I was not at all sure what to expect from ‘The Musical Life’, and so I was delighted to find, after only a few pages, that I had been captivated by the warmth and charm of the writing.
The exceptionally fortunate among us may come across someone, often but not always a teacher, who opens up a new dimension in our experience of life, and who makes possible things which we never expected would be within our grasp. The odds against Hedwig Stein coming to fill this role for the author - as she did - must have been extremely high.
The book tells, among other things, the story of Hedwig’s courage, resourcefulness and determination in choosing to leave - for love - a comfortable, music filled life in Germany to create a new life for her and her Jewish husband in England, a country in which they arrived speaking little English, without knowing anyone and with very little money, but where they were welcomed and encouraged by many extraordinary and generous people. The reader will not need to have any special knowledge of music to find her story and personality fascinating. I would have loved to have met her.
‘The Musical Life’ is written with warmth, affection, charm and fluency; the author is clear-eyed, sensitive and perceptive throughout and clearly knowledgeable about the very different worlds in England and Germany to which she introduces us.
This is a wonderful debut.
Marquad's "The Musical Life" is both heart-warming and empowering; fully researched and well-written this biography is one of the best I've read this month.
by NetGalley review
If you like reading biographies and anything to do with pianos and the world of classical music, then The Musical Life is definitely for you. Highly gifted artists have a tendency to make a profound impact on anyone they encounter, and this certainly comes across as Helen Marquard recounts the fascinating life of her piano teacher, Hedwig Stein. The perception of historical events as they unfold, revealed through numerous extracts of Stein’s diaries, tells us much about the struggles of wartime life.
An interesting sub-theme emerges from Marquard’s occasional reflections on the author’s role, reminding the reader that personal perception inevitably plays a part in writing a biography; thus, the way a writer chooses to portray a given subject also portrays to the reader something about the writer.
This is a remarkably well-researched and informative work, written with a clarity of style that makes it an absolute pleasure to read.
by Nicky Gentil
Helen Marquard studied in Manchester and has been a research scientist and an environmental policy maker and international negotiator. She has travelled widely supporting sustainable development startups, is a lifelong piano student, speaks fluent German, and loves music, the arts, people and societies. She lives near Farnham in Surrey.