The Weight of a Piano

Written by Chris Cander
Review by K. M. Sandrick

At the turn of the 20th century, Julius Blüthner listens for the music hidden in the trees as he searches the Romanian forests for the timber that will form the Blüthner No. 66, 825 piano.

After residing with a blind German who had escaped Nazi Germany for Russia in 1941, the piano passes to eight-year-old Katya, who senses in her eyes and ears, hands and feet the stories the instrument expresses through its keys and hammers and strings.

The piano later finds a home in southern California with 26-year-old Clara. Though never able to actually play the upright, she can’t part with it, transporting it from apartment to apartment as she moves from lover to lover; following it as a photographer takes the instrument on a week’s long photo shoot in Las Vegas and Death Valley; holding on to what she remembers of her father and his own attachment to the piano.

From the first note of its birth, the Blüthner serves as a conduit for fantasy, bereavement, jealousy, remembrance, sorrow, emptiness, and understanding. It is a substitute for lost connections and a link to new ones. It lives even when it stands silent.

The Weight of a Piano is deeply moving. It will resonate with anyone who has been shattered by loss, anyone who is frozen in time or place, unwilling to open themselves to others or unable to overcome the anger that accompanies the absence of love. The life of the piano—and its presence in the lives of Katya and Clara—lingers in the music of the mind and heart.