Commonplace Book: People and Pianos

piano_shopReading a sweet book about coming back to pianos and piano playing in mid-life (a story I, a perpetual musical ‘advanced beginner’ can relate to). Thad Carhart turned his back on corporate life, and wandered into The Piano Shop on the Left Bank where an enigmatic, brilliant piano technician and dealer (he calls Luc) puts him together with a baby grand, with cinematic results.

This time at the atelier I did bring sheet music, and Luc nodded approvingly when he saw me set it on the music stand. I’ve never been comfortable playing in front of others, but somehow this was different; his presence seemed encouraging as we listened together to the particular voice of this instrument among so many other pianos. I played for perhaps ten minutes, pieces I knew reasonably well and could listen to while I sight-read: some Beethoven bagatelles, a few of Schumann’s pieces for children, an early Mozart fantasy. I was not disappointed The Stingl’s resonance filled the room with tones at once clear and robust, and a sharp sense of pride welled up at the prospect of owning this distinctive piano, of seeing and playing it daily, of living with it. Good God, I thought, this is a kind of love; and, as in love, my senses amplified and enhanced the love object, all with an insouciance and willing enthusiasm.

A magical performance of the Arabeske in C major by Wilhelm Kempff (with less than magical camera work).

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