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Vol. LXI, No. 23
November 13, 2009

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Visiting Pianist Offers Healing Music at the Clinical Research Center

Hungarian professional concert pianist Adam Gyorgy performs Oct. 20 in lobby of Bldg. 10. His was the eighth performance in the Clinical Center’s Piano Concert Series, sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Art is practiced every day at the Clinical Research Center, but it’s rare that the art is music and not medicine.

That all changed the afternoon of Oct. 20 with the visit of the soft-spoken but musically formidable Adam Gyorgy, a Hungarian professional concert pianist whose journey to artistic prominence began 15 years ago when he was accepted at age 12 into the Bela Bartok Conservatory as a prodigy. Gyorgy’s performance, the eighth in the Clinical Center’s Piano Concert Series, was sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Dr. George Kunos, NIAAA scientific director, had seen the pianist perform at the Hungarian Embassy more than a year ago and worked to bring Gyorgy to NIH. In his brief introduction of the artist at the CRC, Kunos was at a loss in describing the experience he’d had when he first heard Gyorgy play.

“As I was listening to Adam play, I had goose bumps all over, and I am sure you will, too,” he said.

For a little more than an hour, the CRC transformed into NIH’s own Carnegie Hall as the 9-story atrium became a glorious cathedral of swirling and spiraling sound. The hospital’s resident Steinway grand piano came alive with both classical masterpieces and modern variations of traditional melodies.

“This is so special for us,” said Yasmin Coates, program specialist and event coordinator for the Clinical Center. “A lot of our patients come here from ‘middle town’ America, from small towns and parts of the country that are far away from cities. They might not have the opportunity to see a performance like this otherwise.”

While some patients and their visiting families took seats near the atrium’s center fountain, others watched from higher floors, some pulling IV poles while still more were wheeled there by family members.

With the floor audience seated only steps away from the enormous glossy black piano, Gyorgy captivated listeners with the inspiring Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring by J.S. Bach, the delicate and intricate Ballade in G minor by Frederic Chopin and the delightful La Campanella by Franz Liszt, with whom Gyorgy has often been compared.

He also offered improvisations and a soaring play on Georges Bizet’s Carmen, as well as decorated variations of a piece by Giuseppe Verdi and a playful and ornate take on the traditional Wedding March by Felix Mendelssohn.

The audience, with some members nodding to the beat or dancing their fingers along imaginary keyboards on their laps, was spellbound. When he closed his program, Gyorgy was met with a standing ovation and calls for more. He returned to the piano and played an achingly beautiful rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow, which brought a number of listeners to tears.

Between the moment he played the last note and the moment his hands finally lifted from the keys and his head rose, the atrium and everyone in it was silent, as if not wanting the magic to stop. Rising from the piano bench, Gyorgy was almost immediately surrounded by appreciative audience members and people wishing him well in his blossoming career. However, most were speechless. Coates was one.

“That was just amazing,” she said, holding a bouquet of yellow flowers to give to the performer. “Just—there are no other words—just amazing.”

Gyorgy, who only a month earlier had played a major concert in Paris and was soon to start a tour of Asian nations, gladly signed programs and posed for photographs in the impromptu fan gathering that sprang up. And while he was showered with praise, Gyorgy, shy and humble, always replied, “Thank you very much.”

The CRC atrium will welcome the NIH Chamber Singers on Dec. 9 and classical guitarist Mack Bailey on Dec. 11.NIHRecord Icon

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