Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The pianist's politics

Meet Krystian Zimerman. OK, if you follow the current classical music scene you probably already know him as a great pianist. The rest of us are just hearing about him--and cheering him on for his brave, forthright action Sunday night at Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. Zimerman was introduced, walked onstage, sat down at the piano--and then, instead of immediately beginning to play, he turned to the audience and said, according to this Los Angeles Times report, that he will no longer perform in the United States because this is a country whose military wants to control the whole world. He specifically demanded that the U.S. "get your hands off my country" and denounced the U.S. torture camp at its illegally held stronghold in Guantanamo, Cuba. Then he played, apparently for the last time in this country.

The "get your hands off my country" referred to the Pentagon's installation of a so-called missile defense shield in Poland. I don't know more about Zimerman's politics, but I do know that U.S. meddling in Poland since World War II has been massive and deep. The U.S. funded and backed "Solidarity," the fake union movement that was actually a counterrevolutionary front for the restoration of capitalism and opening up of Poland to U.S. imperialism, of which this latest Pentagon incursion is a direct result.

I also can't help wonder about Krystian Zimerman's own background. Before the Nazi genocide, Poland was the world center of Jewish life, with a big, vibrant Jewish population. Then the Jews were erased and ever after, to this day, there is nary a Jew in Poland. Except for those who hid or were hidden, who were rescued by goodhearted Poles, who changed their names and passed for Christian and raised their kids as Christians. This pianist is of the postwar generation. As first names go, you don't get more Christian than his, yet his last name has a decidedly Jewish tilt to it. Interesting, although ultimately, I guess, it's neither here nor there. Actions speak louder than proper nouns.