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Wild Harmonies: A Life of Music and Wolves

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A celebrated French pianist's poignant story of her journey from her early days as a student in Paris to her life as the founder of a wolf conservation center in upstate New York. A gifted pianist from a young age, Hélène Grimaud made her first recording at the age of fifteen and won the French equivalent of a Grammy at sixteen. She is a classical music star whose concert A celebrated French pianist's poignant story of her journey from her early days as a student in Paris to her life as the founder of a wolf conservation center in upstate New York. A gifted pianist from a young age, Hélène Grimaud made her first recording at the age of fifteen and won the French equivalent of a Grammy at sixteen. She is a classical music star whose concerts continue to draw sellout crowds all over Europe and North America. But it wasn't until she met her first wolf that she discovered there was something missing in her life. Late one night in 1991, Grimaud encountered a wolf-dog hybrid in Florida and felt an immediate, instinctual connection to the animal-one that the wolf also seemed to share. Determined to do what she could to protect this threatened species, she committed her time and resources to becoming certified to found her own wolf preserve on the grounds of her home in New York State. Today, the master pianist acts as a tireless advocate for wolves, a species she believes has been unfairly demonized throughout history. In turn, the animals have given her a sense of freedom that she has never before experienced, even as an artist. In a beautifully rendered personal story that weaves the tale of a musical prodigy's rise to stardom with one of an animal lover learning to communicate on a level as primal as music, Hélène Grimaud touches, astonishes, and delights with her remarkable insight and passion.


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A celebrated French pianist's poignant story of her journey from her early days as a student in Paris to her life as the founder of a wolf conservation center in upstate New York. A gifted pianist from a young age, Hélène Grimaud made her first recording at the age of fifteen and won the French equivalent of a Grammy at sixteen. She is a classical music star whose concert A celebrated French pianist's poignant story of her journey from her early days as a student in Paris to her life as the founder of a wolf conservation center in upstate New York. A gifted pianist from a young age, Hélène Grimaud made her first recording at the age of fifteen and won the French equivalent of a Grammy at sixteen. She is a classical music star whose concerts continue to draw sellout crowds all over Europe and North America. But it wasn't until she met her first wolf that she discovered there was something missing in her life. Late one night in 1991, Grimaud encountered a wolf-dog hybrid in Florida and felt an immediate, instinctual connection to the animal-one that the wolf also seemed to share. Determined to do what she could to protect this threatened species, she committed her time and resources to becoming certified to found her own wolf preserve on the grounds of her home in New York State. Today, the master pianist acts as a tireless advocate for wolves, a species she believes has been unfairly demonized throughout history. In turn, the animals have given her a sense of freedom that she has never before experienced, even as an artist. In a beautifully rendered personal story that weaves the tale of a musical prodigy's rise to stardom with one of an animal lover learning to communicate on a level as primal as music, Hélène Grimaud touches, astonishes, and delights with her remarkable insight and passion.

