Chopin wrote his first piano concerto when he was seventeen. I hold it for the most beautiful piece ever written for piano. It was of course written for piano and orchestra, as the title concerto implies, but the orchestra is there more out of satisfying a custom, rather than because it plays a crucial role in this piece. It doesn't. Nor does it play many notes for that matter. Chopin had found a way to express an entire orchestra with just one instrument, and he made it clear that he had no use for an actual orchestra.
I started working on this concerto in 1994. That is precisely sixteen years ago. I didn't play it everyday, far from that, but, with a four years interruption, while I was in Chicago with my daughter under my responsibility, this has been a long love story. Playing piano is a crucial element in my recovery process from Parkinson. It gives me a chance to lead my brain to a state where it functions properly, and to help it heal.
When I play this concerto with orchestra, by which I mean with a collection of sampled instruments playing the orchestra part, and operated with the help of a virtual keyboard sending instructions to each instrument, I am in the heart of the volcano. My mind is racing like a chariot pulled by four horses and galloping on the ash covered ground.
I can feel my hands wanting to go faster, but being held back by my belief in everything I see or feel. When I am able to let go of that prison without walls, for spurting seconds that feel like eternity, but last less than the time it takes for a silver spoon to hit the kitchen floor when I try to reach it without my pill, I am boundless, flying like a gilded eagle, I cease to hang on to locality, and experience what it is to be everywhere at once.
I can see my mind lagging my hands, trying to figure out how come I play that fast, and I try to silence my disbelief and reach farther. Eventually, my flawless lightning escapade is followed by an avalanche of false notes, as my mind negotiates an emergency landing back on Earth, and crashes on the corrugated tarmac of my failed Tower of Babel.
The ride is beyond human imagination, and leaves me out of breath and empty as a shell. Then I press the stop button on my recording device. I have a witness of my alchemical transmutation, whose hysteresis imprints in me the memory and the grace. Eternity is simply too precious to be experienced alone.