David G. Wiseman

A Humid Recital Stirs Bangkok

 
                   A Humid Recital Stirs Bangkok
 
              (from the Washington Post, 23 July 1967)
 
(This review, by Kenneth Langbell, appeared in the English language
Bangkok Post.  It was made available by Martin Bernheimer of the Los
Angeles Times.)
 
THE RECITAL last evening in the chamber music room of the Erewan Hotel
by U.S. pianist Myron Kropp, the first appearance of Mr. Kropp in
Bangkok, can only be described by this reviewer and those who witnessed
Mr. Kropp's performance as one of the most interesting experiences in a
long time.
    
A hush fell over the room as Mr. Kropp appeared from the right of the
stage, attired in black formal evening-wear with a small, white poppy in
his lapel.  With sparse, sandy hair, a sallow complexion and a
deceptively frail looking frame, the man who has repopularized Johann
Sebastian Bach approached the Baldwin Concert Grand, bowed to the
audience and placed himself upon the stool.
 
It might be appropriate to insert at this juncture that many pianists,
including Mr. Kropp, prefer a bench, maintaining that on a screw-type
stool they sometimes find themselves turning sideways during a
particularly expressive strain.  There was a slight delay, in fact, as
Mr. Kropp left the stage briefly, apparently in search of a bench, but
returned when informed there was none.
 
AS I HAVE mentioned on several other occasions, the Baldwin Concert
Grand, while basically a fine instrument, needs constant attention,
particularly in a climate such as Bangkok.  This is even more true when
the instrument is as old as the one provided in the chamber music room
of the Erewan Hotel.  In this humudity the felts which separate the
white keys from the black tend to swell, causing an occasional key to
stick, which apparently was the case last evening with the D in the
second octave.
 
During the "raging storm" section of the D-Minor Toccata and Fugue, Mr. 
Kropp must be complimented for putting up with the awkward D.  However,
by the time the "storm" was past and he had gotten into the Prelude and
Fugue in D Major, in which the second octave D plays a major role, Mr. 
Kropp's patience was wearing thin.
 
Some who attended the performance later questioned whether the awkward
key justified some of the language which was heard coming from the stage
during softer passages of the fugue.  However, one member of the
audience, who had sent his children out of the room by the midway point
of the fugue, had a valid point when he commented over the music and
extemporaneous remarks of Mr. Kropp that the workman who greased the
stool might have done better to use some of the grease on the second
octave D.  Indeed, Mr. Kropp's stool had more than enough grease, and
during one passage in which the music and lyrics both were particularly
violent Mr. Kropp was turned completely around.  Whereas before his
remarks had been aimed largely at the piano and were therefore somewhat
muted, to his surprise and that of those in the chamber music room he
found himself addressing himself directly to the audience.
 
BUT SUCH THINGS do happen, and the person who began to laugh deserves to
be severely reprimanded for this undignified behavior.  Unfortunately,
laughter is contagious, and by the time it had subsided and the audience
had regained its composure Mr. Kropp appeared to be somewhat shaken. 
Nevertheless he swiveled himself back into position facing the piano
and, leaving the D-Major Fugue unfinished, commenced on the Fantasia and
Fugue in G Minor.
    
Why the concert grand piano's G key in the third octave chose that
particular time to begin sticking I hesitate to guess.  However, it is
certainly safe to say that Mr. Kropp himself did nothing to help matters
when he began using his feet to kick the lower portion of the piano
instead of operating the pedals as is generally done.
    
Possibly it was this jarring, or the un-Bach-like hammering to which the
sticking keyboard was being subjected.  Something caused the right front
leg of the piano to buckle slightly inward, leaving the entire
instrument listing at approximately a 35-degree angle from that which is
normal.  A gasp went up from the audience, for if the piano had actually
fallen several of Mr. Kropp's toes, if not both his feet, would surely
have been broken.
    
It was with a sight of relief, therefore, that the audience saw Mr. 
Kropp slowly rise from the stool and leave the stage.  A few men in the
back of the room began clapping, and when Mr. Kropp reappeared a moment
later it seemed he was responding to the ovation.  Apparently, however,
he had left to get the red-handled fire ax which was hung back stage in
case of fire, for that was what he had in his hand.
 
MY FIRST REACTION at seeing Mr. Kropp begin to chop at the left leg of
the grand piano was that he was attempting to make it tilt at the same
angle as the right leg and thereby correct the list.  However, when the
weakened legs finally collapsed altogether and Mr. Kropp continued to
chop, it became obvious to all that he had no intention of going on with
the concert.
 
The ushers, who had heard the snapping of piano wires and splintering of
sounding board from the dining room, came rushing in and, with the help
of the hotel manager, two Indian watchmen and a passing police corporal,
finally succeeded in disarming Mr. Kropp and dragging him off the stage.

Ha, ha, ha. Take me back to [ the alphabetic list ] [ the date-ordered list ].