It was lucky I didn’t have to play the piano much while I was in Austria, because I have been nursing a small injury to my right hand. It happened back in December when I was playing a solo programme including Ligeti’s ‘Musica Ricercata’. In the second piece, as the composer later revealed, there’s a moment which represents ‘a knife in Stalin’s heart’. Ligeti directs the pianist to pause, and then to play a sudden high note with ‘tutta la forza’. This note is the moment of the knife going in. To make matters worse on the evening of my performance, I had explained all this to the audience beforehand. When the moment came, I raised my right hand dramatically and stabbed the note with all my might. Wham! A few seconds later I felt a kind of flash of lightning shoot painfully through the back of my hand. Oh no! What had I done?
I was amazed that my fingers still appeared to be moving, still able to play the piano. I got to the end of the concert. But my wrist was hurting, and it continued to hurt for weeks. Eventually I got some good osteopathy, and now it seems to be loosening – much to my relief.
Gyorgy Sebok once said that your playing should never sound like the illustration of a lecture which is being silently given alongside. The moral of my tale is similar: do not deliberately draw the audience’s attention to something you are going to do, because you will probably overdo it.