Opus Gelber: Portrait of a Pianist
Argentine pianist Bruno Gelber is considered one of the best 100 pianists of the 20th century. He started playing when he was three years old, and his vocation was so strong that when he was seven and got poliomyelitis, he asked his parents to install the piano in the bed, which he didn’t leave for a year so he could study. The illness left him permanently paralyzed in his left leg, but this didn’t stop him, at nineteen, from going to Paris to study with one of the best teachers of the time, who declared: “You will be my last student, but you will be the best.” Soon after, Gelber started to shine on some of the best European stages, where critics hailed him as a “miracle.” He lived in Paris for 25 years and spent 23 years in Monaco, playing with the best orchestras and directors in the world, rubbing shoulders with kings, princes and emperors. In 2013 he returned to Buenos Aires, where he lives in in a monumental building located in the popular neighborhood of Once. That is where journalist Leila Guerriero went to interview him in 2017. She found a complex and fascinating man, with an awesome strength, great intelligence and sense of humor, devoted to piano but also interested in celebrity gossip TV shows, in love since childhood with Argentine actress Laura Hidalgo (whose portraits are all over his apartment), deeply worried about aesthetic and protocol rules, which he commands to perfection.
Guerriero paints a portrait of Gelber today; the visits from orchestra directors, musicians and ambassadors; his very long telephone conversations with his best friend, the Duchess of Orleans; the lessons he teaches to his selective list of students. All in the context of a past strongly inhabited by his mother, Ana, and his brilliant and frightening teacher Vicente Scaramuzza.
Guerriero sheds light on the life of Gelber through several testimonies. The result is a book in which the author and her subject establish a disturbing game of seduction. Opus Gelber reveals itself to be as a wonderful exercise in journalism, the stunning portrait of a complex musical genius, both seductive and mysterious.
Leila Guerriero was born in 1967, in Junín, a province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. She began her journalistic career in 1991, with the magazine Página/30. Since then her work has appeared in Argentina’s La Nación and Rolling Stone; in Spain’s El País and Vanity Fair; in Colombia’s El Malpensante and SoHo; in Mexico’s Gatopardo and El Universal; in Peru’s Etiqueta Negra; in Chile’s Paula and El Mercurio; in the United Kingdom’s Granta; in Germany and Romania’s Lettre Internationale; and Italy’s L’Internazionale; among others. She is the Argentina, Chile and Uruguay editor for the Mexican magazine Gatopardo. In 2005 she published the book The End of the World Suicides (Tusquets Argentina and Spain), which has been translated into Portuguese and Italian. In 2009, she published a collection of articles called Strange Fruits(Aguilar Colombia and Argentina) which, in 2012, was published by Alfaguara in Spain. In 2010 her text “The Signs in Our Bones”, published in El País Semanal and in Gatopardo, received the CEMEX-FNPI Prize. In 2013, she published American Landscape, a collection of twenty-one profiles of personalities from Spanish and Latin American culture. Her work has formed a part of anthologies such as Better than Fiction (Anagrama, 2012) and the Anthology of Current Latin American Chronicles (Alfaguara, 2012).
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