Thursday, March 27, 2008

Horowitz and his Handkerchief?? Read on......

This purported contribution to the Art of the Written Word will deal with the performer and his personal battle with pressure, in whatever form it may appear:
In a brief movie made in Hollywood centering around the great violinist Jascha Heifetz, it was mentioned that Heifetz, at times, could drop as many as three pounds of liquid in a single recital - the expenditure of energy in a recital by a pianist, according to a medical research group's announcement some years back, equals the energies exuded by a professional football player in one game.
The combination of intensity and the kind of "nervousness," formed by the occasion and the make-up of that particular performer, can indeed be seen by the audience member present.
For instance, in veritably every performance by Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, that eccentric and reclusive pianist, a black handkerchief would be produced between pieces, followed by a most meticulous procedure of face-and-hand wiping, that in terms of theatricality, would rival the drama of the performance itself.
Brow-mopping is, of course, quite common in performance, as so many phases of energy must be called upon to fashion a performance into a successful reality.
The example I am so fond of is the relationship between the fabled pianist Vladimir Horowitz and his handkerchief.
First, one should be reminded of the titanic battle that Horowitz waged with his fear of the audience and fear of failure before that audience. It hounded him throughout most of his long career; so much so that he was forced to retire from public performance for at least four times, the first as early as around 1936. Some of these "retirements " lasted for years before he could summon enough inner strength to return to the stage. There was one period of retirement during which he did not leave his town house for two years, not even for a short walk.
His fear and nervousness showed up in the form of a running nose, and if you were to have seen him, or have one of his videos, you know that his beloved handkerchief was at the ready for a nose-wiping, either between pieces, or even during concerti, when he would take a wipe at his proboscis while the orchestra was playing.
It was so poignant and at the same time humorous to see how lovingly he plopped his beloved and ever-present handkerchief down on the piano before his performance in Moscow, his first visit there in over sixty years, and how the audience lovingly acknowledged that familiar procedure.
Horowitz and his Handkerchief ; besides his piano, AND his wife, who was at all of his performances, these four entities were never separated throughout his legendary career.

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