Krystian Zimerman is one of the world’s best pianists. Sunday night he was making his debut at LA’s Disney Hall. And then:
Before playing the final work on his recital, Karol Szymanowski’s
“Variations on a Polish Folk Theme,” Zimerman sat silently at the piano
for a moment, almost began to play, but then turned to the audience. In
a quiet but angry voice that did not project well, he indicated that he
could no longer play in a country whose military wants to control the
“Get your hands off of my country,” he said. He also made reference
to the U.S. military detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Some in the audience booed. A few walked out.
Zimerman has had problems in the United States in recent years. He
travels with his own Steinway piano, which he has altered himself. But
shortly after 9/11, the instrument was confiscated at JFK Airport when
he landed in New York to give a recital at Carnegie Hall. Thinking the
glue smelled funny, the TSA decided to take no chances and destroyed
the instrument. Since then he has shipped his pianos in parts, which
he reassembles by hand after he lands. He also drives the truck
himself when he carries his instrument from city to city over land, as
he did after playing a recital in Berkeley on Friday.