Music: Concert Not-So-Grands

In a Washington, D.C., recital recently, Brazilian Pianist Ney Salgado was negotiating the tricky rapids of Ravel's Alborado del Gracioso. Suddenly — oops! — several notes failed to sound. Salgado stopped in midpassage, rose and faced his astonished audience. A memory lapse? Finger cramps? Hardly. "The keys are stuck — I cannot go on," Salgado explained walking offstage.

Unfortunately, the Washington breakdown was far from an isolated occurrence. In addition to the traditional hardships of the concert circuit — captious critics, eccentric plane schedules, hotel-room mix-ups — pianists have lately been coping...

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