The great Czech pianist died today, at the age of eighty-four. I heard him only once in solo recital, at Carnegie in 2001: Janáček's 1.X.1905, Debussy's Estampes and Pour le piano, Chopin's F-minor Ballade and Preludes. I had the sense of being transported many decades back in time, to some small hall in a Central European town between the wars, where composer, performer, and audience all lived in the same world and spoke the same language. It was playing of the utmost naturalness, strewn with unstressed, seemingly off-the-cuff subtleties. I have heard Chopin executed more brilliantly, more spectacularly, but never more persuasively.