30 review for Wild Harmonies: A Life of Music and Wolves

  1. 4 out of 5

    Evan

    Helene Grimaud is a French classical pianist and wolf advocate and also a bit of an eccentric mystery woman. Because of that, the press and the public have had a hard time getting a handle on her. This book, written floridly and crammed with poetical allusion, is almost a love letter to herself, and it provides ample insight into Grimaud's drives and passions and hatreds. It is also full of contradictions, and even though it seems honest for the most part it also comes off at times as disingenuo Helene Grimaud is a French classical pianist and wolf advocate and also a bit of an eccentric mystery woman. Because of that, the press and the public have had a hard time getting a handle on her. This book, written floridly and crammed with poetical allusion, is almost a love letter to herself, and it provides ample insight into Grimaud's drives and passions and hatreds. It is also full of contradictions, and even though it seems honest for the most part it also comes off at times as disingenuous. It seems, to some degree, the mystery of Grimaud is preserved. The book juggles back and forth between chapters devoted to Grimaud's rise as a musical artist and those devoted to historical wolf lore and related mythology. Music and wolves are her two loves, and so these threads run parallel thoughout the book. In a certain sense, Grimaud fancies herself as one who runs with the wolves, someone who is, in a sense a wild rebel, or some such. Oddly, though, the wolves' sense of social order and responsibility is actually greater than Grimaud's herself -- being the rather me-centered, arrogant iconoclast that she is, as confirmed by this book. In fact, when I started reading it, I rather liked and admired her -- as she described a childhood filled with an outsider's loneliness. But as it proceeded into her adulthood, and that loneliness morphed into a kind of fierce exceptionalism and snobbishness, I began to dislike her. But I can't begrudge this of the author because I think she is fairly honest and up front about it, and -- as I'm sure she would say herself -- she doesn't really care about other people's opinions of her. The first part of the book, I thought was best, when she describes her youth, capturing vividly and painstakingly the inner feelings and discoveries of a loner's and outsider's childhood. It is a childhood defined by struggles with self-inflicted physical pain, OCD and synesthesia as well as by an enthusiastic wide-eyed embrace of those things. The book is amazingly written; each sentence sings like a musical line, albeit in the vein of the romantic classical repetoire she prefers. At times, one feels that the book is overwritten, and you just want her to get on with the narrative. I have to admit all the wolf stuff was a bit too much for me; the insight into musical matters I found much more interesting. I was disappointed in Grimaud's unwillingness to be more forthcoming about her romantic relations; she goes on and on vaguely about her first and lends no real detail and mentions one with a musician named Jeff without saying what attracted the two to one another. It's not a kiss-and-tell book, that's for certain. Grimaud makes contradictory statements about fans, seeming to wave them off yet claiming that when she plays she plays for them; dismisses her beauty yet obviously plays it to her advantage; and engages in willful behaviors that seem childish and immature, including some inexcusable dissings of artists including Leon Fleischer and Daniel Barenboim. But the book is marvelously written and filled with incident interesting to those who, like me, want to know about the behind-the-scenes life of a classical musical artist. Don't you just love it when someone is physically beautiful, musically gifted and can write better than most writers? The universe does dole out its goodies unfairly. Despite that envy, my critical acumen knows a well-written autobiography when I see it, and this is one of those.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Horst Walther

    Hélène Grimaud – Wild Harmonies I asked myself the question: what could I write about this book? If it is a good or a bad book? If the author should have written it differently? If it hits the point (well, which one?) Or if it pretty much off the mark? That’s obviously nonsense, of course. There is no objective measure. It's all a matter of personal attitude, of the fit of minds. As I was driven by curiosity throughout my entire life (well, so far), when coming to know about Hélène Grimaud and her Hélène Grimaud – Wild Harmonies I asked myself the question: what could I write about this book? If it is a good or a bad book? If the author should have written it differently? If it hits the point (well, which one?) Or if it pretty much off the mark? That’s obviously nonsense, of course. There is no objective measure. It's all a matter of personal attitude, of the fit of minds. As I was driven by curiosity throughout my entire life (well, so far), when coming to know about Hélène Grimaud and her Wolf’s encounter first, it struck me. I decided to find out why – to understand. I chose to go for a used book- low risk, low profile. When it arrived after being more or less gently rocked by the waves of the Atlantic Ocean for some weeks I added it to my long list of books to be read. Finally it was the cover picture – well, and the fact, that the voluminous reading about corporate governance, which I was on, had exhausted me quite a bit - which let me bypass the entire queue. I started with low expectations with only a few of Hélèn’s Chopin & Beethoven interpretations in my ears. But page by page I came to speed. After having read some fifty pages I began to breathlessly devour chapter by chapter during my few moments of spare time. The relentless frankness of this remarkable book gives me the impression – or illusion – to gain some understanding of this truly extraordinary person. I was even able to detect some common traits in our two completely different lives. Should I recommend it? Well I don’t know. I do rate it with the highest scores – but that’s just for me. During reading I occasionally asked myself if the first and original owner of this book might have shared my excitement. But why then did he / she give it away? Anyway the book didn’t disclose this second order secret. It looks like if I am shying away from coming up with a clear answer. Ok then, recommended to all who dare to plunge into the adventure to trace a truly exceptional personality. All others better stay away.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    i found this book incredibly inspiring. i loved it mostly for the insight it gave on grimaud's life, her intense focus and unique perspective of the world through the rich lens of music and literature. i found the format of the book a bit odd, as it was constantly jumping between recollections of her memories and seemingly disjointed anecdotes of wolf-centric history and mythology - the transitions there could probably have been smoother. in fact at some points it felt like it was two different i found this book incredibly inspiring. i loved it mostly for the insight it gave on grimaud's life, her intense focus and unique perspective of the world through the rich lens of music and literature. i found the format of the book a bit odd, as it was constantly jumping between recollections of her memories and seemingly disjointed anecdotes of wolf-centric history and mythology - the transitions there could probably have been smoother. in fact at some points it felt like it was two different books randomly spliced together. still, for an avid classical music lover, this was a fascinating read by a great pianist.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Chieh-An Yu

