Frank Benner
piano technician

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piano stories

A writing pianist

Anatol Ugorsky is a great Russian pianist, but apart from that he writes very short absurd stories, like:

Once upon a time there was an old skinflint. The man had a very fat housekeeper. When he looked at her, she reminded him of a huge bath.
That gave him an inspiration.
He let the woman sit in his bath until the water was warm enough.

(The water needs to be hotter , exactly twenty two degrees according to the measurings of the Swedish astronomer Celsius)

When you wonder why  the reader should know  the astronomer is from Sweden and why the water must be twenty two degrees, it seems absurd,  but that  temperature  fits in with the story. It is not enough to say the skinflint uses his housekeeper as a source of heat.

 As a comment on this text,  Anatol says he  wrote it just for fun, he compares writing  with playing the piano;

It is always the intonation that separates the lie from the truth, nothing else.”
Another consideration from this musician is about the difference between beauty and expression, the ability to express.
Something very expressive is not necessarily beautiful and beauty is not necessarily expressive.

The want to be expressive kills music,  you will get something deliberately explicit .

Beauty is always  beautiful

Beauty is an indivisible unity.

The human being is a split personality. If he goes to a concert it is often for the wrong reason, a social reason for instance. But apart from that, I think he hopes to find  one moment of spiritual unity.

Anatol Ugorski plays his piano in a different way from other pianists. Up to now, he lived in a different way than other pianists.

Before 1990 no-one outside the former Soviet Union had ever heard of him.
Even the instrument had to get used to him.
After his recordings of the Variations of “Diabelli” by Beethoven, a sound engineer declared never to have heard such a difference between loud and soft playing!
However it was incredibly beautiful.Why did no-one know this man?

The instrument he plays was not chosen by himself but by the entrance-committee of the Soviet State-conservatory. Ugorsky himself still maintains it was a pure coincidence that he came into contact with this instrument. His family scraped together the money to buy a piano. There was a comparison between him and his teacher; it was the first lesson for both of them. He had a very bad teacher with old fashioned methods and so his first results were not so good, but he had the fortune that the head of the piano department rode home in the same bus as he did. He told her stories about old movies he had seen and that earned him good marks in the end.

Ugorski was caught out one day applauding very enthusiastically at a concert by Pierre Boulez. He had to defend himself before a Soviet State committee which thought his applause was demonstrative and declared him a “subversive element”. Because he had a too modern approach to music , he was not allowed to teach at the music academy but was ‘demoted’ to a job as a choirmaster of an insignificant youth choir.


Ugorski: I can not suffice to strike a match, I need to know why it burns;

Musical Meditation
a Dentist plays the Piano