Christopher Plummer was a classical pianist, and played Rachmaninov between Sound of Music scenes

8 February 2021, 16:24 | Updated: 9 February 2021, 10:40

Christopher Plummer was a classically trained pianist, and loved Rachmaninov
Christopher Plummer was a classically trained pianist, and loved Rachmaninov. Picture: Getty/YouTube

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

The beloved star of stage and screen was an accomplished pianist, and often tickled the ivories to keep his castmates entertained during breaks on set.

Christopher Plummer, or as he was most famously known, Captain von Trapp from The Sound of Music, died on 5 February and left behind an extraordinary legacy.

With a gloriously resonant voice, a wicked smile and seemingly sculpted features, the Canadian actor was first choice time and time again for the great Shakespearean roles, and he would leave an immeasurable mark on the acting world.

But as a boy, it was the thought of a pianistic career that occupied Plummer’s mind.

As a schoolboy, Plummer began studying to be a concert pianist, training in all the great classical works. Eventually, his love of acting would eclipse all serious thought to the instrument. But he always returned to the ivories.

Read more: The time Princess Diana casually sat at a piano and played Rachmaninov >

In this wonderful discussion of The Sound of Music with Julie Andrews, the legendary soprano recalls the time the late actor played for the cast.

“You were phenomenal off the set in that you kept us all very jolly,” Andrews tells Plummer. “You would play the piano brilliantly until very, very late at night.”

“Thank you very much but I think you were all very south to be able to say I played brilliantly…” Plummer says, modestly. “But I was constantly at that piano.”

Read more: Soprano Julie Andrews is the voice of narrator Lady Whistledown in ‘Bridgerton’ >

Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer: A Reminiscence (2005)

“You were trained as a pianist, weren’t you?” Andrews asks.

“Yes, for a little while, then I jutted out on my own and played mostly by ear, actually,” the actor replies.

In disbelief, Andrews says: “Well I don’t know how you play Rachmaninov by ear, my friend.”

“You can actually, you can fool around with the left hand,” Plummer replies, with a sly grin. “You just leave out 25,000 notes and you’re doing alright.”

Click here to listen to our Calm Piano playlist on Global Player, the official Classic FM app >

In the film Remember, in which music plays an essential role, Plummer did all his own piano playing. But this didn’t persuade him to move back to the concert stage, instead remarking that the idea of playing the piano professionally seemed to him “very lonely and very hard work”.

The actor would play on other film sets, including the 2014 romantic comedy Elsa & Fred. Hear him playing out his preferred Russian great’s Second Piano Concerto below.

Christopher Plummer Magnificently plays Piano on a break at shooting of ELSA & FRED film.

An artist, in every sense of the word. Rest in peace, Christopher Plummer.