A friend posted on Facebook today that she was returning to the Piano. Her quote was wonderful. “THE PIANO – When you truly play, you and the piano become one. And until you play again, it is indeed a temptation and difficult to resist.”
From the time I was a kid I wanted to learn to play the piano. I had a couple of lessons in 7th grade from Sr. St. George but could not get access to a piano to practice and it fell by the wayside. The very first record album I ever bought was Horowitz playing Moonlight Sonata. It was a RCA recording from 1956. I still have that album. I used to lay across my bed and listen to it over and over. While other friends were learning the chords to Smoke on the Water I was listening to every nuance and variation in the music. VLADIMIR HOROWITZ was sent from the gods. His hands touched the keys and the angles would weep in shame. I so wanted to become one with an instrument in such a way that the sounds coming forth would make the world stop and take notice. I just never had a piano or the discipline to follow that path.
In my 20’s I had the opportunity to sit on a piano bench with Horowitz at the Ritz Carlton off DuPont Circle in Washington DC. Horowitz had just returned from a trip back to Moscow for his now famous concert and the Reagan people wanted to capitalize on it as some kind of US vs. USSR battle won by the good guys. In 1986, Horowitz announced that he would return to the Soviet Union for the first time since 1925 to give recitals in Moscow and Leningrad. In the new atmosphere of communication and understanding between the USSR and the USA, these concerts were seen as events of political, as well as musical, significance.
I mentioned the story about Horowitz being the first album I ever purchased and apparently she mentioned it to Vladimir. When he came out to warm up the piano and check its’ tuning he invited me to sit with him. He didn’t have to ask twice. I sat with him while he warmed up the most beautiful piano I had ever touched. As I watched his hands fly across the keyboard I realized I would never have that skill and all but gave up any dream of ever learning to play.
Vladimir Horowitz and Me
After the dinner there was a receiving line that included Horowitz, Senator Paul Laxalt, Justices Warren Berger and Renquest, and Secretary George Schultz to name a few. As the guests were winding through the line and after-dinner drinks were being served, Horowitz bolted from the line asking “where’s that kid?” He came back into the dining room and found me. The confusion on the host face and the elite of Washington who had just been abandoned was priceless. Horowitz had tracked me down to ask if I had all his CD’s (A new fade in those days). I responded that I did not that I could not afford them all. He asked if I went to New York often to which I answered in the affirmative. He told me that next time I was in the city to call him and he would give the rest. He asked if I knew where he lived. I said you’re so famous like that John Lennon guy everyone in the city would know. And I’d ask when I got there. He retorted “Smart-ass” and then printed out his address and phone number.
On my next trip to NY I stopped by but he was napping. I had tea with his wife Wanda who gave me several CD’s. She told me that he was so excited to find someone at one of those parties who actually appreciated his work and not his fame that he actually talked about meeting me for several days. I couldn’t stop telling my friends who responded with a collective Vladimir who? By the time I made a trip to the City after that he has passed away.
Several years ago I purchased a baby grand with hopes of taking lessons and rekindling that love affair but every time I sat down to learn I psyched myself out by comparing myself to Horowitz.
Once again I have decided to try to learn. First step is to have it tuned. Then focus. The piano still calls to me and intimidates me at the same time.