Polish Pianist Boycotts U.S.

Polish piano master Krystian Zimerman just returned from what might be his last U.S. tour. However, the virtuoso’s decision to avoid the United States is less of a retirement and more of a boycott.

Speaking at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles, California on Sunday night, Mr. Zimerman said: “Get your hands off my country,” according to the Los Angeles Times. The pianist’s statement referred to the U.S. missile shield plan, which Zimerman feels is a reflection of excessive American force and the nation’s desire to dominate the world. Mr. Zimerman then announced that this will be his last concert appearance in the United States.

The audience at the concert hall had mixed reactions. About two to three dozen people walked out, while the 200 or so who remained graced him with multiple ovations after his impassioned performance of Szymanowski’s “Variations on a Polish Folk Theme.”

Some have suggested that the boycott is not entirely political, however – a conjecture that Mr. Zimerman’s manager acknowledged on Monday when speaking to the Associated Press. “He has talked for the last couple years about his touring in the States and of not coming back for a while,” Mary Pat Buerkle, Mr. Zimerman’s manager, stated. “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.”

Undoubtedly for a man who famously tours with his beloved Steinway, the insult of having a piano stripped and destroyed at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport would leave a bitter impression – and cause to reconsider a return.

Zimerman’s stance has already caused a medley of reactions in the press, from high praise from the Guardian and mixed opinions in the L.A. Times to doubts about the pianist’s “Polishness” in the Telegraph. Though born in Poland, Mr. Zimerman has spent the last 20 years in Switzerland, where he lives with his family.

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