A couple of weeks ago, Karl Markovics read Alessandro Baricco‘s Novecento at the Wiener Konzerthaus, accompanied by Béla Koreny on the piano.

Danny Boodman T. D. Lemon Novecento was born on a ship, the Virginian, where he was found by a machinist. The machinist practically adopts him and takes care of him until his death, when Novecento is 8 years old. Novecento disappears for a couple of weeks – and when he’s back, he knows how to play the piano. And he’s a wonderful pianist.

Markovics is a wonderful actor and he reads the text very well. Béla Koreny is (as far as I can tell) a good pianist. Unfortunately, they didn’t find the right balance between text and music and they didn’t pick the right songs, either.

Since I’d only read the book before seeing the show [here my review], I was acutely aware of the original text and I noticed that they made some small changes, tightened a thing here or there (maybe they also worked from another translation or another draft), which I didn’t mind at all, since we didn’t really see a play, but a reading. In fact, they didn’t go far enough for me and the whole thing ran a little long.

That it felt a little long wasn’t helped by their music selection. They played some pieces of Ennio Morricone‘s soundtrack of the movie adaptation and other songs – unfortuantely, I didn’t know them all and can’t tell you in more detail because there’s no “playlist” in the program. In any case, the music didn’t feel very fitting – in the text, Baricco speaks of ragtime and jazz, which might be hard to pull off with only a piano, but it felt like they were not even trying.

Not that the songs that were played weren’t wonderful. They just weren’t right.

Karl Markovics did a wonderful job though. His performance was somewhere between acting and reading and it was a joy to listen to it. But for not so auditive persons (like me), it would have been nice if there had been a little more music to loosen things up. Especially towards the end, it got a little tight.

Summarising: With better music selection, this would have been great.

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