High Notes: The Piano Concert on Mt. Everest

How high is too high? For Oradea-born pianist Thurzó Zoltán, there is no such height. Zoltán, internationally renowned for his out-of-this-world attempts to enter the Guinness World Book of Records, has finally made it with his concert atop Mount Everest.

Thurzó Zoltán on mount Everest
On 13 June, history was made. At an altitude of 5,325, for exactly 132 minutes, at a temperature of -3 C, Zoltán played 62 pieces, officially setting the newest record for “Highest altitude grand piano performance.” Photo: courtesy of Thurzó Zoltán

Guinness is no stranger to Romania-born pianist Thurzó Zoltán. In 2021, he attempted to break the world record for the longest concert ever. Not even a year later, he officially made his debut in another category in the world record book. He decided to try to break all the Guinness records connecting with piano, and even to list two more new categories over the years.

On 13 June, history was made. At an altitude of 5,325.77 meters, for exactly 132 minutes, at a temperature of -3 C, Zoltán played 63 pieces, officially setting the newest record for “Highest altitude grand piano performance.” Though as one can imagine, it wasn’t all roses.

Waiting for the piano

Thurzó Zoltán
Photo: courtesy of Thurzó Zoltán

Before even attempting to climb the mountain, the pianist had to complete rigorous physical and alpine training for months. Then, after climbing the unforgiving Mount Everest up to its 5,364 m base camp, things started to go south. Though he was prepared to play right away, Zoltán had to wait for days before he could finally perform, as his piano got stuck in a small village nearby.

Though the weather was fine up in the air, that wasn’t the case at the base of the mountain. Gales and rainstorms made it impossible for the helicopter that was supposed to carry the piano to the base camp to take off.

By the time the dark clouds had dissipated, nine days had passed, during which Zoltán had to spend his days and nights isolated in the mountains. In a place where the most prepared alpinists camp for a maximum of three days, he spent nine days waiting for the instrument to arrive. And sure, he could have also chosen to take a helicopter, but his passion for nature and hiking encouraged him otherwise.

Thurzó Zoltán’s desire for record

The piano was transported by a helicopter whose doors were removed to accommodate the grand instrument. On June 13, over one week later and two days than the planned date, the piano finally reached its destination. Not less than an hour after touching down on the snow, the piano was already in use. World record holder Thurzó Zoltán began the concert that was to become the highest-altitude concert ever performed.

Among the 63 pieces he played, 28 were national hymns of various countries, including Romania and Hungary. The cold put an end to the artist’s ambition to perform for three hours, but not before breaking the record for the longest concert ever on Mt. Everest. Zoltán played for a total of 2 hours and 12 minutes.

Needless to say, this performance was tough to achieve, and it required significant funds, to the tune of EUR 21,000. You might wonder why one would risk their life to climb Mt. Everest just to perform at an altitude of over 5000 m. It’s easy to assume the answer is the desire to set a new world record, but Zoltán‘s motivation goes far beyond what meets the eye.

Breaking the world record for the highest altitude performance was not the driving force behind Zoltan’s ambition. In fact, he completed the life-changing experience to bring him one step closer to fulfilling his dream of opening a Museum of Music in the city of Oradea. Hopefully, with this impressive new title, he is one step closer to making that dream come true.

Naomi Gherman

Master student in Cultural Diplomacy and International Relations at Babeș-Bolyai University, eager to share more about our world's most fascinating stories and people. Romania-based reader, writer and content creator with a strong interest in journalism, foreign languages and politics.

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