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Sticky piano key

(This review by Kenneth Langbell appeared in the English Language  
BangkokPost.  It was made available by Martin Bernheimer of the Los  
Angeles Times.)

   THE RECITAL, last evening in the chamber music room of the  
Erawan Hotel by US Pianist Myron Kropp, the first appearance of Mr. Kropp in  
Bangkok, can only be described by this reviewer and those who witnessed Mr.  
Kropp's performance as one of the most interesting experiences in a very  
long time.

   A hush fell over the room as Mr. Kropp appeared from the right  
of the stage, attired in black formal evening-wear with a small white  
poppy in his lapel.  With sparse, sandy hair, a sallow complexion and a  
deceptively frail looking frame, the man who has repopularized Johann Sebastian Bach
approached the Baldwin Concert Grand, bowed to the audience and  
placed himself upon the stool.

   It might be appropriate to insert at this juncture that many  
pianists, including Mr. Kropp, prefer a bench, maintaining that on a  
screw-type stool they sometimes find themselves turning sideways during a  
particularly expressive strain.  There was a slight delay, in fact, as Mr Kropp  
left the stage briefly, apparently in search of a bench, but returned when  
informed that there was none.

   AS I HAVE mentioned on several other occasions, the Baldwin Concert
Grand, while basically a fine instrument, needs constant attention,
particularly in a climate such as Bangkok. This is even more true  
when the instrument is as old as the one provided in the chamber music room  
of the Erawan Hotel. In this humidity the felts which separate the white  
keys from the black tend to swell, causing an occasional key to stick, which
apparently was the case last evening with the D in the second  
octave.

   During the "raging storm" section of the D-Minor Toccata and Fugue, Mr.
Kropp must be complimented for putting up with the awkward D.   
However, by the time the "storm" was past and he had gotten into the Prelude  
and Fugue in D Major, in which the second octave D plays a major role, Mr.  
Kropp's patience was wearing thin.

   Some who attended the performance later questioned whether the awkward
key justified some of the language which was heard coming from the stage
during softer passages of the fugue. However, one member of the  
audience, who had sent his children out of the room by the midway point of  
the fugue, had a valid point when he commented over the music and  
extemporaneous remarks of Mr. Kropp that the workman who had greased the stool  
might have done better to use some of the grease on the second octave D.   
Indeed, Mr. Kropp's stool had more than enough grease and during one passage in  
which the music and lyrics were both particularly violent, Mr. Kropp was  
turned completely around.  Whereas before his remarks had been aimed  
largely at the piano and were therefore somewhat muted, to his surprise and that  
of those in the chamber music room he found himself addressing himself  
directly to the audience.

   BUT SUCH THINGS do happen, and the person who began to laugh  deserves to
be severely reprimanded for this undignified behavior.  Unfortunately,
laughter is contagious, and by the time it had subsided and the  
audience had regained its composure Mr. Kropp appeared somewhat shaken.   
Nevertheless, he swiveled himself back into position facing the piano and, leaving  
the D Major Fugue unfinished, commenced on the Fantasia and Fugue in G  
Minor.

   Why the concert grand piano's G key in the third octave chose that
particular time to begin sticking I hesitate to guess.  However, it  
is certainly safe to say that Mr. Kropp himself did nothing to help  
matters when he began using his feet to kick the lower portion of the piano  
instead of operating the pedals as is generally done.

   Possibly it was this jarring or the un-Bach-like hammering to which the
sticking keyboard was being subjected.  Something caused the right  
front leg of the piano to buckle slightly inward, leaving the entire  
instrument listing at approximately a 35-degree angle from that which is  
normal.  A gasp went up from the audience, for if the piano had actually  
fallen several of Mr. Kropp's toes if not both his feet, would surely have been  
broken.

   It was with a sigh of relief therefore, that the audience saw Mr. Kropp
slowly rise from his stool and leave the stage. A few men in the  
back of the room began clapping and when Mr. Kropp reappeared a moment later it  
seemed he was responding to the ovation.  Apparently, however, he had left  
to get a red-handled fire ax which was hung back stage in case of fire, for  
that was what was in his hand.

MY FIRST REACTION at seeing Mr. Kropp begin to chop at the left leg  
of the grand piano was that he was attempting to make it tilt at the same  
angle as the right leg and thereby correct the list.  However, when the  
weakened legs finally collapsed altogether with a great crash and Mr. Kropp  
continued to chop, it became obvious to all that he had no intention of going on  
with the concert.

   The ushers, who had heard the snapping of piano wires and splintering of
sounding board from the dining room, came rushing in and, with the  
help of the hotel manager, two Indian watchmen and a passing police  
corporal, finally succeeded in disarming Mr. Kropp and dragging him off the  
stage.




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