American pianist Seymour Lipkin, a student of Rudolf Serkin recalled a performance of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier Sonata
Back in the 1970s I gave a recital at Curtis at Mr. Serkin’s invitation. I was playing the Hammerklavier in those years. Why, in my right mind … I should never have … but I did. There, sitting in the front row, was Serkin. Now, that was tantamount to suicide to walk out and play the Hammerklavier with Rudolf Serkin under your nose. Somehow I got through it. In all my previous performances of the sonata I’d played the opening with two hands, as almost every pianist in the world does. I hadn’t wanted to make a mess of it at the very beginning. Moments before going on stage I had a fit of conscience. “My god, Serkin’s sitting there; if he sees me play that with two hands, he’ll never forgive me. He won’t speak to me for the rest of my life.” I had never even practiced it with one hand. But, I knew, it had to be all or nothing. Da-dum! And for the only time in my life I hit it absolutely perfectly. Every performance thereafter, when I attempted it with one hand, I made a god-awful mess. He was so proud of me afterwards. “Wonderful, with one hand! Courageous of you! Wonderful.” “Thank you, Mr. Serkin, I do it all the time.”
Cited in: Lehmann, Stephen (2003) Rudolf Serkin: A Life. New York: Oxford University Press, p. 211-212.