    Brilliant book! For those who wants to know the life of a music prodigy, the struggling for a musician, and who enjoy the beauty of French literature.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Domary

    Una bella sorpresa, una bella scrittura, un'autobiografia con una storia insolita, particolare, divisa tra musica e lupi. Da bambina in-trattabile e in-disciplinata, ... e man mano mantenendo un carattere sempre esuberante, forte, determinato, arriverà a raggiungere le sue mete, realizzare i suoi sogni, senza mai abbassare l'assicella dei suoi propositi. Può risultare superba, sfrontata, piena di sè, egocentrica ma è solo l'amore per se stessa. Io l'avrei intitolato "divagazioni selvagge", ogni tan Una bella sorpresa, una bella scrittura, un'autobiografia con una storia insolita, particolare, divisa tra musica e lupi. Da bambina in-trattabile e in-disciplinata, ... e man mano mantenendo un carattere sempre esuberante, forte, determinato, arriverà a raggiungere le sue mete, realizzare i suoi sogni, senza mai abbassare l'assicella dei suoi propositi. Può risultare superba, sfrontata, piena di sè, egocentrica ma è solo l'amore per se stessa. Io l'avrei intitolato "divagazioni selvagge", ogni tanto divaga su tematiche varie, si sofferma su piccole "lezioncine". "La vita si strofinava su di me come un gatto sul fondo dei calzoni. Ero io a fare le fusa." "Mi hai fatto capire che la vera vita non è in ciò che viene a noi, ma in ciò che viene da noi. Io volevo essere. Amare è essere. E' creare la propria vita, assai più che riceverla." "... passione è gettarsi a corpo morto in quel che si fa, anima e corpo, senza esitazione, senza inibizioni ... Talvolta si sbaglia, tanto meglio, gli errori rendono interessante la vita e feriscono solo chi li commette." "... l'uomo deve trovare il suo elemento, il quinto elemento ... l'arte, senza la quale siamo errabondi, orfani e infelici per la vita, senza la quale ci separiamo dalla natura e dal cosmo perchè sordi, ciechi, indifferenti, insensibili , ...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Stefano Ottolenghi

    "A poco a poco, ho raggiunto quest'armonia interiore, accettando le mie contraddizioni, comprendendo che certi esseri non sono una cosa sola ma un puzzle di aspirazioni contrastanti, e che è suicida, menomante, rinnegare qualcosa di sè per adeguarsi a una norma imposta da un modello. ... Ogni essere ha in sè il mistero delle proprie contraddizioni, delle proprie lotte interiori. Noi tutti siamo l'incarnazione di un mistero." "Cosa vorrei trasmettere ai bambini? Come il lupo possiede la terra e il "A poco a poco, ho raggiunto quest'armonia interiore, accettando le mie contraddizioni, comprendendo che certi esseri non sono una cosa sola ma un puzzle di aspirazioni contrastanti, e che è suicida, menomante, rinnegare qualcosa di sè per adeguarsi a una norma imposta da un modello. ... Ogni essere ha in sè il mistero delle proprie contraddizioni, delle proprie lotte interiori. Noi tutti siamo l'incarnazione di un mistero." "Cosa vorrei trasmettere ai bambini? Come il lupo possiede la terra e il pesce l'oceano, l'uccello il cielo e gli dèi il fuoco, così l'uomo deve trovare il suo elemento, il quinto elemento, il solo da cui non sarà mai escluso. Questo elemento è l'arte, senza la quale siamo errabondi, orfani e infelici per la vita; senza la quale ci separiamo dalla natura e dal cosmo perchè sordi, ciechi, indifferenti, insensibili."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Renee Alberts

