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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Krystian Zimerman Not Down with America

Uh oh, did you read this? Mark Swed blogs the Disney Hall recital of Krystian Zimerman, one of the world's greatest concert pianists:

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 whole world. “Get your hands off of my country,” he said. He also made reference to the U.S. military detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. About 30 or 40 people in the audience walked out, some shouting obscenities. “Yes,” he answered, “some people when they hear the word military start marching.”
Now, my first impulse here is to delicately suggest that Mr. Zimerman might, perhaps, consider fucking himself, but then I realize that what he's probably referring to is the U.S.'s stated desire to establish military bases in Poland, and I wonder how Americans would react if the shoe were the other foot and we were suddenly being pressure to host Polish missiles on our soil. I'm guessing the dudes who jeered and walked out of that Disney Hall concert would have TOTALLY LOVED THAT. And then I read on, and maybe we can understand why Zimerman's animus against our government is so deeply personal when Mark Swed reminds us:
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.
Emphasis mine. Also, Swed notes in his final review,
Three years ago at the Irvine Barclay Theatre, he substituted Gershwin for Chopin because the Transportation Security Administration had held up his piano at the airport and he didn’t have time to practice to adjust it properly.
So I think I'm starting to get where Zimerman is coming from, here. (Swed also notes that most in the audience cheered Zimerman's diatribe against the U.S.'s militarism and its un-American treatment of detainees, and that the applause, at the end of his recital, was "deafening.") So, yeah, our government does suck sometimes. A little police state-y. Our military really does want, for better or worse, to control the world; we really haven't treated our detainees humanely; though Zimerman didn't mention it, the TSA really is, didja notice, The Worst. But I hope he changes his mind. If not—well, here's some video of the young Zimerman to remind us what we're missing: Swed links via The Standing Room.

14 comments:

patrioticallyanonymous said said...

I'm torn about this. Yes what happened to his piano was unspeakable but why he chose to blame the government for it is going a tad too far. He does, however, deserves to an apology and a reimbursement for what happened to him.

It seems odd that someone of such a cultured background would have so short a memory. America is the only thing holding this rock together. Our military bases, and corporations abroad are the only thing keeping everyone from going mad. Doesn't he remember our support of Poland during the cold war and how we are now protecting them from the Russians? Couldn't he remember how open-armed we treated cultural and political defectors during Poland's darkest hours? We may not be perfect but if I had to vote for a country to run the world I'd vote for America hands down every time. We restrain the chaos of this world so that people of his ilk can practice his art in peace and without censorship. Yes, what happened to him was sad but give the US a break!

R. said...

What happened to his piano is really unfortunate, and he has every right to be pissed at the U.S. authorities for the rest of his life. I probably would. He's still a douchebag, though, for the tirade.

I (no patriot) don't find what he has to say particularly objectionable, but it takes some balls to hurl it at the paying public in such an accusatory tirade (e.g., get your hands off).

I wouldn't have walked out. Not unless Zimerman himself had handed me a refund. But I would've considered yelling at him to STFU and play on.

Dan Johnson said...

PA, you've got it all backwards! It was Poland that helped liberate our United States from the Iraqi menace.

R., all in all, I think it was a dick move. I should have mentioned that he was, Swed reports, kind to those who applauded his remarks, but still that seems like a rude thing to say, and I should also have pointed out that it also seems to be coming from a place of fervent Polish nationalism (note the evening's program), which is just gross. Boo to fervent nationalism, whatever the nation.

patrioticallyanonymous said...

Sir, with submission it is YOU who has it backwards. And the Iraq liberation is going swimmingly thank you do in part to no one but the US. It is the burden of our country to insure democracy is secure across the globe. It's always been the Pol's way of doing thing backwards! Check your facts before making inane accusations.

Dan Johnson said...

Oh my God you actually did it.

YOU FORGOT POLAND.

patrioticallyanonymous said...

Whatever are you talking about. I or we have not forgotten Poland, Poland has forgotten us! And why the rant against nationalism? Are you endorsing some leftist form of global hippie hand holding? What planet are you from? The world is a dangerous place that needs countries patriotic and caring enough like America to make things right. Nationalism is good because it helps us identify who is with us and who is against us.

Dan Johnson said...

What? That's not funny. Say "Keyes" again.

patrioticallyanonymous said...

Once again the left rears it's ugly racist head again. Why is it always fine for democrats to be racists? And why do make fun of conservatives of African decent? Keys is an important figure in American history. He is a Doctor in constitutional law (received from no less an institution then Princeton.)as is our current president, AND a former ambassador under Regan, the man single-handedly responsible for ending the cold war. Why you choose to belittle a man of such great import is unconscionable. At least he has more credentials and experienced then Obama, heck that man has actually DONE things rather then just charm his way into office. Both he, Palin, or even Paul for that matter would be better prepared to steer this country back it the way it should be going. And that 's not humorous but rather a known fact!

Dan Johnson said...

Thank you. Perfection. Now sh, don't spoil it. Let's just enjoy it together.

R. said...

This whole exchange reminds me of that brilliant ontological mash-up that was Ali G. interviewing Chomsky about "language."

patrioticallyanonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dan Johnson said...

:-( He spoiled it.

Ferdinand Gajewski said...

I wonder if I’m the only American of Polish extraction who is becoming increasingly impatient with the United States’s porcine treatment of Poland–a small desperate country particularly susceptible to bribery. What sort of carrot might have been offered the Poles to get them in bed with the United States for what was certain to become a misadventure in Iraq? And to play host to American extraordinary "renditions"?

One would have thought Barack Obama had more sense of the fragile Russian psyche than to embrace plans of the Bush administration to install a missile shield against "Iran" on Polish soil. The shield is certain to destabilize relations between Russia and Poland. And Russian-American rapport will suffer.

Perhaps American "Polonia" should be grateful the United States facilitated Poland’s overthrow of communism. But Poland became a communist state thanks, in the first place, in large part to the United States.

Small wonder an artist of Krystian Zimerman’s stature is boycotting us, just as Arthur Rubinstein had previously boycotted Germany. One can only hope Maestro Zimerman’s ostracism will help save America from herself.

Anonymous said...

I personally think he had his own reasons to say something like that. He is not a stupid uneducated guy and must have considered all the pros and cons to say that in public. His playing is deeply intelectual and everything is sorted out in it.It means that he has nothing in common with the shallowness which was suggested by some before. As far as Poland is concerned the Yalta treaty harmed this country some much and the USA is the main superpower to be blamed for that.