Format Hardcover
Publication Date 07/02/24
ISBN 9781639366873
Trim Size / Pages 6 x 9 in / 288

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The Piano Player of Budapest

A True Story of Survival, Hope, and Music

Roxanne de Bastion

A story about a piano and its most prodigious player—and how they both survived one of the darkest periods in history.

When her father died, singer-songwriter Roxanne de Bastion inherited a piano she knew had been in her family for over a hundred years. But it is only when she finds a cassette recording of her grandfather, Stephen, playing one of his compositions, that the true and almost unbelievable history of the piano, this man, and her family begins to unravel.

Stephen was a man who enjoyed great fame, a man who suffered the horrors of concentration camps in WWII, a man who ultimately survives—along with his piano. By piecing together his cassette recordings, unpublished memoirs, letters, and documents, Roxanne sings out her grandfather's story of music and hope, lost and found, and explores the power of what can echo down through generations.

Roxanne de Bastion is an acclaimed singer-songwriter, with two albums released to date. She sits on the board of the Featured Artist Coalition, alongside Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien and Dave Rowntree of Blur, and has created FM2U, a music conference for musicians, to empower and educate, as well as to create a strong community of artist entrepreneurs. She currently lives in London.

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Endorsements & Reviews

“Roxanne de Bastion’s poignant first book nimbly reconstructs the life of her Jewish paternal grandfather, Stephen de Bastion. His love of music serves as a powerful undercurrent throughout the narrative. In an atmospheric touch, de Bastion utilizes the family’s piano, which miraculously survived the Holocaust, as a vector for Stephen’s emotional experience.” Publishers Weekly
“When Roxanne de Bastion inherits a baby grand Blüthner piano, she embarks on a journey through her family’s past. De Bastion, a singer-songwriter, skillfully blends family stories and memories into a virtuoso narrative of courage, resilience, loss, and survival. This powerful and moving story is rooted in heartbreaking history, family pride, and a belief in the power of music.” Booklist
“A somber narrative derived from archival work left by a Holocaust survivor portrays an era in Budapest just before and during early World War II. De Bastion ably pieces together this poignant tale, offering a memorable account of family and resilience. A painfully moving story of how a family piano served as a cherished reminder of long-lost but not forgotten relationships.” Kirkus Reviews
“A deeply moving new chapter in the history of pianos and violins as instruments of Holocaust survival. ‘The piano yearned for freedom too,’ de Bastion says of the baby grand piano key to the miraculous survival of her Hungarian family. ‘Our piano is not a sentient being,’ she writes of the dawning catastrophe, ‘but I believe it has a memory. It keeps an imprint of its players within it, wishing its earthly bodies well on their journey. It sings a quiet song of memory and will patiently await their return.’ The Piano Player of Budapest chronicles the triumphant fulfillment of that promise.” Greg Dawson, author of Hiding in the Spotlight: A Musical Prodigy’s Story of Survival
“This is a gripping narrative of suffering, loss and survival, with music at its heart.” Fiona Maddocks, author of Goodbye Russia: Rachmaninoff in Exile
"I loved this book. Very emotional but also very approachable. One can hear Istvan/Stephen's voice and his grand-daughter has done him proud. An extraordinary story, and one that lingers in the mind." Baroness Julia Neuberger, Member of the House of Lords of the United Kingdom
"A remarkable story of survival told with such humanity and lyricism. It reminds us how the eternal power of art and music resides in the imperfect human soul and always will do—even in those times when the darkest instincts of humans find fertile soil." Kevin Brennan, Member of Parliment of the United Kingdom
"Truly remarkable. Beautifully written and completely addictive. A gripping and traumatic story of survival, finely balanced with the vivid legacy of a family's history. The words dance off the page and it moved me to tears." Ed Harcourt, English singer-songwriter
"Stunning. A beautiful blend of action, poetry, thought-provoking comment and music. Just brilliant." James Ainscough, OBE