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A short story by KELLY FERJUTZ


The gleaming black piano sat alone on the stage of the concert hall. There was a bench in front of the keyboard, but that was so ordinary it was not really noticeable. It was the piano that commanded interest, even in the empty concert hall. It seemed to glimmer -- almost to glow -- in the faint reflections of the dimmed house lights.

Usually, the piano was placed exactly sideways on the stage, the keyboard facing stage right, but somehow this one had become slightly angled, so that the deepest bass keys were visible to perhaps sixty percent of the house. A fanciful person might have said that the piano -- or at least the keyboard -- was inspecting, even observing its surroundings. Such a fanciful person might have been correct.


In addition to its shiny, gleaming black finish and three large brass caster wheels, this Hamburg Steinway concert grand piano (known to the musical world as number 1713) apparently harbored a soul. It was notorious throughout the musical world for the widely varying quality of performances that issued from it.

It had been known to send both inexperienced and veteran players rushing from the stage in frustration, incredulity or even resolve, not to mention confusion as they tried to understand exactly what had just happened to them. Careers had gone up in smoke after an attempted performance on this piano, while other artists had come from seemingly nowhere to blaze triumphantly across the musical horizon after what had been deemed merely indifferent performances elsewhere.

For instance, there was the time that Vittorio Belardze, an ethnically-constricted bear of a man known for his virtuosic if thunderous Prokofiev or Rachmaninoff, had produced a positively dreamy and unbelievably delicate Debussy, and then a stupendous and luminous Chopin étude. Where in his Italian-Russian heritage had he found these previously unknown qualities?

Even as they wrote glowing reviews of his recital, the critics collectively shook their heads in wonder. Belardze was no longer a pedestrian, every day sort of pianist. With one astonishing appearance, he had vaulted to the top of every impressario's wish list.

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Copyright © 10 November 2005 Kelly Ferjutz, Cleveland USA


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