Why Handel Waggled his Wig

Book title: Why Handel Waggled his Wig

Author: A person called Steven Isserlis, CBE (that ‘CBE’ is just some British title, probably the “Contributions to British Empire” gobbledygook)

What did Haydn’s wife use for curling-paper for her hair? 

Why exactly did Dvorak get in a terrible sulk about a bottle of beer?

And why did Tchaikovsky worry that his head was going to fall off?

These are just a few of the questions that well-known cellist Steven Isserlis answers in his much anticipated sequel, “Why Handel Waggled his Wig”. 

This humorous book is targeted at children, and introduces no less than 6 classical music composers, all of whom were rather mad fellows (just like the author himself, heh heh). 

Contrary to your typical biographies on classical music composers, this one communicates in a simple and easy-to-understand manner, making the pages naturally a page-turner, like a book by Roald Dahl.

Each composer’s story entails his main biography, from birth to death; facts of life; and musical recommendations on what music works to hear from the composer. 

I immensely enjoyed his music recommendations because he effortlessly weaves in anecdotes from his personal life, making for a harmonious concerto between the two.

My favourite part of the book is the so-called ‘facts of life’ section. 


As it turns out, this section features fresh bite-sized anecdotes which are rarely heard of in the musical realm. Hence, this easily is the crème de la crème of Isserlis’s writing. 

Of course I wonder if this is real stuff extracted from the archives, or just plain old nonsense from his hallucinating brain. But nonetheless, this book is an interesting read that opens up the weird yet wonderful land of classical music to children.

Maybe I am exaggerating a little — but please go and listen to a few pieces to get an initial taste. You could fall madly in love, or loathe it. But you’ll never know until you take action.

Mr Isserlis said he hates writing to the extreme, and was an unsuccessful and poor writer who wasted his whole career in his past life (last part mine), he is a fine writer second to none. I truly am waiting impatiently for more of his books! 

For this book is a genuine gem of classical music.

P.S. I think Steven Isserlis is rather rare a gem, because most musicians are pretty bad at literature to say the very least (— it might be because my mother just preached that sentiment). Thus, I urge you to read his books. There is also a first book on the same classical music topic which was his debut as an author — go check that out too!)



Published by Thomas Rettig


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