A pianist offers not one word

LONDON The eyes seem soft and scared; they peer from the photograph of a blond man clutching what may be a musical score.

Beyond that, not too much is known about this enigmatic figure who may be in his 20s or 30s, who may be English or not - save that he plays the piano with ease and confidence. The newspapers call him the Piano Man.

Since early April, the medical authorities in southeast England have been caring for a man about 1.8 meters, or 6 feet, tall who was found wandering on a beach in damp clothes on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent. He was wearing a dark suit - some say a tuxedo - and a white shirt.

The labels had been cut from his clothes, so they offered no clues to his identity, according to Adrian Lowther, a spokesman for the hospital authority caring for the mysterious man.

He may be, some newspapers have speculated, an asylum-seeker who had removed all forms of identity; he may be a man suffering from amnesia after a terrible shock of some kind - a loss, a death. But none of that can be confirmed, because he has not communicated in words - spoken or written - since he was found.

All that is known, Lowther said on Tuesday, is that when the people who cared for him gave him a pencil and paper in early April, he drew a grand piano casting a deep shadow. And when they took him to a piano in a hospital chapel, he was transformed, playing fluently in what seemed a classical style.

"The only people who have heard him play are a select number of people caring for him, and they are not classical-music experts," Lowther said, commenting on newspaper reports that the man had played a range of music from Tchaikovsky's "Swan Lake" to Lennon and McCartney.

Some people have likened his experience to that of the pianist David Helfgott, portrayed in the 1996 movie "Shine" as interrupted by mental illness.

He is, Lowther said, shy in the extreme. "If you went into a room with him he would shy away," he said, adding, "He will not engage with anyone." Interpreters fluent in Latvian, Polish and Lithuanian have visited him without eliciting a response. His photograph has been circulated by newspapers in Sweden. Almost 400 people have called a help line for missing people (44-500-700-700), but none has provided a definitive identity.

There is, of course, the delicate question of whether the man is a bona fide patient, although that issue may arise with more urgency in the future.

"We have got nothing to suggest" that he is not a genuine case, Lowther said. "And we have a duty of care to look after him until something suggests otherwise."

Autor: Alan Cowell
Medio: The International Herald Tribune
Fecha: Jueves 19 de mayo de 2005
Notas: Copyright © 2005 The International Herald Tribune | www.iht.com
ID: 1513 Editar

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