Playing the Piano III



Two sketches from one of Rolf Keller’s sketch book, showing two undidentified pianists. I don’t know if this sketch originated during a concert (perhaps a musical competition, since the sketches seem to show two different people) or during a more private setting. It might have been on a trip to the Sovjet Union as well. Unfortunately, these sketches are not dated and I don’t know when and where they where made. I wonder if it might be possible to identify these pianists. Doing so would yield a clue to when and perhaps these sketches where made.


Playing the Piano II – Kiyoko Tanaka

1963_12_03_02 (2)

20 years ago, on February 26th, Japanese pianist Tanaka Kiyoko (田中希代子) died. Born on February 5th, 1932 in a family of musicians, she had stopped playing the piano in the early 1970s due to a chronic disease, so her initially promissing career had been cut short, although she still gave lessons afterwards. You can find a few recordings of her on the internet, e.g. here:

In 1963, she toured Europe and also gave one concert in Chemnitz (then known as “Karl-Marx-Stadt”). Rolf Keller, attending the concert, sketched her on the concert program. The sketch is dated to Dec. 3rd, 1963. Behind the date, you can see Rolf Keller’s “24”-logo.

Rolf Keller wrote on the programme (to my parrents) “In case Tanaka comes to Hamburg, don’t miss her, A pleasure!” (Sollte die Tanaka nach Hbg. kommen, versäumt sie nicht. Ein Genuß!”).

According to a newspaper clipping added to a letter Rolf Keller sent to my parents, the concert seems to have been scheduled for December 4th, 1963, but Rolf Keller corrected the date on the clipping to December 3rd, the same date that can be found on the sketch, so that is probably the day the concert actually took place. According to one newspaper article I have found here:, Tanaka played in Dresden on December 10th, in an “Hour of Music” (“Stunde der Musik”), the same title that can be seen on the the program. It looks like there was a regular classical music event by this name that took place in several cities of the GDR.

As can be seen from the program, Tanaka performed pieces of Händel, Haydn, Schumann, Chopin and Hisatada Odaka (1911 – 1951). I could not find a recording of the particular piece of Odaka she played here (“Toccata”) but here is an example of piano music from this composer, played by another Japanese pianist, Kazuko Yasukawa.

Here are the pages of the program, with the sketch:

The black printing ink of the title page has acted like carbon copy paper, creating a faint imprint of the sketch on the page that was opposite. May we take this as a symbol of Tanaka’s tragic life?

Playing the Piano I


Among Rolf Keller’s sketches, there are several ones showing piano players, so today’s article is just the first in a small series. This sketch is undated, the “24”-Logo identifies the artist as Rolf Keller. The piano is only hinted at by a single line showing one edge of the instrument. The caption reads “Natalia Karra, London spielt ChOPIN” (Natalia Karra, London, plays ChOPIN). I am not sure about the name, but as far as I am familiar with Rolf Keller’s handwriting, it should be “Karra”. I have not found any information about a pianist of this name, however. I don’t know when this sketch was drawn, maybe in the 1940s, when good paper was hard to get, but I am not sure.

A moment of concentration, captured in a few lines.