"He had his Rutkowski & Robinette
harpsichord, which was of course not period precise. The harpsichord of
Bach's day was smaller and lighter. It wasn't designed to be shipped to
recitals. Kipnis' harpsichord had a metal frame so it could withstand
travel, and it had two manuals. Kipnis came out dressed in a red and
purple velvet jacket, which wasn't exactly traditional concert dress, but it
was his version of it, or at least his nod to it.
"He played two of the little pieces
from [Bach's] Anna Magdalena notebooks, just clearly as a warmup, but it was ...
These were beginner pieces, but he invested them with something that was just
"Then he spoke to the audience about
the Goldberg Variations, which he was about to play, and he was articulate, and
he had some jokes even, and I loved it and him for it, because he presented
himself as a human being. As he was concluding his introduction of the
work, he sat down, remarked on the virtuosity of the harpsichordist for whom it
was named [Johann Gottlieb Goldberg], then turned to the audience with impeccable
comic timing and said, 'And the snot was only fifteen!'
"Then he proceeded to play the
Goldberg's so... Well, there's an old story about a competition of improvisers
in Bach's day, and a theme is handed to each contestant and each contestant is
to improvise a fugue. And the last
contestant improvises his fugue, and the judge says, 'Either that was an angel
from heaven, or it is JS Bach himself!', and that was Kipnis that day. He
was transporting. At the end of it, the audience leaped to our feet
because we had no choice.
"For an encore, he played the C minor
prelude from Book I of the WTC, and he improvised a cadenza that was ... It was
one of those evenings of music that becomes the standard you hold. The
only other performance up to that point that had that effect on me was a
concert I saw at Amherst in 1969 by (percussionist) Olatunji."
Years after this performance, Teller and
Kipnis became friends.
Also, Penn & Teller became, well, Penn & Teller.
Teller has a funny habit of
depersonalizing any mention of his own wealth or fame. He never refers to
"I" or "me" in this situation, but rather "one",
and when I ask him how he came to acquire his new harpsichord, he says as
"When one decides one has enough
disposable income, one Googles 'Pleyel.'"