Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

Getting It Off of His Chest

April 27, 2009


I'm in New York this week. (Those posts are about to start coming your way.) But in the mean time, my friend Jim sends this report of some interesting goings on at Walt Disney Concert Hall last evening:

The Krystian Zimerman recital was quite eventful.

He comes out and glares at the audience and plays the first half of the program at a break neck speed. He was professional, but indifferent to the audience and rather unengaged with the music. I was quite surprised. Something was very wrong.

Right before he comes out for the second half an announcement is made that he will not be performing the Brahms, but instead will be playing an unknown piece from an unknown Polish composer who wrote the sonata in 1952. He plays this piece with an incredible amount of passion and verve... he is possessed.

When he comes back for the final Szymanowski piece he slumps in front of the piano for about a minute. He then turns around and starts to talk to the audience. He states that he has been forbidden to talk directly to the audience, but is going to do it anyway. He says that the evening has been very difficult for him because this will be his last recital in the US for some time. He then starts to make a speech where the first words out of his mouth are about the mistreatment of prisoners in Guantanamo and then starts taking about the US military industrial complex. At about this time a small handful of the audience start yelling at him, booing, swearing at him, and noisily leaving. He then starts talking about the fact that the US has a lot of great things to import to the rest of the world but it should leave it's military at home. He then demands that the US removes their weapons of mass destruction from his country. More booing and yelling from a handful and then supporters of Zimerman are yelling at the dissenters in the audience. Zimerman then thanks the audience for starting to support democracy again and then plays the Szymanowski.

He played as if his life depended on it. He was quite simply played like a animal. On a number of occasions his feet left the ground and flew into the air. Unbelievable! The audience went stark raving mad when it was over. Stunning. I've never heard piano playing quite like it. No encores, but he did put his hand over his heart quite a few times and looked visibly moved at the wild audience response.

Quite an evening.


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