01. July 2011 · 4 comments · Categories: Quotes

Put a small piano in a truck and drive out on country roads; take time to discover new scenery; stop in a pretty place where there is a good church; unload the piano and tell the residents; give a concert; offer flowers to the people who have been so kind as to attend; leave again.

-Sviatoslav Richter

I found this via Imani Mosley. I’ve asked her for the source, and if I can get that I’ll post it here as well. I just love this quote, though … don’t you?


  1. Vladimir Gurevich

    Hi Patty,

    I think this is an autobiographical quote, describing the tour he once took around the country and, yes, the piano was in the truck, though, I think it was a Steinway, i.e. a real Grand Piano, not a small one. Also, he was typically performing in rural “clubs” (think small community centers), rather than churches — you have to remember, that in Russian Orthodox churches all instrumental music is prohibited (though there could have been a number of closed churches, converted into anything).

    I also think that “piano on a truck” was not unusual at all: during the WWII a lot of top performers (including Richter himself) used to go to the front lines with their pianos on the truck and perform for the soldiers there.

    In other words, where you (or the author of the translation) might be imagining an idyllic trip, like taking our California roads snaking through the hills of the Wine Country, it was, in fact a fairly big hardship, where a heavy truck would make hundreds of miles through dirt roads, in bad weather, often mosquito-infested places, etc, etc.


  2. Thanks for the information, Vladimir!

    I wasn’t thinking idyllic, actually. I was thinking “making music available to all, even those in distant and/or uncomfortable places.”

    We so often make our music in incredibly lovely concert halls, where only those with a good amount of money can go to listen. So I guess I was reading it more as a “I would like everyone to be able to hear and enjoy music.”

    Of course you know, if you read this blog, how I go back and forth on all of this: I DO want music to be available to all … but not in a way that sacrifices quality, and certainly not in a way that means people don’t have to listen or pay any attention at all! I guess I’ll forever be pondering just what I really want in this crazy career of mine! (And maybe I”ll forever be a walking contradiction about it all. I wonder!)

  3. Vladimir Gurevich

    Hello Patty,

    These trips had a dual purpose: to bring the music to the “masses”, but also to show a world-renowned musician “who’s the boss”. In this case, of course, the boss was the Communist Party and the trips were not entirely voluntary :)

  4. Ah, I shoulda thunk it, eh? But in my little naive world things like that don’t seem to occur to me.

    Thanks again, Vladimir. I’m always interested to hear “the rest of the story”. Even if it’s not a terribly pleasant story.