One pleasant spring day in Paris, the great pianist Artur Rubinstein went to visit the great composer Igor Stravinsky in his tiny music studio.
“So, did you play my Piano Rag Music in your concerts?” asked Stravinsky, hoping the great pianist had put Stravinsky’s new piano piece in his programs.
Rubinstein decided to be frank, and come right out with it.
“Igor, I’m an old fashioned pianist. This music is too percussive for me.”
Stravinsky bridled at the bad review, and impatiently remarked that Rubinstein did not understand the Piano Rag Music.
For our readers, the Piano Rag Music is strikingly modern, angular, percussive and loud, even abrasive at times.
Then Stravinsky angrily sat down and loudly played the piece through about ten times, as Rubinstein sat and with each repetition hated the piece even more, a feeling he could not disguise to Stravinsky.
Stravinsky exploded with anger, sputtering and raging as he loudly denounced his friend and the piano.
“You think you can make the piano can sing, but that is only a romantic illusion! The piano is a utilitarian instrument meant only for percussion.”
Now Rubinstein exploded.
“The public dislikes you and your music. Remember the Rite of Spring, how the orchestra was too loud? But when I play your music on the hated piano, the public loves it. It’s a mystery to me.”
“Here, like this,” said Rubinstein, sitting at the piano and playing a bit from Stravinsky’s Petruschka.
Stravinsky immediately calmed down as he heard Rubinstein play his piece so wonderfully.
“How do you get that pedal effect on the bass notes?” marveled Stravinsky at Rubinstein’s genius, having forgotten his tirade of only a moment ago.
A discussion of the sonic possibilities of the piano ensued, ending with Stravinsky offering to write a special arrangement of the Petruschka music for Rubinstein.
Stravinsky, too proud to apologize, and Rubinstein, too gracious to care, embraced each other and remained good friends for life.
And thus the great Igor Stravinsky lost his cool with a very dear friend.
Copyright 2008 Walden Pond Press