Vladimir Putin was filmed tickling the ivories at a state residence in China on Sunday. In the country to discuss a $1 trillion infrastructure plan, the Russian president was waiting for a meeting to begin with Chinese President Xi Jinping when he sat down at a piano to pick out a few Russian tunes.
“It’s a pity that the piano was out of tune,” Putin said at a news briefing in Beijing, the ABC reported. “It was quite hard to play, even for me, someone who plays with two fingers.”
“I cannot say I played, I was just pressing the keys with two or three fingers,” he said. “I thought that if Mr Peskov [Putin’s spokesperson] is filming, it’s probably for personal use, for the archive.”
“But they decided to post it,” he said. “But never mind. I think I didn’t let you down.”
Putin’s choice of repertoire was nostalgic, the ex-KGB agent playing pieces from his childhood growing up in Soviet Russia: Vasily Solovyov-Sedoi’s Evening Song – considered an unofficial anthem of St Petersburg (formerly Leningrad) where Putin grew up, and Moscow Windows by Tikhon Khrennikov, who was the Secretary of the Union of Soviet Composers from 1948 until the Soviet Union’s collapse. (Khrennikov is also remembered in Solomon Volkov’s discredited Shostakovich memoir Testimony as having soiled his pants at a meeting with Stalin. The composer described Stalin as a “genius” as recently as 2006.)
Putin – who has played the piano in public before – isn’t the only state leader to dabble in music. Recently elected French President Emmanuel Macron is also a musician and, according to a report on NPR, studied piano for ten years at the conservatory in Amiens where he was awarded third prize. And it is not all that long ago that now-former US President Bill Clinton was in the media for his sax skills.
At the press conference, Putin was asked what tune he would play for US President Donald Trump if they met. “I don’t know,” he replied. “I think we’d need to meet him, have a discussion, and depending on the result choose a melody.”