Rachmaninoff’s a stretch
Thursday June 14th 2007, 3:08 pm
Filed under: Knit

Russ and Robin’s CD “The Hancock Brothers”I signed onto the Knitlist for the first time about eight years ago, specifically to ask if anyone knew of any music-themed laceknitting patterns. I got lots of responses of no, but if you find one, let me know. (I am determined I am finally going to come up with one for my next book.)

We went to a concert a few nights ago; there were two superb pianists, one a dear friend of longstanding, the other his brother visiting him, and two grand Steinway pianos had been brought in just for the occasion. (How you borrow two Steinway grands, I’d love to know, but never mind.) The eldest very much carried off the staid, calm, older brother shtick, and Russ–Russ is a showman. Russ is someone who once demonstrated how simple it was to play Bach, at a concert I went to a few years ago, by holding three oranges in one hand, two grapefruit in the other, and playing a piece I knew well totally note-perfect. These two grew up playing in USO shows as kids, and they’re good.

So. If only there were a DVD. They started in on a Rachmaninoff piece dear to my heart: I was slated to play it at Peabody Institute in Baltimore at a Maryland State Piano Competition in the late 70’s when I was a teenager. (Something in C minor, c’mon, brain, help me out here on the title. BUM. BUM. BUHMMMM!! Yeah, that one. You know the one.)

Rachmaninoff had huge hands. If you’ve looked at pictures of me on this blog you know that I emphatically do not. An octave plus two? There was no way! My piano teacher, a onetime concert pianist and a quite-petite woman, told me, oh, just skip the notes you can’t reach.

I could not play that thing the way it was supposed to be played. I could not do that thing justice. It was supposed to sound bombastic, and the thing was impossible to do right. I argued, I practiced like crazy, and in the end I rebelled and refused to play it there.

So here Russ and his taller brother were starting in on that piece, and I instantly wondered how Russ would be able to reach those notes. The other, yes, but… Russ actually talked first about the size of Rachmaninoff’s hands, and traded some sibling barbs with his brother over the issue for the crowd.

They started off in unison, a huge sound on those two huge pianos. Then the showmanship kicked in. Russ made an act of getting frustrated over getting the BUHHHMM!s Russ’d, leaped up from the piano as his brother continued on, walked off the stage, walked back across it carrying a large wooden board and a circular wood saw–giving his brother bunny ears as he went past him–and disappeared off the stage to the other side. Sounds of loud sawing suddenly offstage; the big brother acted oblivious. Finally, Russ came back on with his board with, basically, popsicle-stick-equivalent fingers added on, and sat back down at that second piano.

It was the BUM BUM BUHHHHM! part again. Russ put that board over the keys and the popsicle stick pieces played the entire, superstretched chord perfectly. He put it quickly up on top of the piano out of the way, and continued. Back to that chord–grab the board–play!

It was hysterically funny. The older brother calmly pretended not to notice, but if it took an extra quarter of a beat for Russ to grab that board fast enough and get it down there, the brother, eyes on his own keyboard, kept right in sync with him.

I can just picture Rachmaninoff up there, going, BRAVO!!!

Try to live up to that performance! Hey wait–I get it. All I have to do is go knit a plain sweeping swath of stockinette, go borrow Russ’s circular saw, and whirr a treble clef stencil out of the thing. Done!

(Note: if you want a copy of the CD, contact Russ at skipthesefourwordsrussell@thehancocks.us , skipping, of course, the four superfluous words in the addy.)

7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great story… I can just picture the brothers doing the whole banter on stage.

So, where is the picture of your new design? ((smile))

Comment by Amanda 06.14.07 @ 3:21 pm

Wish I could’ve seen that!

Comment by Pam in Ohio 06.14.07 @ 4:26 pm

I recall seeing a pianist’s scarf, or perhaps orchestra scarf, in a Spin-Off, circa 1999. I remember at the time thinking it would have been very nice if I’d seen it in high school – when I dated a pianist. I’m nowhere near my magazine collection, so forgive the vagueness, perhaps someone else will know for certain.

Comment by Keisha 06.14.07 @ 5:00 pm


Went to Robb’s folks for dinner, and Robb’s mom has issued you a challenge, goodness help me. Check it out here. She’s all in fun…but still, take a look. http://lilacknitting.blogspot.com/2007/06/hat-update.html

Comment by kristine 06.15.07 @ 8:23 am

Oh, ROFL! That must’ve been priceless. (Strange, I have this sudden odd urge to see if Netflix has any Victor Borge DVD’s.) I can empathize with the hand bit, although I was slightly luckier. Small hands, but long fingers; I could reach an octave plus one. Only problem was I hated playing, so I was actually relieved when I broke my little finger and could stop! Which…there’s just something wrong about that. [g]

Music-themed lace? Sounds interesting. I don’t even knit lace (yet), and you’ve got me thinking of arrangements of holes! LOL.

Comment by MonicaPDX 06.15.07 @ 8:25 am

[…] friend Russ, Marguerite’s husband, played tonight, and I missed Knit Night, but oh goodness, you should […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 05.07.09 @ 10:54 pm

[…] much; she let the music, and the very act of playing it, convey the rest of it for her. Her husband Russ was on his grand piano, and two friends and one of her doctors joined in with their own […]

Pingback by SpinDyeKnit 07.13.11 @ 9:55 pm

Leave a comment
Line and paragraph breaks automatic, e-mail address never displayed, HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>