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It’s hard, hitting the concert ivories. It takes a special kind of person


by Jerome Weeks 12 Mar 2008

Virtuoso pianists? They’re like risk-taking jet pilots. They can be a little odd, says Michael Church. Between eccentricity and madness lies a whole spectrum…. When we learn that the Russian maestro Grigory Sokolov takes each piano apart before playing it, and notes his findings in a book, we see this as a facet of his […]

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Fingers on a Steinway

Virtuoso pianists? They’re like risk-taking jet pilots. They can be a little odd, says Michael Church.

Between eccentricity and madness lies a whole spectrum…. When we learn that the Russian maestro Grigory Sokolov takes each piano apart before playing it, and notes his findings in a book, we see this as a facet of his infinitely subtle art. On the other hand, there are fine pianists who are close to the psychologically dangerous end of the spectrum, and one or two – no names, no writs – who have tragically dropped off the edge. …

When I interviewed Shura Cherkassky, then a sprightly octogenarian, in the hotel room he inhabited with a shockingly out-of-tune piano, I vainly tried to get him to talk about music; all he wanted to discuss was which Hawaiian shirt would make him most attractive to possible conquests. … Sviatoslav Richter felt comfortable on the stage, but at times he was unable to go anywhere else without clutching his pink plastic lobster.

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