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Wunderkind    by Nikolai Grozni order for
by Nikolai Grozni
Order:  USA  Can
Free Press, 2011 (2011)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Barbara Lingens

Very atmospheric, Wunderkind is the story of a gifted piano student, Konstantin, in Sofia, Bulgaria. Told from Konstantin's point of view, the story portrays what it was like to be immersed in music in what were still stifling Communist times.

Konstantin's teenage angst is magnified by his lack of support from family, friends and environment. He is truly isolated, finding refuge only in the piano: 'But what was I going to do then? The one thing, of course. When you can't play even one more note, when your head is so overloaded with sounds that you feel dizzy and begin to crave silence, just a moment of quiet to regain your footing; when you just can't take another sonata, another etude, another judgment, another cadence, another diminished chord and resolution, another arpeggio ... then you have no other choice but to rush back to the piano and start playing again, as if you'e never played before.'

The author is a native of Bulgaria and in his youth was a world-class pianist. His dissection of the various works Konstantin grapples with is vivid, detailed and truly comprehensive, demonstrating a mastery over the subject matter no amateur could possibly give. This great strength is perhaps also a weakness. Readers not so intimately familiar with piano music are going to have to wade through long passages about each piece. Yet the passionate revelations that make up these descriptions are just as much a part of Konstantin's story as his dubious relationships with the adults that wander through these pages. Wunderkind is a truly interesting read for the willing.

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