Paulo Coelho

Stories & Reflections

The pianist in the shopping center – part 1

Author: Paulo Coelho

Paulo Coelho

I am strolling casually through a shopping center in the company of a violinist friend. Ursula, born in Hungary, is today a top musician in two international philharmonic orchestras. All of a sudden she grabs my arm:


I listen. I hear voices, adult voices, children shouting, noises of televisions turned on in electrical-appliance shops, high heels clip-clopping on the tiled floor, and that well-known music that is omnipresent in shopping centers the world over.

“So, isn’t it marvelous?”

I answer that I hear nothing marvelous or special.

“The piano!” she says, throwing me a look of disappointment. “The pianist is marvelous!”

“It must be a recording.”

“Don’t talk nonsense.”

Listening more carefully, it becomes obvious that the music is live. Now a Chopin sonata is being played, and now that I can concentrate, the notes seem to conceal all the noise surrounding us. We stroll through the corridors jammed with people, shops, reduced prices, things that they claim everyone has – except you and me. We reach the food plaza: people eating, chatting, arguing, reading newspapers, and one of those special attractions that all shopping centers try to offer their customers.

In this case, a piano and a pianist.

He plays two more sonatas by Chopin, and then Schubert, Mozart. He must be about 30; a notice hanging at the side of the small stage explains that he is a famous musician from Georgia, one of the former Soviet Republics. He must have been looking for work, doors were closed, he became desperate, resigned himself and now he is here.

But I am not sure that he is even here: his eyes look at the magic world this music was composed, his hands share with everyone the love, the soul, the enthusiasm, the best of himself, his years of study, concentration and discipline.

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