Polish piano virtuoso Krystian Zimerman, who had enthralled classical music fans on his most recent US tour, suddenly enraged many of them this week when he announced from the stage that he is so unhappy with the United States that he will not perform in the country again.
Zimerman's announcement came near the end of his performance Sunday night at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, the last stop on the musician's current US tour. A story posted on the Los Angeles Times' website yesterday said he blamed US foreign policy, but his manager, Mary Pat Buerkle, told The Associated Press his disenchantment with the country goes beyond that.
"He has talked for the last couple years about his touring in the States and of not coming back for a while," Buerkle said yesterday. "I think that there are many contributing factors to that decision, and I don't think it's appropriate to say it's all political."
Zimerman, one of the few pianists who brings his own Steinway with him on tour, has said security workers at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport destroyed one piano in recent years and ripped the keyboard out of another.
According to the Times, Zimerman was about to begin his final piece, Karol Szymanowski's "Variations on a Polish Folk Theme," when he turned to the audience and in a quiet but angry tone accused the United States of wanting to dominate the world.
"Get your hands off of my country," the Times quoted him, saying he also made reference to the US military detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Several people walked out, although those who remained gave him a standing ovation at the end of his performance.
Buerkle said she didn't know when Zimerman might be willing to return. She declined to reveal specifically what he was unhappy about.
In a 2006 interview with Vermont's Barre Montpelier Times Argus, Zimerman said ramped-up border security has made it harder for him to bring his piano into the country.
"When people see a big black case, which smells of all kinds of chemicals, they go for it," he said.
In recent years he has taken to leaving a piano shell in the United States, carrying the instrument's innards with him and then assembling it here.
Zimerman, 52, has been described by allmusic.com as "one of the most sensitive and controversial concert pianists to emerge in the latter half of the 20th century."
He was still a teenager when he won the 1975 International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, and has won acclaim since for his interpretation of the works of Chopin, Beethoven and others.