Translator: Nyoi-Bo Studio Editor: Nyoi-Bo Studio
Sophie looked at the boy and said, “I’m going to play, but I want to invite this young man. If he accidentally breaks something, I’ll pay for it, okay?”
The boss pondered and nodded. “No problem, ma’am.”
His eyes were sharp and his mind quick. The reason he did not let the boy play the piano at first was not that he was afraid the instrument would break. It was because, from looking at the boy’s attire, he was sure that his family could not afford to buy a piano or pay for lessons.
This kind of family were not his potential customers. He estimated that the boy had never touched a piano, and had just watched people playing piano on TV. Now he probably just wanted to touch it to impress his friends.
If it was as he guessed, the boy would not become his customer and did not know how to play the piano. He was not sure what might happen if the boy touched the instrument, but he was certain it could not be good for business.
Sophie stepped forward and smiled back at Li Du and the others. Her aura, which was nurtured by the piano for years, was like the spring wind in winter. It could not be seen but was powerfully felt.
The man who was responsible for the music stand saw it at once. He realized it even though Sophie has not started playing the piano yet. He knew that he made the right choice in asking this young woman to play the piano.
The boy, somewhat constrained, whispered in English, “Together?”
Sophie gave him a big smile and said, “Yes, piano-duet, four-handed, is that all right with you?”
The boy looked at her in surprise. It was as if Sophie’s smile blinded him like sunshine, so he quickly looked away and said softly, “I have never tried a duet before. It might be difficult.”
A four-hand piano duet was a sure way to spark the interest of beginners, those who just started learning in the hopes to play beautiful, sincere, infectious music.
However, to do this, it takes years of practice and diligence, and it was impossible for a beginner to play such complex, beautiful tunes on the piano.
The four-hand combination created such a possibility. In many piano music research institutions in Europe and America, it was believed that this way of playing was born in the family.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, almost all intellectual families cultivated children’s ability to appreciate and play the piano.
Children were often too young to learn well, and the full keyboard was too big for them to handle.
Therefore, some parents have developed this way of playing in four hands. One example was the earliest four-hand professional music score, written by the famous composer Haydn. Its title was “teacher and student”, and there were experts who claimed that the original was “father and son”.
It was said that the four-hand joint play was a little bit advanced for beginners. It was a kind of cooperation, which requires tacit understanding, especially when the two co-players would try a complex melody.
The boy sat at the piano in silence. Sophie sat next to him. The moment she took her seat, the boy trembled a little and his facial expression became serious.
Sophie looked at him and held out her hand. “My name is Sophie Martin. How about you, my partner?”
“Cao Yulin. How do you do, Ms. Martin?” The boy held out his hand shyly.
After letting go of his hand, Sophie smiled again and asked, “Sonata in A major, op.18-5, 2nd movement, is this okay?”
This was a fairly simple four-hand piano composition, and every piano player with any level of experience was familiar with it.
Sophie had many sheets of piano music on her iPad. She found one, opened it and put it on the piano stand. She smiled at the boy again.
Then, her fingers tapped down and she played the leading role. As her slender fingers fluttered gently across the piano, the instrument gave an elegant sound.
Cao Yulin took a deep breath, looked at the chords, and picked up the second part.
When he reached out with his hands, the organizer of the music stand was slightly surprised. He saw the boy’s fingers were unexpectedly long, and the nail beds were all somewhat deformed. The nails were clipped very short.
This was a common hand type of a piano expert. If one touched the piano keys often and long, the skin of the hands would toughen up somewhat and there would be some fine lines. However, this was not the main problem. One would need to pay extra attention to one’s nails. If the nails were not cut shorter than the fingertips, they might crack and bleed from prolonged playing.
The hands of piano masters were by no means pretty. Some of them had calluses from hard training. Some, however, thought calluses would affect the feeling and sensitivity of the hands and fingers, so they took care to have those removed.
In short, just as a good ballerina’s feet were misshapen, a good pianist’s hands would be the same.
Sophie’s hands were well-kept, for one thing, because her family conditions were good when she was a child, and her parents paid attention to her health. For another thing, she later studied surgical medicine and learned professional hand care.
The cooperation between Sophie and the boy was a little strange at first, and the tune they played sounded unusual. Of course, this tune was a bit of a niche thing, not a piece that was popular with laypeople.
A big part of piano music appreciation needed a certain level of professional skills.
Soon the piano music was flowing, and Sophie smiled and turned to look at Cao Yulin, who had been looking down at his hands attentively.
The sight of a beautiful foreign girl playing the piano attracted many people. The official fireworks display had not yet started, so there was not much noise at the edge of the square.
After playing a tune, Sophie looked at Cao Yulin with great interest and said, “What’s next? You choose?”
Cao Yulin has not spoken, and a girl below shouted, “Canon, play canon.”
Sophie looked at Cao Yulin. He nodded and said, “Canon will do, Canon in D major.”
Canon was not actually the name of a piano tune, but a piece of polyphonic music, meaning “melody”. However, ever since John Pachelbel wrote the four-part Canon, the name has become popular.
This piece was not originally written for a four-hand duet, so while it could seem like a simple change in tune, it was actually harder for two people to play together.
Cao Yulin’s fingers touched the keys as he played the tune.
Sophie smiled as she played and looked at Li Du. The first tune that she had ever played for Li Du was this one.
Li Du vaguely remembered that it was last summer. A blink of an eye, and it has been a year and a half already. Time really flies.
Canon was well known in China, and it also conformed to the public’s aesthetic standard of piano music. Therefore, by the time the tune had ended, the area was full of people who were all attracted by the beautiful sounds.
At the end of the song, a few sharp shushing sounds were heard. Many colorful fireworks suddenly bloomed in the dark night sky. The firework display has started.
Li Du took a deep breath. He looked up at the fireworks and listened to the piano. He felt as if he was going to be drunk on beauty.
It was the most special Lantern Festival he had ever experienced.