Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible by Alan  Rusbridger
(Jonathan Cape, 2013)

Play It Again: An Amateur Against the Impossible

by Alan Rusbridger

As editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger’s life is dictated by the demands of the 24-hour news cycle. It is not the kind of job that leaves much time for hobbies.

But in the summer of 2010, he managed to make his annual escape to a ‘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 Ballade No.1, a piece with passages that demand outstanding feats of dexterity, control, memory and power - a piece that inspires dread in many professional pianists.

His timing could have been better.

The next twelve months were to witness the Arab Spring, the Japanese tsunami and the English riots, and were 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 - even if that meant practising in a Libyan hotel in the middle of a revolution. Fortunately, he was able to gain insights and advice from an array of legendary pianists, from theorists, historians and neuroscientists, from a network of brilliant amateurs unearthed online, even occasionally from secretaries of state.

But was he able to play the piece in time?

Find out more at


In this dazzling, dizzying memoir, one of the world's leading newspaper editors tells of learning to play Chopin's formidable Ballade in G Minor against a backdrop of phone hacking and Wikileaks espionage. The day-to-day counterpoint of piano practice and breaking news is a compositional feat in itself: you have the impression of a wide-awake, fearless mind.”
- Alex Ross
In his page-turning diary, Chopin has to make room for Julian Assange, Leveson and the hacking scandal … This charming, nimble, book argues that a life cannot be too rounded nor a day too full. ”
- Daily Telegraph
As soon as you enter the pages you are hooked, not just by the efforts to overcome this elusive piece through curiosity and courage, but by the clear way in which the diary takes the reader into the murky world of WikiLeaks and the still more polluted waters of phone hacking by News International ... riveting stuff ... Play It Again is a hugely enjoyable, touching and informative volume.”
- Michael Berkeley, Literary Review
Extraordinary... Prepare to be inspired.”
- Sunday Telegraph
An absorbing and technically detailed book… Rusbridger is a vivid writer who is able to make the physical experience of playing the piano…very gripping.”
- Nicholas Kenyon, Times Literary Supplement