28 April 2006

the subversive Steinway

Last Sunday I heard Krystian Zimmerman at Zellerbach. I was in the first row, but off to the right instead of the left (Cal Performances always has to get me in some way) so instead of watching the fingers I could only see the top of his head and then his feet. And the reflected hammers dancing in the opened lid of the instrument. But I often close my eyes during non-vocal music anyway. I've heard him in recital a number of times both here and in Boston, but this was the first time he addressed the audience that I remember. He wanted to explain why the Gershwin preludes had been pulled from the program and more Chopin put in their place (not that I'm complaining, I was happy with either one). It seems that the massive Steinway he travels with went missing at the airport for five days, throwing him off his practice/recital schedule. How do you lose a grand piano? It's probably needless at this sorry juncture to say that the reason it was missing was "terrorists." If I understood him correctly, not only was the instrument gone for five days it was returned to him damaged, with the keyboard and hammers torn up. So do they think suicide recitalists are the next wave of terror? Did someone take too much to heart Boulez's long-ago proposal to "bomb the opera houses" and put the concert halls on red alert? The ultimate point here is that a distinguished foreign artist was going to pay tribute to America by playing her music and instead was basically assaulted. Horowitz traveled with his Steinway during the Cold War and I never heard anyone think that maybe he was a double agent and they should rip his piano up. I'm enjoying the post-modern Onion/Daily Show world, and the smug feeling of being right as if I'm the only one in a 50s horror film that realizes the zombies are taking over, but could this administration please just go away and stop embarrassing us? I should at least be grateful that they're so incompetent, given their general goals.

Zimmerman ended by assuring us that "it was bad to support the terrorists and if you did you would go to jail or end up as Secretary of Defense." That got a lot of applause in Berkeley. Despite his irritation he played his Chopin and Ravel beautifully, so I like to think artistry triumphs over politics. Ultimately.

If anyone is out there you may have noticed I haven't updated recently: I've had very limited computer access for the past few weeks, except at work, where they actually, you know, prefer me to do work-related stuff. And next week I continue my Nathan Gunn tour of America by going to Houston. So the sparkling river of insight and whimsy has been backing up behind the dam, and it doesn't look as if said dam will be blown up (see how I'm tying all this together through metaphor?) until after May 7. So I may as well officially declare myself on a brief hiatus until then, urging you only to go see Mark Morris's Sylvia at the San Francisco Ballet if you haven't already. It has women warriors, pirates, orgies, lovesick shepherds, angry goddesses -- what are you waiting for? What more do you want?

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