When you're on the road, almost everything is an unknown - I find that things like "What will the hotel be like?" and "I hope the piano is good" are constantly swimming around in my brain. It's important to find a way to deal with this, or you will drive yourself crazy. Sometimes it takes a conscious effort - sometimes not. As I arrived at my pre-determined practice spot yesterday morning, tired from the concert and reception the night before, I really didn't feel like practicing. I was brought to a familiar looking shape nicely tucked into a corner, sat down, and looked at the words "Steinway and Sons". With my Liszt, Chopin, and Villa-Lobos scores in front of me, I started working, and suddenly realized that the piano sitting in front of me was no ordinary instrument. I asked about it and learned that the case was made of a (I'm told) rare Siberian Walnut that quickly became unavailable due to its use in making rifle stocks. The piano was over 100 years old and had been in the same family for at least that long, serving as a practicing instrument for kids and grand-kids.
I continued my work and the more I played it, the more I got the inescapable feeling that this piano had an unusual amount of personality. I sometimes like to think of pianos like people - some are warm, open, and receptive and some are cold and unforgiving. This one was certainly very special and as I accomplished my daily work preparing for that evening's concert, all of those unknowns just floated away.