About 'Play it Again'

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As editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger's life was dictated by the demands of the 24-hour news cycle. A working day can stretch to 16 hours. It’s a rare week when he didn't work every day.

It is not the kind of job that leaves one time for hobbies.

But in the summer of 2010, he was able to make his annual escape to 'piano camp'. Here, inspired by another amateur's rendition, he set himself an almost impossible task: to learn, in the space of a year, Chopin's BalladeNo.1, arguably the most challenging one-movement piece ever composed, with passages that demand outstanding feats of dexterity, control, memory and power. Not to mention musicianship.

His timing was unfortunate. The next twelve months were to be bookended by the Guardian breaking two remarkable news stories: WikiLeaks and the News of the World hacking scandal. It was a defining year in the life of the Guardian and its editor, and one of the most memorable in the history of British journalism. Such was the background against which he tried to carve out twenty minutes' practice a day, find the right teacher, the right piano, the right fingering. Fortunately, he was able to gain insights and advice from pianists such as Murray Perahia, Richard Goode, Emmanuel Ax, Daniel Baremboim, Stephen Hough and Alfred Brendel; from theorists, historians and neuroscientists; and from a network of enthusiastic amateurs unearthed  -  even the occasional Secretary of State. But was he able to play the piece in time?

A celebration of the dedicated amateur and the transporting, enriching qualities of playing music, Play It Againis Alan Rusbridger's account of an extraordinary challenge and an extraordinary year.