Topic: Some Thoughts on the Chopin Waltz played by Hugo Drax in Moonraker

This topic is on the Chopin piece played by Hugo Drax in Moonraker (1979). I previously started a thread on this subject in 2004 on CBn but it no longer exists.

You can hear the full piece played beautifully here on You Tube:


...and here:


The main question that I have is: Was Michael Lonsdale as Hugo Drax in the film actually playing the grand piano or was it dubbed and was he "in character" actually meant to be playing the piano or was it one of those fancy pianos that plays on its own and he was merely playing along to impress his guests?

That theory would seem to be out though as he does stop playing the piano as soon as he lifts his hands, showing he must have really been playing it for real. I know that Moonraker is widely regarded as one of the most outlandish and comedic films in the Bond series, but surely to have shown the piano still playing even when Drax rose from his seat at the piano would have been a comic step too far. It's funny to imagine though, in one's mind eye, if you will. But I do find the suggestion in the thread on CBn that I started in 2004 that Drax pretending to play the play-itself piano was the first subtle sign that he was a madman and a modern-day Space Age Hitler, to boot.

On the Hugo Drax Bond villain page on Wikipedia it says the following:

"Drax portrays himself as an accomplished pianist, as evidenced by his recital of Chopin's "Raindrop" Prelude in D flat major (op. 28) on his grand piano (which he plays in the key of D); in fact, he poses at a player piano in an attempt to impress his guests." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugo_Drax)

So does Drax play in the wrong key?

Is that a further early sign that Hugo Drax is insane?

Do any of our musical experts here know the answers to any of these questions? I love and appreciate music deeply, but a musical expert I am not, that I leave to Barbel and others.

As always, I welcome your views and potential answers on what I find a fascinating minor area of Bondology.

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"The man who was only a silhouette." - Ian Fleming, Moonraker (1955).


Re: Some Thoughts on the Chopin Waltz played by Hugo Drax in Moonraker

Lonsdale isn't playing, except for a few carefully-timed notes (probably rehearsed with a real pianist beforehand) as the camera shows his hands. I've never paid attention to the key of the piece against what he appears to be playing in, sorry.


Re: Some Thoughts on the Chopin Waltz played by Hugo Drax in Moonraker

In this YouTube clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rCqzhySuv_Q) Drax plays it in the same key as the links you provided. I don't have perfect pitch, so I can't say what actual key is and if all are incorrect. I can check when I'm home later. It's very difficult to see what key's he's actually playing. It was always pretty obvious to me that Michael Lonsdale wasn't actually playing, but since it's pretty typical in films for actors to pretend to play instruments (especially piano) I never thought anything of it. If it were a player piano and he was pressing the wrong keys, we would hear wrong notes. To say it's a player piano is absurd.


Re: Some Thoughts on the Chopin Waltz played by Hugo Drax in Moonraker

I always wondered if the " obviously " not playing the piano was deliberate.
To show Drax was a cheat ?  ( as we didn't get the fantastic bridge game)  ajb007/wink


Re: Some Thoughts on the Chopin Waltz played by Hugo Drax in Moonraker

This thread has reminded me of a similar pattern in ST TNG's Episode "Lessons."

Commander Daren (the Late Wendy Hughes) has a couple of scenes where she is seen playing a piano. The scene I wanted to find has her in the ten forward lounge at a grand piano. The scene is cleverly shot, with close ups of a real pianists hands,then as the camera tracks round the side of the piano, a moment of black screen is used to snap to a continual tracking shot, now featuring the actress, creating the illusion it was her hands we saw as she is playing.

Instead, here is a scene from later in the episode where Daren is playing with Capt Picard. I suspect the pianist was not involved, because Daren's hand placement in the close ups is similar in movement to Michael Lonsdales. Both instruments were non functional props, so I have no idea what the actors were miming to on set.  Lovely music too.


Basically, I agree with Matt. I don't think Drax was faking his playing ability either.

This is Thunderbird 2, how can I be of assistance?