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If this was a television programme you’d be hiding behind the sofa almost from the word go. And it would have one of those ‘strong language from the start’ warnings, assuming it ever got past ‘compliance’ watchdog procedures and on to the airwaves in the first place.

There will be no surprises here for Rhodes’s legions of fans in terms both of the withering directness of what he has to say and the often extreme frankness of the terms used to say it. Famously, Rhodes had to battle in the high court to prevent his former wife having the book banned in order to protect the sensibilities of their son. The particular issue here was the stark openness with which Rhodes chronicles the sexual abuse he suffered while at school and the manner in which it has affected his life in the longer term, with various forms of self-harm colourfully enumerated. Certainly there is no hint of holding back in terms of detail, not least when it comes to describing the various forms of treatment he has undergone to get to grips with the hideous fallout he says stemmed from that early abuse.

Having sampled the good life which a career in the financial world brought him and failed to banish the demons, picking up the threads of his talents as a pianist and launching (with the help of an imaginative manager) his now celebrated worldwide career has been a key factor in rebuilding his life. The basis of that career has been a determination not to dumb down the musical product, but to make his concerts as accessible as possible to the widest public, especially the young.

This is where some of those who have utter sympathy with his background may find it harder to stomach the endless expletives. Rhodes could hardly be more dismissive of what he sees as the inward/backward-looking clique that runs classical music. Many who share his belief that the concert experience should be far more inclusive will nonetheless find his blunt slagging-off of pretty well the entire serious music industry is simply over the top.

But then if you learn anything from this extraordinary, compulsive read (and if you’re not of squeamish disposition, give this a go) it is that Rhodes is never going to be over-worried to measure his words about anything.

ANDREW GREEN Read the full review on Agora Classica

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