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The Independent Culture
Piano prize

A gifted but impoverished young British pianist has been donated a pounds 74,000 Steinway by a lawyer who heard him play at this year's Tchaikovsky competition in Moscow, and then discovered that the student had been forced to sell his own piano. Frederick Kempf, 20, studies at the Royal Academy of Music where the principal, Curtis Price, describes him as one of their most talented pupils ever. Kempf came third in the Tchaikovsky event after two Moscow-trained Russians. Mr Price said that the competition has become notorious for its decisions.

Readers' offer

Reader's Digest Association Inc. announced on Tuesday that it is selling 39 of the 8,000 works in its corporate art collection, one of the world's largest. The paintings, including works by Matisse, Cezanne, Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh are to be auctioned at Sotheby's, New York, in November. Reader's Digest has recently seen a fall in sales of its books, music and videos. In another major sale, the decision of the Council of United Synagogues to sell a collection of 4,000 books, some of them printed earlier than 1501, and 148 manuscripts, has been sharply criticised by Dr Harry Rabinosicz, a retired rabbi and collector of Jewish literature. Dr Rabinowicz described the decision of the council as "sacrilege and a scandal".

Hemingway's way

Ernest Hemingway intended to write a book about 1930s Hollywood, as an unpublished folder of the author's notes has revealed. Among this material are illustrations thought to be by Martha Gellhorn, one of his four wives. The project was entitled Hollywood Express and was put together at a time when Hemingway thought his friends were "selling out to Hollywood". The file was signed "Dr Ernest Hemingstein".

Slough: the sequel

Booker prize-winning author Ben Okri is to compose a literary retort to former poet laureate Sir John Betjeman's well-known verse "Slough", which was less than kind about the town. The local MP, Fiona Mactaggart, will take Okri on a personal tour of her constituency in a bid to inspire him.

Film cuts

EMI, once a major player in Britain's film industry, announced this week that it is no longer considering buying PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, maker of British hits Four Weddings and Bean. City analysts commended the company's decision to stick to its core music business. Meanwhile, according to the Independent Television Commission, the number of homes in the UK that subscribe to cable has risen to 2.5million, an increase of 25 per cent over last year.

Picasso loss

A Picasso painting, Le peintre, worth an estimated pounds 900,000, was among a valuable cargo on board the Swissair plane that crashed off the Canadian coast earlier this month. The painting, complete in 1930, was stolen from an art museum in Stockholm five years ago but later recovered. Ten Picasso paintings that belonged to Dora Maar, his mistress, are to be auctioned by Drouot in Paris on 27 October. The works, along with drawings, engravings and photos, make up a collection expected to fetch up to pounds 20m.

Theatre threats

The Manhattan Theater Club in New York had hired a private security firm to protect its audiences, staff and production team following death threats and planned protests against its production of Terrence McNally's new play Corpus Christi, which features a gay, Jesus-like protagonist.

Fifty years a-growing

South Africa is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the bestseller, Cry, the Beloved Country which made author Alan Paton an overnight star. Enthusiasts are organising lectures, film festivals and tours of the author's home town. The work brought the world's attention to the plight of South African blacks, though some literary critics consider Paton's second work, Too Late the Phalorope, a more polished work.

Bavarian blues

The government of Bavaria has said it will not send any politicians to Germany's annual unity celebrations because organisers are planning to play a controversial musical medley recording. The mix incorporates excerpts from Communist East Germany's national anthem, which Bavarian premier Edmund Stoiber said would send out divisive signals.

Asian bungs

While America awaited instant book versions of the Starr report, Singaporeans waited with similar impatience for The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Newspaper excerpts told of Malaysian statesmen in the 1960s influencing Singapore's political figures with gifts and prostitutes, and have caused upset in neighbouring Malaysia. In the rest of Asia, cinema audiences have grown despite the economic collapses in the region. In the first six months of this year, ticket sales increased in all major territories in the area except Australia and New Zealand.