"When The Music Stopped:
Discovering My Mother"


Books by Thomas Cottle

A Sense of Self

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Mind Fields

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At Peril

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Hardest Times

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Intimate Appraisals

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Beyond Self-Esteem

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When The Music StoppedWhen The Music Stopped:
Discovering My Mother

An extraordinary story of the author's mother who gave up a brilliant career as an internationally renowned concert pianist for the sake of motherhood, only to return to the concert stage at age eighty.

Thomas J. Cottle uses written records, interviews and personal reminiscence to reconstruct her life as well as their own relationship. At times a storyteller, at times a psychologist, at times a son seeking to uncover those aspects of his mother's life he could never know or, perhaps, chose not to know until it was too late.

Praise for "When The Music Stopped"

When The Music Stopped"This is more than a profoundly moving tribute of a son to his mother. It is a bittersweet portrait of the conflict in the life of an artist; of a debt to her public as against a bond to her family. I was knocked out."
— Studs Terkel

"This is a heart breaking but ultimately life-affirming story of an extraordinarily talented woman told by her son with grace, empathy, and staggering insight."
—Doris Kearns Goodwin, Pulitzer Prize winning historian

"After decades of listening, witnessing, and documenting the life stories of others-with insight, empathy, and grace-in When the Music Stopped, Thomas J. Cottle turns the light and lens on himself and his family, producing his most beautiful and courageous work yet. Balancing the voices of a fiercely loving son, a skeptical social scientist, and a masterful storyteller, Cottle captures the remarkable life of his mother, Gitta Gradova, a world-renowned concert pianist. His writing itself is music; a deft blend of passion and restraint, light and darkness, pain and life-giving humor."
—Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, author of Balm In Gilead: Journey of a Healer and Respect: An Exploration

"Thomas Cottle has written a fascinating book about a remarkable woman. his mother, the pianist Gitta Gradova. It couples an intimate insight into the artist's life with a warm memoir of a musician's world, with a cast of characters from Toscanini to Isaac Stern. The chapter on Vladimir Horowitz is a gem. Read this book for edification and sheer pleasure!"
—Gary Graffman, concert pianist and author of I Really Should be Practicing.

"This book is a biography of a pas de deux. Mother and son caught in a tortuous tango, in which each one defines and simultaneously distorts the other. It's also a triumphant concert played by the royalty of classical music surrounding the author's mother. A complex psychological study of the demons and glory of the creative process. And, mostly, a love poem from an angry adolescent for the mother he hated, as he rediscovers her in the process of mourning."
—Salvador Minuchin, M.D., author of Family Healing: Strategies for Hope and Understanding

"This book is a work of extraordinary brilliance...[Cottle] offers us a complex view of his mother, one that incorporates psychodynamic, cognitive, and familial explanations. It is a story I will never forget."
—Jeffrey Berman, author of Risky Writing: Self-Disclosure and Self-Transformation in the Classroom

"A deep and sensitive look at human depth and artistic sensitivity itself. Cottle somehow reconciles talent and love on "Hawthorne Place," a 20th Centruy American "Bloomsbury" for the most gifted musicians of our age."
—Jonathan Alter, Senior Editor, Newsweek

Excerpts from "When The Music Stopped"

And so her career took off, in the United States and Europe as well, her terror of travel and stage fright probably ruining every moment of glory she experienced; the reviews and articles only confirm this. It was evident that she was a great concert pianist, a poet, and a wonderful colleague. Over the years, our house was filled with those illustrious colleagues, each of whom sang her praise and raved about her playing. If, as many allege, an artist’s happiness rests in great measure on the recognition of her contemporaries, my mother should have been happy indeed. [continue]

No social gathering at Hawthorne Place could ever have been deemed perfunctory. There was always excitement and tension as people prepared for the evening's company, be it a musician traveling on his own, a musician with an entourage, or, most significantly, what can only be described as the musical soirées. What I observed first hand was something already well known by Chicago's society columnists: My parents were spectacular party goers, and hosts. [continue]

My mother's relationship with the family of Arturo Toscanini began in the years that she and my father became friendly with Vladimir Horowitz and his wife, Toscanini's daughter, Wanda. Trips to Italy almost always involved visits to the Toscanini's, and there was rarely a journey to New York City when my mother failed to visit the Toscanini home in Riverdale, a huge mansion that my mother always described as having rooms the size of barns. In fact, on one excursion to the Riverdale manse, my mother, who had been invited to sleep over, could not find peaceful rest in rooms so enormous. Her first option was to sleep in a bathroom which she also found terrifying. [continue]

Having graduated from college and living through a somewhat low moment in my life, my father’s suggestion to work for him for two weeks [in Israel] seemed immensely appealing. I had nothing better to do, nothing resembling a career to pursue; besides, Israel represented an ideal jumping off place for trips to Greece and Italy. As it happened, I fell in love with the country and asked my father if I could remain after he departed. He was delighted and at once gave his approval. The first question, however, was where would I live? A telephone call to my mother brought news that the violinist Isaac Stern was staying in a hotel outside Tel Aviv; perhaps I should contact him. [continue]

Thomas Cottle talks about his mother- Read the interview

Table of Contents


1. Hawthorne Place
2. The Pianist
3. My Mother's Couch
4. The Physician
5. On Soirées and Skirmishes
6. Identical Sensibilities
7. Gone in the Moment
8. Merely Two People
9. Giant Shadows
10. Final Concert



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