Manoa 11.2 (1999) 180
Milton Estomba had been a child prodigy. When he was seven years old, he could already play Brahms's Sonata Op. 5, No. 3, and when he was eleven, his concert tour throughout major cities in the u.s. and Europe was accompanied by unanimous public and critical acclaim.
However, when he became twenty years old, one could see that the young pianist had undergone a ... [Show full abstract] transformation. He had started to become inordinately preoccupied with pompous gestures, the ostentatious look on his face, his frown, his ecstatic eyes, and other such related effects. He called all of this his "expression."
Little by little, Estomba started specializing in expressions. He had one for playing "Pathetic," one for "Girls in the Garden," and another for "Polonaise." Although he rehearsed in front of the mirror before every concert, the frenetic, addicted public nevertheless regarded his expressions as spontaneous and would welcome them with loud applause, cries of "Bravo!" and feet stomping.
The first disturbing symptom appeared during a Saturday recital. The audience realized something strange was happening, and their applause was eventually infiltrated by an incipient stupor. The truth was that Estomba had played Submerged Cathedral with the "expression" for the Turkish March.
Six months later, a catastrophe occurred that was diagnosed by doctors as lacunal amnesia. The lacuna in question concerned scores. In the span of twenty-four hours, Milton Estomba forgot, forever, how to play all the nocturnes, preludes, and sonatas that had been notable in his wide repertoire.
What is amazing, really amazing, was that he didn't forget any of the pompous and ostentatious gestures that had accompanied every one of his interpretations. Although he could never give a piano concert again, there was some consolation. To this day, on Saturday nights his most loyal friends still meet at his house to attend silent recitals of his expressions. The unanimous opinion among his friends is that his capolavoro is the "Appossionata."
Translated from the Spanish by Harry Morales
Mario Benedetti was born in Uruguay. A renowned playwright, novelist, essayist, critic, journalist, songwriter, and screenwriter, he has received numerous literary prizes and written more than sixty books.