Hard to Feel Sorry For a Concert Pianist, But I Do

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New York City’s NPR affiliate has spent much of this week pandering. They incessantly remind us that February is Black History Month (hmmm. Who knew people with dark skin don’t exist in the same history as everyone else? Oh, well, I’m sure it’s a separate but equal history) and then broadcast music with some connection, however faint, to “Black History.” Emphasis on the “faint”: this station usually plays classical music, a venue dominated by white Europeans and by Asians.

Yesterday, they subjected poor Scott Joplin to this insulting treatment, and right now it’s Beethoven, with Moonlight Sonata. No, Beethoven wasn’t black, but the pianist performing so beautifully is Andre Watts. I’m something of an anomaly among classical music-geeks: I couldn’t care less about the artists; my only interest is the music and the composer. So I didn’t know Mr. Watts “is the son of a Hungarian mother, Maria Alexandra Gusmits, a pianist, and an African American father, Herman Watts, a U.S. Army non-commissioned officer,” as Wikipedia puts it.

I do know that Mr. Watts is a consummate pianist, presenting a relaxed and charming rendition of the Sonata (I play classical piano and can testify to how difficult the third movement is. I’ve struggled since 2008 to master it and have finally acknowledged I never will). I also know how offended I would be should anyone buy my novel, Halestorm, because I’m white or a woman. So my heart goes out to Mr. Watts. Perhaps, dear sir, if the State and its contemptible NPR ever go away, your talent alone will enthrall without mention of biological facts you can’t help and that are nobody’s business.

6:34 pm on February 7, 2013