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 [ BACK]  [NEXT]                      Issue #003 - 09/01/1996

Revenge of The Sunday Funnies

Concerted Effort Department...

     Hello for Labor Day here in the US!  Ever had a bad day (or
night) at work?  Usually an off day is just a minor annoyance. 
But imagine how it must be if EVERYONE knows you are having
trouble.  Performers, especially for classical music, have to be
letter perfect every time, or someone will certainly be able to
tell.  So when things go wrong, they just get worse and worse. 
Here are a couple of examples...
     Hope you had a nice weekend,

-------------Cut Here --- (Ouch) ---------------------------
An Alarming Incident -

    The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Centennial celebration
concert, the exact re-creation of its first concert 100 years
later, stays in memory in part for the wrong reason.  The
program, same as the one that began the CSO's history in 1891,
was: WAGNER Faust Overture, BEETHOVEN Symphony No. 5, TCHAIKOVSKY
Piano Concerto #1, DVORAK Hussite Overture.  In addition, the CSO
had invited it's surviving conductors to take part.
    Before the concert, the CSO had a dinner at the Art
Institute for about 400 special donors who paid more than $500
per person to attend.  At dinners of that nature it is customary
to give a token gift to those attending, and so the CSO had 
arranged for all those attending to receive a lovely desk clock, 
specially marked to recall the event.   
    There were no problems during the Wagner, and during the
Beethoven only an occasional beep made people angry, thinking
that some idiot had a pager that was going off; but it didn't
seem too serious.
   After intermission, though, things gathered force --
throughout the first movement of the Tchaikovsky no one could
figure out what all of the beeping was noises where about. 
Finally, one of the staff members came to the horrible conclusion
that there were four hundred, randomly set, ALARM clocks inside 
the hall, any number of which might go off during the rest of the 
   Barenboim and Solti [distinguished former conductors of the
CSO] were looking very angry about all the beeping during the
first movement of the Tchaikovsky, but they concentrated and kept
it going.  At the end of the first movement, though, conductor
Solti  stopped and turned to address the audience, but the
director of the CSO knew that since Solti didn't know the real
cause, he was going to yell at people he thought had beepers.  In
addition, the people who had the presents DIDN'T KNOW THAT THEY
HAD CLOCKS -- they had gotten a wrapped gift and most probably
had not unwrapped it. So the director of the CSO walked on stage
and  interrupted Solti's announcement.   Solti said later that he
thought he was losing his mind.  "First I hear beeping, then
someone walks out on stage and interrupts me-- I thought I was in
the loony bin."  
   The audience was informed that they were holding some 400
randomly set alarm clocks.  When laughing stopped, they dutifully
took the clocks outside to the ushers, who kept them in the lobby
until after the concert.  The rest of the evening proceeded
without incident!

Bad night for Bach - 

     A Humid Recital Stirs Bangkok
          Review by
          Kenneth Langbell
               The English Language Bangkok Post

   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.
   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
   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 there by 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.

© 1996 by Bill Becwar. All Rights Reserved.