    As you might expect from a world-renowned classical pianist who lives with wolves on the side, Hélène Grimaud’s life makes for a fascinating book. In her memoir, she recounts the experiences and music that inspired her on her unique journey. Most of the book focuses on her childhood as an overly energetic and defiant young woman who found an outlet and calling in playing piano. She details her passionate encounters with encouraging (and not-so- encouraging) instructors, mentors, and institutes, As you might expect from a world-renowned classical pianist who lives with wolves on the side, Hélène Grimaud’s life makes for a fascinating book. In her memoir, she recounts the experiences and music that inspired her on her unique journey. Most of the book focuses on her childhood as an overly energetic and defiant young woman who found an outlet and calling in playing piano. She details her passionate encounters with encouraging (and not-so- encouraging) instructors, mentors, and institutes, and she waxes eloquently about her mystical experiences discovering and playing the works of her favorite composers. Interspersed among the brief, loosely-linear chapters are segments describing folkloric and historical information about wolves. While Grimaud doesn’t discuss her personal experiences creating a wolf preservation center until the very end of the book, her account of her first relationship with a wolf and her zeal for the animal are moving and vivid. Grimaud’s unapologetic, zealous appetite for her rare and singular experiences comes through in her forceful, idiosyncratic prose.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christine

    In this memoir by a classical pianist and enfant terrible, Grimaud interleaves the story of her self-actualization via classical piano with lore about wild animals, especially wolves. It’s poetic and fiercely intelligent and displays a singular mind that can acquire new information rapidly, and the structure is interesting. Occasionally there are subtle parallels and metaphors between the two narratives, but the second seems to be present simply to show, rather than tell, her fascination with th In this memoir by a classical pianist and enfant terrible, Grimaud interleaves the story of her self-actualization via classical piano with lore about wild animals, especially wolves. It’s poetic and fiercely intelligent and displays a singular mind that can acquire new information rapidly, and the structure is interesting. Occasionally there are subtle parallels and metaphors between the two narratives, but the second seems to be present simply to show, rather than tell, her fascination with the wild world. The literary reader in me hoped for a more spectacular link, and it did seem to be building toward that, but in the end the story of her own singular, fierce existence is enough, as is the assertion that the path to enlightenment and happiness lies in accepting the part of oneself that is wolf, untamable and pure.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Daphne

    This is a fascinating true story--although one gets the sense that what is "true" for the author might not always match exactly with fact. Helene Grimaud has a wonderfully descriptive way of writing (which has been translated effectively into English) and an enthusiastic narrative style that at times is almost grandiose. Her observations about the world as well as about life as a musician are definitely worth reading. At the same time, her personality comes across very strongly--a good thing, al This is a fascinating true story--although one gets the sense that what is "true" for the author might not always match exactly with fact. Helene Grimaud has a wonderfully descriptive way of writing (which has been translated effectively into English) and an enthusiastic narrative style that at times is almost grandiose. Her observations about the world as well as about life as a musician are definitely worth reading. At the same time, her personality comes across very strongly--a good thing, although after getting to know her on the page one senses that she would be difficult to be with in real life. This is a highly readable and entertaining book.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ria

    Hélène Grimaud's autobiography brings together many things which are dear to me - music, France and animals. Born in beautiful Aix-en-Provence and now living in the United States, she is a talented concert pianist who performs regularly worldwide. After discovering a particular affinity with wolves, she has created a reserve for this threatened species in upstate New York. Her story particularly resonates with me as I have an artistic daughter who, like the author, is not afraid of swimming agai Hélène Grimaud's autobiography brings together many things which are dear to me - music, France and animals. Born in beautiful Aix-en-Provence and now living in the United States, she is a talented concert pianist who performs regularly worldwide. After discovering a particular affinity with wolves, she has created a reserve for this threatened species in upstate New York. Her story particularly resonates with me as I have an artistic daughter who, like the author, is not afraid of swimming against the stream and following her own heart. This book is well written, admirably translated by Ellen Hinsey, and has a treasured place on my bookshelf.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jim Puskas

