From Iceland — Drifting From Vienna to the Americas

Drifting From Vienna to the Americas

Published April 18, 2015

Elín Traustadóttir
Photo by
Promo photo

Rushing into the concert hall, the latest to enter,  stinking of Thai food, I capture everyone’s attention. Gazing over the hall I see mostly senior residents with their grey heads popping up from the seats like so many sticks of candyfloss. A young boy spends his time yawning and playing with his mother’s hair. My companion and I find empty seats at the very back, and Phillip Richardsen takes the stage. He’s sporting his formalwear and resembles a tall and good-looking penguin. It makes a calm snowy day, sublime.

The well-renowned pianist enters, bows and takes his seat in front of the grand piano. Simple as that, no words needed, here the music does the talking. One stage there’s only the pianist, the grand piano and the intense spotlight casted on the two of them, he probably can’t even see the audience. The show kicks off with a Beethoven sonata followed by Schubert, and Fazil Say’s version of the Paganini Jazz. The latter one and seriously jazzed up the audience before the intermission, as we left the hall dancing our way to the toilet.

It was impressive to see the pianist tossing in his seat with a dramatic effect when he furiously hits the piano keys and throws his hands in the air. I was clever enough to bring along a pianist friend of mine who happens to be an expert in classical music. Without her, I’d not have been able to understand what the names and the numbers of the sonatas meant.

After the intermission a Haydn sonata was performed, before my favourite part begun; The tango! Carlos Gardel’s Por una cabeza, universally known as the theme song from Scent of a Woman. As Richardsen played it masterfully with his sharp movements (yet, with a soft and intimate touch), I fantasized about the idea getting his number for a private show later. The dramatic performance, which had by now taken the audience straight to the streets of Buenos Aires continued with my long time favourite, Ástor Piazzolla. Invierno Porteño, Adiós Nonino and finally Libertango. After the multiple round of applause he was bound to come back on stage, which he did and played the grand finale; Ignacio Cervantes’ Adiós a Cuba.

The latter part brought the hot spice to a rather regular piano recital. The first part and classical pieces seemed just complementary to open the concert; they were familiar whereas the later pieces might be unheard of. The concert that had started in classical Vienna, jazzed us away across the Atlantic and invited us to for a passionate tango in Buenos Aires but ended on the colourful streets of Cuba.

In the midst of winter, I became the no one fan of the penguin pianist Philipp Richardsen, if you see him, I still need his number.


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