After Sergey Shepkin finished playing three intricate and beautiful works for solo piano last night — by Bach, Beethoven and Schubert — he stood before his scuffed Steinway, bowed low to enthusiastic applause, bowed again (as is the custom) and left the stage.
The audience in the Kresge Theatre continued clapping, which brought Shepkin back to the stage. Again he bowed twice, just as formally as he had for the first round, and again he left the stage. The audience kept clapping though, so Shepkin returned for an encore.
He played a short, vibrant piece, giving it just as much attention as he had given the longer works of the main program. When he finished, the audience applauded again, and again Shepkin bowed twice — still adhering to the custom — before leaving the stage.
The audience kept clapping. So, once again, Shepkin returned to the stage, slowly bowed twice and left the stage. The audience wouldn’t stop clapping, though. So Shepkin returned to the piano for a second encore. He played an even shorter and more vibrant piece than he had for the first, but still he treated the work with the same respect and dedication he had given to the previous hour of music. When he finished, he bowed to enthusiastic applause, bowed again, stepped off the stage, and the applause died down.
Everyone got up to leave, but a small girl, perhaps five, walked down to the stage. She had been watching the entire performance, and now, with only minimal hesitation about being on the same stage where a master had recently completed his second encore, she played a quick four-note phrase at the bass end of the piano. Although not the work of a prodigy, it sounded much more practiced than random key mashing, and her mother encouraged her to keep playing. Instead, as the dying notes followed the audience out of the theatre, she reached her tiny hand into the belly of the piano and silenced the strings.