Christopher Kondrich

 
from Canto Fermo

          regarding the choice of piano

What was disappointing
was not that the recital 
was over, but that Tim
hadn’t chosen the right
piano, he immediately 
expressed his concern
over his piano choice, 
but I told him the piano
hadn’t been in use,
it had just sat there,
but he said that that
was precisely the reason
why the right piano 
had to be chosen to sit
beside us the whole time, 
its immobility was itself
a great accompaniment— 
that the right piano
wasn’t chosen was a 
blackness that shrouded us, 
a woolen pall, he said
with a few beads of sweat
dotting the corners of 
his face. You have to choose 
the right piano for 
the right composer, 
in this case we are 
the composers, so the piano 
shouldn’t have been 
a Steinway, it is clear 
in my mind that Steinway 
was the obvious but not 
correct choice, with its 
responsiveness to major 
concertos, to Bach, but 
not to us, we should’ve 
gone with a Bösendorfer 
or something more inclined 
to our condition, more 
like the condition of our 
shadows. I want to return 
to when the choice 
of piano was before me, 
but I’m not sure if 
choosing the right piano 
was something we 
could ever do. 
If I chose the Bösendorfer, 
I would now be saying 
that the Steinway was 
the obvious choice, 
that I was a fool 
to pass up what was 
clearly the optimal piano— 
this is the real problem, 
now we are getting 
at the real issue … 
I don’t play the piano 
for its repertoire, 
I play for its closeness— 
the music is always 
so close to my hands, 
I can feel the sounds 
between my hands 
as I clasp them to play. 
Tim was silent after this 
and put his hat on, 
but he didn’t leave,
he sat near the window
overlooking the field,
slouched in a chair
and fiddling with the
buttons on his coat. 
I couldn’t dawdle. 
I had a few things 
I wanted to do before 
the day was over. 
I was always so adamant 
that I perform certain duties, 
I couldn’t finish
the day and move
onto the next one 
until these minor tasks 
were completed and 
I had checked them 
off my mental list, 
my aria, which, 
in its reoccurrence,
brings melody to me
on its schedule, the sound 
of my absence, of all 
absence, as I check
off, item by item, 
what anchors me 
to this world—
I think Kant played 
a Schimmel, Tim piped up,
perhaps we were led 
astray by our inclinations 
towards a Bösendorfer 
or Steinway when our 
real answer was a 
Schimmel all along, 
but I detest the Schimmel 
with its indeterminateness 
and squeaking wheels. 
I remember the one 
Schimmel I played 
when I was a child— 
it kept shifting 
when I struck the keys. 
I was told I was 
frustrating the instrument 
with pent up suffering. 
I was an emotional child, 
crying at every turn, 
and my hands were 
such an extension of this 
emotion that when 
I frustrated the instrument, 
as I was told, the wheels 
squeaked with its movement, 
which is why, in this case, 
I was so immediately 
deterred by the Schimmel 
that I gravitated towards 
the Steinway and Bösendorfer 
and swung between them 
for a few hours. 
I didn’t have the heart 
to tell him, to remind him
that, in Beethoven’s time,
in Vienna, there were
more than one 
hundred piano makers,
each with their own
inclination towards
one sound or another,
so the choice could’ve
been even harder,
the sheer number
of pianos would’ve 
made choosing one
an impossibility.
I didn’t have the heart
to say that our choice
was simple by comparison, 
the choice between
Steinway or Bösendorfer
was as clear a decision
as we were ever
going to have— 
if we cannot choose
between a Steinway
or Bösendorfer, how
will we ever choose
anything else? This
is the path we create, 
the one that pieces 
us together into one man 
or another, the one 
with the recollection 
of choosing the piano,
or the one fixing his
pant leg, shaking it
to get the creases out
like nothing had ever
happened or ever will.

 

 

Christopher Kondrich is currently a PhD candidate at the University of Denver. Other selections from Canto Fermo have appeared in MeridianBoston ReviewNotre Dame Review, and The Journal.

 

 

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