Review of ‘The Lost Pianos of Siberia’ by Sophy Roberts

Are you interested in Russian history? Pianos? Travel? Then get yourself a copy of this stunning book.

For two years, Sophy Roberts travelled around Siberia. She was looking for pianos (the authorities didn’t believe her, but maybe they will, now that the book is published!) – specifically, pianos linked to famous people and events, with the aim of finding one for her friend, pianist Odgerel Sampilnorov, who lives in Mongolia. The result was an amazing journey which highlights what music means to people in adversity. I knew that Russian history is absolutely brutal but I didn’t even realise the half of it before reading this book. The history is focused on Siberia, which is a vast area with a comparatively small population, notorious for the gulags. The author expertly blends the essence of Siberia – its history, climate, nature, peoples – with the rise and fall of the Russian piano industry and stories of how the instruments managed to reach the remotest places.

The book is divided into three parts: ‘Pianomania 1762 – 1917’, ‘Broken Chords 1917 – 1991’ and ‘Goodness Knows Where 1992 – Present Day’. It’s beautifully written and not difficult to read. There are a very generous quantity of images – a section of colour plates and many black and white photos throughout the text. Also included are a chronology, bibliography, notes, index and maps.

First published in 2020.

9 thoughts on “Review of ‘The Lost Pianos of Siberia’ by Sophy Roberts”

    1. Thanks, Jee! I like the piano on the cover, I don’t know what the man is doing though! The history is tough to read about but I learned a lot.

      1. I love it when that happens – learning a lot from books! The man, to me, looked like he was trying to look for some hidden treasure πŸ˜€ lol

    1. It is a very interesting book – quite devastating in parts but definitely worth a read if you’re into Russian history and also like pianos! πŸ™‚

  1. Interesting! Sophy Roberts most likely knows more about Russian history than I do. I’m ashamed to admit that my Russian history ended somewhere with Ivan the Terrible from Middle Ages in my fifth grade before I moved to the UK as we studied only international history after that. I really need to read this book. I am now going through a really serious piano-book phase where I read different biographies of composers and pianists and have only today discovered that what I thought was a biography of Glenn Gould – A Romance on Three Legs – is actually a book about his beloved piano!

    1. I’m sure there were more gaps in my knowledge of Russian history than in yours, though πŸ™‚ I want to read more piano themed books too, I’m sure I will get around to it. That’s funny about the three legs – I just looked the book up, it does sound intriguing! An unusual angle. The Lost Pianos is definitely one for your list. It was one of my favourite reads the other year πŸ™‚

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