Away From the Piano, He’ll Pick Up His Sketchbook

There is “A Pianist’s World,” and there is the world of a pianist — a world that, at the moment, includes a big, bluish blimp floating across the late-afternoon sky above Central Park. The pianist is sketching it in the colors of the keyboard, black on white paper. “I can’t deal in color,” he says.

The pianist is Misha Dichter. “A Pianist’s World” is a recently published e-book that contains a collection of sketches he did over the years. Many are scenes from a concert career: A caricature of the conductor Erich Leinsdorf, for example, or an unusually long piano. Some are scenes the audience never saw: “View From the Pittsburgh Hilton,” “Hotel Room in Spain,” “Hotel Desk in Amsterdam.” Some show the Aspen Music Festival, where Mr. Dichter has been a resident artist for more than 25 years.

“I love to doodle,” he said. “I don’t take it seriously, and it just flows.” Sometimes sketching is nothing more than a change of pace after hours spent practicing, “taking apart a sonata and putting it back together.” By contrast, he is “totally undisciplined” about sketching.

“That’s what I like about it,” he said. “No training and no self-criticism, because I’m not supposed to be doing it.”

But artists draw, or paint, what they see around the house. Edouard Manet painted Madame Manet. Renoir painted girls at a piano (though they were other people’s daughters). So it is probably no surprise that one of Mr. Dichter’s sketches is titled “Music Room in a New York Apartment.”

“It was this, before it got remodeled,” he said, sitting in the room in his apartment on the Upper West Side that houses his nine-foot Steinway concert grand. (He had the room soundproofed years ago.)

He pulled out sketches that are not in the e-book, sketches of buildings he can see from his windows. One is the Langham, at 135 Central Park West, between 73rd and 74th Streets, which has been home to such famous residents as the actor Basil Rathbone, the theater owner Martin Beck, the talk-show host Merv Griffin and the actress Mia Farrow (her 11-room apartment was seen in the Woody Allen film “Hannah and Her Sisters”).

“Clearly, I love the Langham,” Mr. Dichter said, looking at the sketch. “It’s like a Parisian rooftop.”

The sketch is dated 1979, and it shows big blobs on the mansard roof. “The bad old days, when it was covered with tar,” said Mr. Dichter, who has lived in his apartment, with its view of the Langham, for more than 30 years. The mansard roof was restored — and the tar removed — in the late 1990s.

Another sketch, “Majestic Face,” is a profile of a woman in a wide-brimmed hat. A close look at her hair and ears shows they match the shape and details of one of the towers of the Majestic, at 115 Central Park West, at 72nd Street.

“Subconsciously I was always aware of the Deco curve,” he said. “Something clicked about the curve of the back of the head. It drew itself.”

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