Monday, June 02, 2008

True greatness from Paderewski

A musician friend of mine in Cape Town sent me this story today:

Wishing to encourage her young son's progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted an old friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her.

Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked "NO ADMITTANCE."

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.

Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy's ear, "Don't quit; keep playing." Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon his right arm reached around to the other side of the child, and he added a running obbligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed what could have been a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience.

The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn't recall what else the great master played. Only the classic, " Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."
When I think of how the great master might have reacted - what a hissy fit many great artists might have thrown - I am amazed. There's a lesson in there for all of us... and I won't patronise you by spelling it out!


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia Ora Karyn

Thanks for the instance you so beautifully exemplified for us.

I think you are right to believe there was something extraordinary in the sensitivity Jan Paderewski demonstrated so publicly with a child at his instrument. He was more than just a mere virtuoso composer and musician.

His eclecticism and humanitarian mind would have permitted him to seize the moment that he saw as truly precious. And it was.

Ka kite

Anonymous said...

Wonderful Karyn. The greatness of this man is appearant in how beautifully he treated this child. Every day sparkling gems from a very brilliant woman. I read about the Sout African civil war like strife. This slave trade has always been on my mind and as a child I always wondered about the cruelty. Once I had read that slaves were allowed to die so that the fittest of the lot survived. It still amazes me to think that we are existing in such contrasting parallel worlds. Just imagine Karyn as a child I had read these and all the vivid memories are with me. But one thing I leave for you to think on-why is it so that these resource- rich nations are struggling for survival? Is it something to do with the race? Imagine what would have happened in India had it not snatched its independence from the British using second world war to their advantage? As I travelled mountains enjoying the British buildings, one thing came to my mind. India should be greatful to the British for creating such a neat infrastructure. Indian railways(which now helps British maintain theirs), Indian Defence Forces, mail, Civil Services and most other government organisations were first established by the British. Why did Sout Africa gain its independence so late? Why can't the African people prosper like the Arabs on their natural resources? Hugs Karyn and thanks for sharing such thought provoking posts.

Anonymous said...

@Ken I would imagine that he must have been a patient and loving father, and, had he chosen a career as a piano teacher, a most encouraging teacher. Of all my own teachers, it was my choir teacher who had the greatest positive impact on me.

@rina Sadly, over the centuries, Africa has had a rough ride. I have a variety of theories about why it is the way it is, but (a) too long and (b) too politically controversial to serve as a comment on a learning blog.

I will, however, make one observation:

Bear in mind that, in South Africa, the black people had no vote until 1994. They had never been exposed to national governance and they went from having no vote to running the country in the space of a single election. Think of it like this: the first time Nelson Mandela cast a vote in a national election, he became president. Suddenly there was an entire parliament (and, more importantly, an entire cabinet) consisting mostly of people who had never been MPs before. Then the world stands back and says "Look what happens when you put Africans in charge!" I'd say that's what happens when you don't give people - any people - the opportunity to learn how to do something before expecting them to do it.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

@Karyn - I guess you know that Paderewski had really a very sad life as a parent. His son was handicapped and his first wife died at a sweet young age. He did not re-marry until almost 20 years had passed.

I would say that you are probably right in assuming that he'd have been a great teacher had he chosen that vocation. He was also a successful politician.

Who's to say which of these careers would have brought the greatest gifts to us, his music or (otherwise) his teaching?

Ka kite

Anonymous said...

@ken I did know that, yes. Perhaps that sadness was what gentled his heart! He was Prime Minister of Poland - I don't know whether he was a good one or not. I do know that his musical performances were highly regarded.

I think this story indicates that he was a man of worth for who he was, not just for what he did. The same cannot always be said of great men/women!