Book Reviews

Janice Wright rated it it was amazing
An excellent read, with a CD packed full of world-class chamber music by some of my favourite artists. If you’re interested in the “behind-the-scenes” world of classical music, or are just plain fascinated by musical child prodigies like Glenn Gould, the brilliant Ms. Parr’s book is a must read.
Trevor Philips

Aug 08, 2017Trevor Philips rated it liked it
Patricia Parr had played her first solo concert at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto in 1944, at the age of seven, attracting praise from the music critics of all three Toronto papers.

She writes: “From the age of eight onwards, I was performing as soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra in Massey Hall; the Toronto Philharmonic at the ‘Prom Concerts’ in Varsity Arena; the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in the Eastman Theatre, and the New York Philharmonic in Carnegie Hall. I held t …more


Not having grown up being imersed in the world of classical music, though I did play the piano as a youth, and not having grown up in Canada, I was unfamiliar with Patricia Parr before reading this book, and interviewing her on KKUP for my weekly music show.

What happened to Patricia, in the early part of her life, would be considered child abuse, by today’s standards, or at least I hope so. But, as I told her, there are still stage mothers who are out there, trying to get their child to practic …more

James Cory

Jul 26, 2017James Cory rated it really liked it
I truly enjoyed the book. The following is more of a reflection than a review:

Although framed as a musical memoir, Patricia Parr’s book (implicitly) poses the following question for her readers to consider: “How do you raise a prodigy?” Or, in her words, how do you support your gifted child without pushing them into a life they don’t necessarily want?

We live in ambitious times. You need only to go through the New York preschool application process, as I recently did for my son, to witness the hy…more

Claudine Shaffer

Jul 16, 2017Claudine Shaffer rated it really liked it
Patricia Parr is a musician’s musician – better known amongst her esteemed peers, and by Canadian classical music enthusiasts, than by the general population (unlike Glenn Gould, who enjoys a worldwide following). The reason for this? Whereas Gould, a child prodigy himself, pursued a solo career that constantly put him in the spotlight, Parr sought out an alternative medium of music making – chamber music – which is less about showcasing the talents of a specific musician, and more about music a…more
Paul Emond

Jul 30, 2017Paul Emond rated it really liked it
Patricia Parr, a celebrated Canadian pianist, professor, and chamber musician, recalls her musical life in her new book “Above Parr: Memoir of a Child Prodigy.” Growing up, Pat’s mother wanted her to be a soloist so badly that she plucked her daughter out of school in the fourth grade, making her stay home and practice the piano. And Patricia did.

From the age of eight onwards she performed as a soloist with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Philharmonic, the Rochester Civic Orchestra, …more

Sandra Stevenson

Jul 31, 2017Sandra Stevenson rated it really liked it
When I was about 6 years old, my parents took me to see “Patsy Parr” – the musical child prodigy who’d made all the papers – play at Varsity Arena. Everyone was fascinated with her, including my parents. Sitting at the piano in our living room, I can recall my mother saying that if I kept practicing, I could become “the next Patsy Parr.” I liked the idea, so I cut her photo out of Maclean’s Magazine and put it on my bedroom wall. That was probably 1948.

Cut to 2017. My husband and I are attending …more

Thomas Hamelton

Aug 02, 2017Thomas Hamelton rated it really liked it
I devoured this book in a single evening, and I must say, I wasn’t disappointed. The candour and care with which Patricia Parr weaves the story of her affluent but oppressive upbringing warms the heart. Many times, I could sense the privacy with which she is accustomed to living – true of any celebrity, who has endured the limelight since childhood. In spite of that, or perhaps because of it, the narrative unfolds in flashes – fragments of memory and feeling – that connect the beginning and end…more
Sarah McNally

Jul 14, 2017Sarah McNally rated it really liked it
Patricia Parr has had an extraordinary musical career. Surviving a prodigious childhood; crippling stage anxiety; sexism throughout her career; the life of a single, working mother, raising two boys all while pursuing a career in chamber performance — this is enough to make anyone’s toes curl.

While I did find the beginning of the book more interesting than the second half — particularly as it was the “child prodigy” dimension of the book that caught my attention — I enjoyed reading about how her …more

Marta Kovac

Aug 09, 2017Marta Kovac rated it it was amazing
As a psychologist, I’ve had the opportunity to study prodigiousness in experimental settings. The current body of literature is, by and large, full of holes. What we know in terms of the brain function, social conditioning, and the psychological determinants of prodigiousness leave many questions unanswered. Having the opportunity to glance into the self-told story of such an individual – to learn of how their talents were received by peers, nurtured and (unfortunately) exploited, is illuminatin …more
Ellis Steinhoff

Jul 16, 2017Ellis Steinhoff rated it liked it
The book hooked me from the first. Parr can, for one thing, write. This isn’t an as-told-to or as-transcribed-from-a-tape-recorder effort so typical of entertainers’ bios. There are real sentences and paragraphs here, stuff many professional writers would envy. However, the structure of the book impressed me most – a portrait of an unformed child prodigy who imperceptibly becomes an artist. Yet nowhere does Parr ever state things so baldly. Indeed, she remains as humble, poised, and exacting a w …more
James Gibson

Aug 03, 2017James Gibson rated it really liked it
A great read! Some fascinating anecdotes from the musical world, and a vivid insight into the life, thoughts, and dilemmas of a top performing pianist. A must-read for chamber music lovers and an inspiration to all musicians. The CD included with the book really added a lot to the experience of the book – especially the first piece, Mendelssohn’s Concerto in G minor, which the author performed with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra at age 7. Wow!
Tanya Dali

Jul 30, 2017Tanya Dali rated it really liked it
Patricia Parr discusses music and life in this homegrown, down-to-earth memoir about her life. Although she isn’t prone to oversharing and maintains a good deal of privacy from the reader, there’s something charming about her storytelling – you can tell it’s true to who she is. Private, reserved, and a little bit shy.

Interestingly, the emotional distance in her writing is offset by the incredibly intimate musical performances on the CD, consisting mostly of unedited recordings. So, reading and …more

Jonathan Nizol

Jul 05, 2017Jonathan Nizol rated it it was amazing
I found this book over NetGalley. Although I’m not tremendously interested in classical music – I’m primarily a jazz fan – the cover and topic both appealed to me. “Child prodigies,” how interesting!

The book is accessible and entertaining. Musical child prodigies often suffer neglect at the hands of their parents – and the author was no exception. I found the early chapters on her privileged, but emotionally unsupportive upbringing, both heart breaking and awe-inspiring. Somehow, despite all the pressure, and isolation, and being shipped away to study the piano at the famed Curtis Institute in Philadelphia, she emerged not only a world-class musician but a more fully formed and well-adjusted person.

In the Toronto music world, the name “Patricia Parr” is practically a household name – especially for those who grew up attending concerts at the Royal Conservatory, Massy Hall, and Varsity Arena. But I had no idea she’d endured so much on the way to becoming Canada’s premiere chamber music pianist. Hers is the rarest of prodigy stories – one with a happy ending (spoiler alert!). I particularly enjoyed the epilogue

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