Faced with a seat someone else has paid for to see Berg’s Wozzeck at the Paris Opera (as I once was) or the suddenly-arrived ability to complete a rackety, but two-handed, account of There is a Green Hill Far Away on the piano, which would you choose? The latter every time.
Sure, a great professional performance can blow you away. But putting the notes in the right order of any tune, however simple, however banal, has a strange effect on those with no instrumental training. For one thing there’s this giddy sensation of I shouldn’t really be here. Not me. Somehow I got in via the back door..
Even more exciting is the knowledge that you’ve just played one note and the next one is over there, three notes to the east. And… yes… you… were right!
Such experiences are, alas, quite rare. If you come upon an unused piano chances are the owner is close by. You tentatively try the first three notes: There – is – a -, and the owner is suddenly by your side. If he/she is a kindly person you’ll be gently discouraged by a rattled-off performance of Green Hill followed by a much faster variation in Z-flat. A more protective owner may simply close and lock the keyboard.
Far too late in life I bought an electronic keyboard which can sound like a piano – sort of. Sometimes I pick out Love Divine All Loves Excelling all on the white notes (scale of C-major). Sometimes I start off on a different note to make things more difficult. And I frown like Emil Gilels.
ONE FROM MY SHELVES Heard by Mrs LdB on Ian Burneside’s much lamented Voices programme; acquired and recorded by me. Vigorous account of a sex maniac’s childhood