Arts & Entertainment

Brazil exhibit honors classical pianist’s triumph over adversity

By Nayara Batschke

Sao Paulo, Jun 16 (EFE).- Brazilian concert pianist and orchestra conductor Joao Carlos Martins, now 80, has dedicated most of those years to his art, overcoming numerous obstacles to become one of the world’s leading figures in classical music.

Now his life, work and struggles are the subject of a new exhibit titled “Joao Carlos Martins: 80 Years of Music,” which opened its doors on Wednesday in this metropolis.

Martin has devoted 72 years of his life to the piano and the concert stage despite undergoing 24 surgeries and procedures for a series of health problems, including a neurological disorder, nerve damage to his arm sustained during a soccer match in the 1960s and the loss of the use of his right hand in a brutal 1995 mugging in Bulgaria.

Occupying a space of nearly 1,000 square meters, the exhibit invites visitors to immerse themselves in the mind and soul of the pianist, who shares with the public some of his most intimate memories as well as his fears, ambitions and longings.

“The audience in their seats didn’t know it, nor the musicians, nor the media. Among the 1,000 or so people present in the theater, I was the only who knew that everything would end that night,” Martins tells exhibit attendees about his last piano performance on June 25, 1998, at the age of 58.

Hours earlier, he had confirmed plans to undergo an operation that would sever a nerve of his right hand and bring an end to his accomplished career as a pianist.

Instead of retiring from music though, he embarked on a new career as a conductor, although “in one way or another I always managed to return to the piano,” said Martins, who in 2019 was able to play music with 10 fingers for the first time in nearly a quarter-century thanks to a pair of bionic gloves designed by an industrial engineer.

“Music and I are intertwined for life. The two times I had to separate myself from music it was due to my health. But it was always in my heart,” an emotional Martins told Efe after his first visit to the exhibit.

The artistic director and curator of the exhibit, Jorge Takla, said music has saved the octogenarian’s life, adding that Martins “needs music as much as music needs him” to remain vibrant.

The health problems he suffered as a timid child prodigy, his successful debut at New York City’s Carnegie Hall at age 21, his dozens of medical procedures and operations and his recognition as a world-class pianist – and subsequently a conductor – are some of the key aspects and milestones captured in the exhibit.

Visitors are treated to a range of sights and sounds, including an “3D exclusive piano concert” via hologram and a “live” orchestra performance conducted by Martins.

The exhibit also shows the enormous influence of Johann Sebastian Bach on the life and work of Martins, regarded by critics worldwide as one of the 20th century’s greatest interpreters of the German Baroque composer.

“I can’t describe in words his role in my life, but I think I was able to describe it in how I played Bach,” the pianist said.

Takla, for his part, said the chance to appreciate the “perseverance, the wounds, the setbacks and the triumphs” of an exceptional individual like Martins offers a ray of hope amid the great uncertainty brought about by the pandemic. EFE


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