Can a birthmark prove the Piano Man is Czech loner?

Klaudius Kryspin always expected that the ability of his quietly spoken friend, Tomas Strnad, to play Chopin and Liszt from memory for hours at a time would one day bring him fame.

After spending their youth challenging the Communist regime in then Czechoslovakia with their dissident music, the two drifted apart - until Mr Kryspin saw a picture this week of the gaunt and blond figure who has become known as the "Piano Man".

The case of the silent patient, who has not uttered a word since he was found in dripping clothes on a Kent beach seven weeks ago, has garnered global publicity and dozens of suggested identities. But striking evidence - from physical appearance to the penchant of both men for playing the piano "beautifully" for long sessions without manuscript - added Tomas Strnad to the top of the list of potential names for the enigma, discovered in a dinner jacket, white shirt and tie from which every label had been cut.

At his parents' home in Prague, Mr Kryspin, the drummer in the Czech Republic's most famous rock group, said: "When I saw the pictures of this lost man in Britain, I knew immediately that it was Tomas. My parents and brother all saw the photographs separately and reached the same conclusion.

"He was a fantastic, captivating player but always so quiet, so shy. When I saw the pictures of Piano Man on television, I thought, 'Well, Tomas, you became famous at last'."

The 38-year-old musician and his family were certain the willowy figure found wandering along a beach road on the Isle of Sheppey was Tomas, a man they described as a "lonely genius" who once captivated an audience of eminent musicians in a Prague concert hall with a solo performance.

Pictures of Mr Strnad, taken in 1983 and shown to The Independent, bear a striking resemblance to Piano Man. Mr Kryspin said he knew of a "physical attribute", believed to be a birth mark, that has not been publicised and would prove he is Piano Man.

The behaviour of the unidentified stranger, who is in a secure unit in north Kent, has left health professionals flummoxed. All attempts to coax him into communication, including the use of interpreters from Poland, Lithuania and Latvia - but not the Czech Republic - have failed. He cowers when approached by strangers and is constantly anxious.

It is only when placed in front of the instrument that gave him his nickname, that the demeanour of Piano Man is transformed.

Within hours of his discovery he drew a sketch of a grand piano. He was then shown a piano in hospital and played without stopping for four hours. He continues to play in his room, delivering long renditions of classical pieces.

Mr Kryspin said he had met Tomas when both were teenagers in the early Eighties and formed a band, Ropotamo, which sought to emulate the anti-Communist pop group, Prazky Vyber (Prague Selection), censored by Czechoslovakia's pro-Moscow regime.

After the fall of Communism, Mr Kryspin played for Prazky Vyber while Mr Strnad tried to carve out a career as a classical musician.

Mr Kryspin, who has contacted the West Kent NHS Trust with his friend's details, said: "He organised a concert at a hall in the centre of Prague which was attended by many leading musicians and teachers. He played Chopin and Liszt from memory and the audience were wowed. But somehow it never happened for him."

The West Kent NHS Trust said it was processing information from more than 900 calls from around the world. A source said: "We have to treat everything with caution but this information sounds promising."

Autor: Cahal Milmo and Askold Krushelnycky in Prague
Fecha: Sábado 28 de mayo de 2005
Notas: ©2005 Independent News & Media (UK) Ltd.
ID: 1545 Editar

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