    It's hard to imagine two topics less likely to merge into a single story than the early life and career of a concert pianist and a developing relationship with wolves. But that's the true-life story of Helene Grimaud. Temperamental, driven, at times rebellious to the point of perversity but also sensitive, perceptive and extremely gifted, Grimaud would make an interesting study for anyone tuned in to classical music and the people who perform it. But add to that the sequence of events that began It's hard to imagine two topics less likely to merge into a single story than the early life and career of a concert pianist and a developing relationship with wolves. But that's the true-life story of Helene Grimaud. Temperamental, driven, at times rebellious to the point of perversity but also sensitive, perceptive and extremely gifted, Grimaud would make an interesting study for anyone tuned in to classical music and the people who perform it. But add to that the sequence of events that began with a late-night walk in Florida and you have a truly unique tale.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Gabriela Díaz

    Esperaba mas de este libro, pero eso no quiere decir que no me haya gustado mucho. Creo que lo me encanto fue la manera en que Hélène Grimaud (una pianista conocida mundialmente) exploro la musica a traves de la vida salvaje, especialmente a traves de los lobos... La musica, sin duda alguna, nos ayuda a conectarnos con ese lado salvaje de nosotros mismos. Interpretar la musica nos hace ser y convertirnos completamente en nosotros mismos.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Wilson

    I love most any book that is about animals or inter-species communication. This memoir tracks a girl's growth to womanhood as a creative outsider. She is a word-renowned musician, a prodigy, who discovers her passion when she meets her first wolf, and subsequently founds a safe haven for them - a place where children can be introduced to this wonderful, powerful species. While this is not a literary masterpiece I loved the story.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Francine

    I love the way she feels about music and nature, it was interesting to read her life doing what she could to be a good pianist. I hope she will succeed in doing what she loves most. Making music a world on its' own and helping people to forget their sorrows. She did it with being close to animals, we can also do that, maybe not wolves, but our beloved dogs. And she made music so enchanting, please do rent a recording in the library and listen to her, it makes all the difference.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gabriele

    I was interested in this book because I like her playing, especially her Bach album. The story of her childhood is fascinating and explains her unconventional arrival in the piano world. She found balance in her life by pursueing her interest in wolves and finding her own way in the music world. This connected heaven to earth.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chammy

    Read this at the perfect time in my life, was a great help. Loved how she incorperated her story with that of the history of wolves... She's not a bad writer! And after seeing her play live, I'm sure she's turning into a wolve herself. Her hair looked like, and waved just like wolves' hair.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Ulla

    Hélène Grimaud is a really fascinating personality; there seem to be two things she really loves: music and wolves. It's impossible to describe the feeling that she has for these two. It took me a long time to read this book, because after every chapter I needed time to think of what she writes. And I'm going to start reading it again, soon! Re-reading was even more fantastic!

  18. 5 out of 5

    Eileen

    Ms Grimaud's writing helps us to understand how an art-in this case music- interacts with the human psyche and soul. She was fortunate in having support for a nature that did not always fit the standard mold.

  19. 5 out of 5

    R

    Wonderful read! I did not think my love for Helene could grow anymore but amazingly after reading her book I found that I was wrong. She's such a beautiful, inspirational, intelligent woman. Clearly, I am in awe over her. I'd recommend her novel to anyone.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Breeze

    I think this book is more interesting and insightful in terms of wolf lore than music...and it is really amazing to me that she created a wolf sanctuary in suburban Westchester County, NY!!! Is it still there? I really enjoy Grimaud's Bach and she is quite beautiful to watch at the piano.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Aurélie Knit & Read

    Hélène Grimaud fascine autant qu'elle met mal à l'aise. Dans cette œuvre autobiographique, sa singularité saute aux yeux à chaque page. Un parcours très intéressant, dans un univers qui m'est inconnu. Un bon moment de lecture.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    I enjoyed this book so much. A year or so ago, I discovered pianist Helene Grimaud. What an interesting woman! She was born in France, but moved to Florida in adulthood. She has a passion for wolves, and has started a wolf preserve in upstate New York.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Don Gubler

    Who would have thought that music and wolves would go together? We all should try to expand ourselves.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    Autobiography of wolf-raising, concert pianist, synesthete Helene Grimaud. I wanna be her when I grow up. *nods*

  25. 4 out of 5

    Beroha

    Une belle histoire de musique, de courage et de loups sauvages.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Baukster

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sensibility

  28. 5 out of 5

    Lia-Stefana

  29. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

  30. 4 out of 5

    Christine Rosser

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