Sunday, March 13, 2011

During the Madness of War, the Sound of a Piano...

Those who saw the Polanski masterpiece, "The Pianist" well remember the pianist, Szpilman, playing on a Steinway grand piano in the midst of the rubble of Warsaw, for a German officer, who befriended and protected Szpilman from certain death, as the pianist was a Jew.
The stark and lurid portrait of the sounds of a piano emanating from the horror of the ruins in the center of the Polish city brings to mind an incident that fortunately was filmed, of which I have a copy.
It lasts for but a few seconds, but this film shows us a tarmac of one of the many airfields in the Soviet Union, and on this tarmac, in the midst of the titanic struggle between Russia and Germany, are planes landing and taking off, going to and returning from a battle rather obviously not very far from the airfield.
And in the midst of all the frenetic activity and the accompanying sounds, there is a grand piano placed on this tarmac, with a young pianist playing magically. I have no idea as to whether this piece of film was a form of propagandist nationalism, or whether it was simply home movies taken by a Russian soldier or airman - I cannot locate the source; at least up to this time, but it is indeed one of the most memorable scenes that I have ever witnessed coming out of the Second World War.
The young man playing the piano was Emil Gilels, soon to become one of the musical giants of the twentieth century.



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