Sunday, December 26, 2010

Sundays with Steve - Wild Night at the Erawan

These Sunday's segments are written by my husband, Mr. Jenny. Here's what he has to say about his posts:

Since I’ve started writing “Sundays with Steve”, I’ve been thinking about vignettes of my life growing up in North Idaho. I realize the town where I grew up and the life I lived with my family is really a classic, all-American story. Perhaps you will recognize some of your childhood in these writings. And perhaps you will recognize the town you grew up in along with some of the characters you knew. Mrs. Steve has encouraged me to write these attempts of “creative writing” as opposed to the more factual journalistic style I was trained in and practiced in my early career many years ago. So my apologies if I stumble a bit here and there trying to blend the two styles together.

Wild Night at the Erawan

You’ll have to pardon me today, it is Christmas day 2010, and I’m busy doing all sorts of Christmas-y things this morning, way too busy to search the memory banks of small town life way back then. We are busy here, very, very, busy. I have to finish reading the newspaper while eating a few Christmas cookies while Mrs. Steve is cooking in the kitchen, I have to view the stash of books Santa left this morning under the tree, and I think I want to change the oil in the Jeepster before we leave for the in-laws this afternoon. I’ll be back next week with more of those small town stories.

But if you’ll excuse me, I want to share the following music review with you, one that I have enjoyed for almost 40 years now. Personally, I can’t carry a musical note out the back door in a bucket, yet alone carry one vocally or with an instrument. But I do love music, and we do enjoy live concerts from time to time. I have written a few poorly-executed concert reviews in my early journalism days, although I didn’t have clue what I was writing about. I never attempted a “high minded” classical music review, such the one that follow by Kenneth Langbell, who crafted this:

Wild Night at the Erawan

The recital last evening in the chamber room of the Erawan Hotel by the United States pianist Myron Kropp, the first appearance of Mr. Kropp in Bangkok, can only be described by this reviewer and those who witnessed the performance as one of the most interesting experiences in a very long time.

It might be appropriate to insert at this junction that many pianists, including Mr. Kropp, prefer a bench to a screw-type stool, maintaining that, on a screw-type stool, they sometimes find themselves turned 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 there was none.

As I have mentioned on several occasions, the Baldwin Concert Grand, while basically a fine instrument, needs constant attention, particularly in climate such as Bangkok's. 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 that 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 were later to question whether the awkward key justified some of the language that was heard coming from the stage. And, 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 greased the stool might have done better to use some of the grease on the second-octave D key.

Indeed, Mr. Kropp's stool had more than enough grease; and during one passage, in which the music and the lyrics both were particularly violent, he was turned completely around.

Thus whereas his remarks had been aimed chiefly at the piano, and were therefore somewhat muted, he found himself, to his surprise, addressing his remarks directly to his audience. 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 key in the third octave chose that particular time to begin sticking, I hesitate to guess. However, it is certainly safe to say Mr. Kropp himself did nothing to help matters when he began kicking the lower portion of the pedals.

Possibly, it was this jarring, or the un-Bach-like hammering to which the stuck keyboard was being subjected, that prompted the next turn of events.

In any case, something caused the right 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 his feet, would 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 began clapping, and when Mr. Kropp reappeared moments later, it seemed he was responding to the ovation. Apparently, however, he had left to get the red-handled ax that was backstage in case of fire. For that was what he had 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 the 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.

(c) 2010 Stephen J. Matlock
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Cheryl said...

I wish I'd seen that performance! Thanks for sharing this today. I needed that belly laugh.

Hope you and the Missus had a grand day where no discordant keys were struck and it wasn't necessary to bring out the axe.

Judie said...

I needed a good laugh this morning! Thanks, Steve!

Bossy Betty said...

Wow! This would have been something to see! Apparently he had a passion for his music!

Anonymous said...

God - how I wish I were there!

J said...

Haha I wish I had been there! Thanks for the laugh!

Pat Tillett said...

Wow! What a story (and performance)! Thanks so much, another great one...