Writings of Jonathan Summers

For Naxos Educational Jonathan wrote the A-Z of Pianists, a book of 860 pages containing biographies and recommendations of recordings of over 300 pianists. The book is accompanied by four compact discs of recordings he selected to demonstrate the talents of seventy of these pianists.

Rob Cowan presented a two page article in Gramophone magazine in which he wrote:

The lives of the greats, both past and present, and a bewitching set of historic recordings.

Most of us will at one time or another have encountered the compulsive “read” that won’t rest on the shelf until the last page has been turned. In the normal scheme of things one wouldn’t have expected even the most generous CD booklet to fall quite into that category but one that definitely does is Jonathan Summers’s superb “A-Z of Pianists” for Naxos. This is no ordinary CD annotation but a CD-size 861-page book boxed alongside a four-disc set of important and mostly rare historic piano recordings.

As historical anthologies go, this has to be among the best-planned and the best-annotated. No piano buff worth the label can possibly afford to be without it. Rob Cowan, Gramophone September 2007

This is a unique and imaginative project: four CDs with a superb 863-page book (of the same shape) that ‘surveys the lives, careers and recordings of 300 pianists….from Argerich to Zadora.’

A detailed, well-researched essay on each pianist by author Jonathan Summers, given alphabetically, lists their most important recordings with a critical appraisal of his or her recorded legacy. Seventy-five artists from Chaminade (1901) to Petri (1951) are represented on disc in over five hours of music. Book and discs are outstanding achievements at every level and invaluable to anyone with the slightest interest in the piano.
Jeremy Nicholas Classic FM Magazine July 2007.

The book was featured on a 35 minute segment of BBC Radio 3’s CD Review where Andrew McGregor said: 'Given the brief, Summers has done a remarkably even-handed job. But that’s not all, I really didn’t think this would work as a set of discs I could sit down and enjoy playing for their own sake….the artists are in alphabetical order across the four CDs….but that is exactly what I was able to do. That in itself is a tribute to the care with which it’s been put together.'

On his BBC Radio 3 Breakfast Show Rob Cowan played two tracks from the CDs and said, 'It really is a remarkable document.'

Jonathan was asked by Naxos to continue his A-Z of Pianists on the web for which he has written biographies and selected recordings of 42 more pianists.

Also for Naxos, Jonathan has written the notes for more than 75 CD releases in their series of Great Pianists and produced three discs of Russian pianist Emil Gilels and one of Paderewski.


  • After due reflection, I think this is one of the greatest discs of Liszt's opera paraphrases I have ever heard.....Jonathan Summers' booklet matches the quality of the playing. This is an exceptional release. Gramophone on CHAN 10793.
  • As Jonathan Summers writes in his excellent notes, "This expansive reading gives a whole new meaning to this work and makes us re-evaluate not only Chopin's masterpiece, but also Gilels's enduring talent." CRQ on ICA 5108.
  • Backhaus was 40 when he made this recording of the Emperor Piano Concerto in January 1927. It was made, Jonathan Summers tells us in his excellent short note, in a single session, with just four repeat sides.
    Richard Osborne, Gramophone, on Biddulph LHW 037
  • Annotator Jonathan Summers mirrors his subject by providing us with the facts and the history without fuss.
    Rob Cowan, Gramophone, on Biddulph LHW 038
  • As pointed out in the excellent notes by Jonathan Summers, Schnabel was somewhat of “Bach on the piano” pioneer.
    Harrington, American Record Guide, on Naxos 8.111286
  • However, Jonathan Summers, in the disc’s excellent notes, mentions that Friedman had a terrible time deciding which version was worthy of preserving….
    Patrick Meanor, Fanfare, on Naxos 8.110690
  • There are excellent and well-researched notes by Jonathan Summers, a model of their kind. Not to be missed.
    The Penguin Guide to Recorded Classical Music (2010) on Moiseiwitsch Vol. 12 Naxos 8.111118
  • As Jonathan Summers points out in this excellent notes, Schnabel’s early critics took issue with what they saw as the ‘sin’ of rushing; and of general untidiness in this 1938 recording of the First Concerto.
    Bryce Morrison, Gramophone, on Schnabel plays Brahms Naxos 8.110664
  • The notes by Jonathan Summers are extremely informative and well-balanced.
    Christopher Howell, Music Web International, on Paderewski Naxos 8.112011
  • With first rate and extensive discographic information and Jonathan Summers’ well-crafted and helpful notes this is an important contribution to the history of the piano on record.
    Jonathan Woolf, Music Web International, on The Complete Solo 78rpm Recordings of York Bowen APR 6007
  • Other record companies who have commissioned Jonathan to write notes include BBC Legends, ICA, Medici, APR, Arbiter, Biddulph, Chandos (for whom he wrote notes for a series of five CDs of Liszt’s Symphonic Poems and the complete Années de Pèlerinage), and Marston for whom Jonathan wrote about the pitching problems of Grieg’s Gramophone records made in 1903.
  • Please contact Jonathan for any writing work.


  • Jonathan has written many reviews for International Piano Magazine in the UK. For the same publication he has written articles on the Russian composer and pianist Anton Rubinstein and the Italian pianist Pietro Scarpini. For Piano & Keyboard in the United States, Jonathan wrote an article on pianist Emil von Sauer.
  • Please contact Jonathan for any required reviews or articles.