Czechs rush to claim 'Piano Man'


Mysteriously silent musician sparks interest worldwide


A mute virtuoso who has attracted global attention because he communicates only through classical piano recitals is probably Czech, two prominent musicians have said. Klaudius Kryšpín and Michael Kocáb, of the legendary group Pražský výber, have named the man whose identity is an international puzzle as Tomáš Strnad.

British health workers who are caring for the silent pianist and trying to solve the mystery of his origins say the testimony from the Czech musicians is a significant lead. But others have voiced skepticism, pointing out that over 250 possible names have already been suggested as the real identity of Piano Man, as he's been dubbed.

Meanwhile, Czech police say no man named Tomáš Strnad has been reported missing.

Piano Man was found wandering on a beach in Minster, southern England, April 7, soaking wet, dressed in a dinner jacket and shirt from which all labels had been cut. He has not uttered a word since, nor responded to written appeals for information from psychiatric workers caring for him at Little Brook Hospital in Kent. But when a social worker gave him a pencil he drew a grand piano, and when placed before a piano he delivered a remarkable performance lasting four hours.

Kocáb believed after seeing pictures of the player that he was Strnad, although he was not absolutely sure.

"They are blurred and the person on the picture has a different hair color, but all the indications fit," Kocáb told Lidové noviny May 30. He added that he last met Strnad at a filling station on the outskirts of Prague in April.

"He seemed confused to me. ... He said he wants to go abroad, to pursue a career, that they didn't understand him artistically over here and that he will surely succeed with the piano over there."

Kocáb continued that he had offered his help in identifying the piano player but British officials declined, saying they had many such proposals.

If Kocáb's testimony leaves room for doubt, Kryšpín is convinced the silent pianist is Strnad. "The only things that are different are his hair color and his sad face. He looks like a broken man," Kryšpín was quoted as saying in the online version of The Times, a London-based newspaper, May 30.

Kryšpín, who has not seen Strnad for nine years, added that he did not appear to get on with his family.

Kryšpín told The Independent, another British paper, that he always expected that the ability of his soft-spoken friend to play Chopin and Liszt from memory for hours at a time would one day bring him fame.

"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, Tomáš, you became famous at last.'"

Tall, blond and gaunt, Piano Man is thought to be in his 20s or 30s. He cowers if approached and shows signs of severe mental distress. The only thing that has brought him peace is the piano.

Kryšpín, a drummer, told The Independent that he made friends with Strnad in the early 1980s when, as teenagers, they established the rock group Ropotámo. Kryšpín went on to play with Pražský výber, while Strnad tried to make his mark in classical music.

One of his concerts in Prague was enthusiastically received, but fame eluded Strnad, Kryšpín said.

Meanwhile, the Czech tabloid Blesk on May 31 published what it said was a childhood picture of Strnad, claiming it is proof that he is the silent piano player. "When I saw the picture [of the pianist], I immediately knew it was Tomáš Strnad," Lidmila Švábenská told the paper.

Švábenská, the mother of a former classmate of Strnad, provided the photograph, which resembles the unidentified man.

Adrian Lowther, a British National Health Service spokesman in West Kent, said the information from Kryšpín and Kocáb is a significant lead, adding that health workers plan to bring in a Czech interpreter to talk to the piano player.

More than 1,000 people have called the British National Missing Persons Helpline with information, and a dozen nations have claimed Piano Man as their own.

Asked if the Czech lead was being treated as more important than the others, Ross Miller, a spokesman for the helpline, said, "Not as far as I am aware. We are still working through all the information we have been given. At the moment it seems to be speculation."

The Czech Embassy in London said it had offered its help to British authorities, but they had not yet taken up this offer.

Autor: Peter Kononczuk
Medio: praguepost.com
Fecha: Sábado 4 de junio de 2005
Notas: Peter Kononczuk can be reached at pkononczuk@praguepost.com
ID: 1575 Editar

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