand use from a number of students perusing the volume for assignments or just leisure reading. Piano teachers discussing the performance practices of particular compositions could refer to the book's entries on specific pianists known for performing those works. Also, while demonstrating a performance technique, they could consult an illustration of the components of the piano to illuminate how to produce specific sounds or effects. Beyond library and department offices, this is a handy book to keep in the piano studio for pedagogical purposes."

—Lisa Woznicki, Performing Arts Librarian, Towson University,
Notes, the Quarterly Journal of the Music Library Association, Volume 75, Number 2, December 2018

"Already an established scholar and author, international performer and lecturer, Siek is excellently placed to compile a dictionary such as the present one. ... Siek has produced a thoroughly well-researched, well-written and beautifully-presented biographical dictionary, overflowing with fascinating detail. ... This is an informative book and a highly-useful reference tool, but it can also be enjoyably browsed at leisure; and with today's ready availability of recordings and YouTube videos, I defy any reader not to be tempted to look up interesting pianists, in order to hear their artistry for themselves, and to explore the features of their playing to which Siek has alluded."

—Karen McAulay, Music and Academic Services Librarian, Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, Reference Reviews, February 2018

"After the excellent reception for his biography of Tobias Matthay ... Stephen Siek took on a different challenge: writing a piano dictionary. ... Siek consistently succeeds in placing much information in the limited space of dictionary entries, and does so in engaging prose. ... [His] research appears almost impeccable. ... Siek's work is splendid ... Every music library and piano fan should have it."

—Richard Zimdars, The Piano Magazine: Clavier Companion, Spring 2019