Scaramuzza Plays Liszt

Roberto Scaramuzza, a piano tuner by profession, a resident of the very porteño neighborhood of Coghlan, got off vehicle 12 of bus line 133 on February 4, 1965 at 22:14 at the corner of Olazábal and Rómulo Naón, stunned after a 45-minute trip from Liniers. It was a hot and humid summer night that crowned with inattention and impertinence a day that deserved to be forgotten.

Roberto crossed the threshold of his house, and with all the anger accumulated during a shitty day he threw his briefcase on the kitchen floor, hitting a scream that echoed in the silence of the neighborhood. An ambiguous silhouette was drawn on the wall of the corridor, by street lights that outlined a fleeting, emaciated picture.

In the best Borges’ style, I will argue in Scaramuzza’s defense that it doesn’t matter what the man’s purpose was. It only matters that from the fallen briefcase a score, Liszt’s “Piano Sonata in A Minor”1, was extracted with impunity.

While in the background the 22:35 train could be heard passing in the direction of José León Suárez, Roberto observed with insistence and displeasure the impertinent notes that appeared scattered on the tiles. A bold wind blew into the scene.

He whistled and cried. I repeat, it doesn’t matter what happened before, but it does matter what happened after.

Roberto told himself it was time. Loudly. He knelt down and took the paper in his sweaty hands. He trembled. Only God knows the soul that throbs in every drunkard.

He played. It was great. I will say no more.

It was 23:17 when the last note of that impudent work sounded, the little finger of the left hand remaining for a long time on the end of that piano, inherited from a father to whom he never paid due attention and who should also be forgotten. This is not the moment to let oneself be carried away by grudges.

Unnoticed by Roberto, a neighbor wiped away a tear, moved by a work that surpassed all understanding, all grammar, and that transcended both the literati and the ignorant, achieving what no school will ever achieve:

Harmony in a bloody night.

A surgical operation in the deepest porteño fiber.

Roberto died immediately, and was found days later with his head on the piano, a tear (or was it sweat?) running down the wrinkles of his forehead.

Legend has it that Piazzolla himself was that night dining some spaghetti bolognese surrounded by musician friends in a nearby house on Monroe Avenue. It is said that Astor, upon hearing Scaramuzza’s piano in the distance, went out into the street without further ado, still wearing his sauce-stained napkin, imperturbably looking for the origin of the divine notes that filled the stale air and intermingled with the sirens of the cops and the rolling of the train.

Astor and Roberto never met, and that is perhaps one of the greatest injustices in the history of music.

This text is a fragment translated to English of my Spanish-language novel “Rogelio Suárez and the Dangerous Life”.

  1. Yes, I know this piece does not exist (there’s one in “B” minor, though, dedicated to Schubert, who wrote the one in “A” minor). Neither does Roberto Scaramuzza, for that matter (there was a Vicente Scaramuzza, though). This text is fiction. Fiction. I feel the need to clarify this given the basic nature of my readership, always eager to mansplain the smallest details, unable to grasp the slightest bit of irony. ↩︎