Monday, February 05, 2007

'Blue Danube' hits flat note

This column has appeared in The Redland Times, Cleveland, Redland Shire, Queensland, Australia. Picture of Johann Strauss II, composer of The Blue Danube, courtesy

THE dignity of European heritage, particularly in music, sounds in each syllable as Julie Lacey speaks of the grand piano she has listed for sale in our classifieds.
Her Hungarian accent invokes images of a rich culture in a region that has experienced more than its fair share of suffering through history.
When she recalls her early years of music training in the town of Szeged near the Yugoslavian border, you can almost hear the World War Two German tanks rolling past the conservatorium room, where in the filtered light, a little girl sits at a piano practising scales.

THE teacher suddenly turns and accuses: "You have been playing something that is not classical, haven’t you, Julianna?"
The pupil confesses, "Yes, madam, I have been learning to play The Blue Danube." And the teacher snaps with rage, "No, no, no, you are to play only classical," striking her baton so hard on the piano that the instrument of authority snaps, too.
But that was long ago, and many years have brought new memories since Julie finally left Hungary during the 1956 revolution when, as a young woman, she feared she was line for a firing squad after the secret police caught her distributing anti-communist literature.

JULIE walked and hitchhiked for two weeks to get to Austria, almost falling into Russian hands at the border.
"It would take you too long to write all this; there is so much I could tell you," Julie counsels. So we talk about the pianos she has owned since she escaped Hungary and settled in London for almost 25 years before coming to Australia in 1981.
The Challen, the Beckstein, the Broadwood, which was a full-size concert grand … there have been a few. Julie is worried she has left one or two out.

BUT this talk is supposed to be about a certain grand piano, with a price tag of $4700. It’s an Irmler, made in Leipzig, Germany in 1914.
Julie bought it about 20 years ago from a Sheldon couple and had it reconditioned about five years ago. She is selling it in preparation for the inevitable move from her Thornlands home to something smaller.
The day’s not quite here and Julie will still have another piano to play as she reflects on her colourful life.
FOOTNOTE: Julie is not related to Les Lacey who featured in Classie Corner last week.

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