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Bionic gloves let acclaimed Brazilian pianist play again

Internationally renowned pianist and conductor João Carlos Martins, 79, is able to finally play the piano again thanks to innovative bionic gloves. 

The Brazilian maestro was left unable to play his beloved symphonies on his Petrof piano following decades of battles with injuries and disease. 

But he is now able to effortlessly play again with nine of his ten digits after he was reduced to using just his thumbs and occasionally his index finger. 

Considered one of the great interpreters of Johann Sebastian Bach's music, he will now use his 'extender gloves' to make a dramatic turn to performing. 

He is scheduled to make a glorious return to New York's Carnegie Hall in October as part of a concert celebrating the 60th anniversary of his first appearance there. 

 Internationally renowned pianist and conductor João Carlos Martins (pictured), 79, is able to finally play the piano again thanks to innovative bionic gloves

 Ubiratã Bizarro Costa, a designer and innovator, created neoprene-covered bionic gloves specifically for the musician. The gloves bump Martins' fingers upward after they depress the keys and are held together by a carbon fibre board

It has been 21 years since Mr Martins was last able to play the piano freely after a degenerative brain disease, an arm injury sustained in a football match and being a mugging in Bulgaria robbed him of his dexterity.   

He retired last March after 24 surgeries all attempted to re-establish mobility, but he was forced to work as mostly as a conductor since the early 2000s.  

'After I lost my tools, my hands, and couldn't play the piano, it was if there was a corpse inside my chest,' Martins told The Associated Press. 

Ubiratã Bizarro Costa, a designer and innovator, created neoprene-covered bionic gloves specifically for the musician. 

The gloves bump Martins' fingers upward after they depress the keys and are held together by a carbon fibre board.

'I did the first models based on images of his hands, but those were far from ideal,' Costa said. 

'I approached the maestro at the end of a concert in my city of Sumaré, in the Sao Paulo countryside. 

'He quickly noticed they wouldn't work, but then he invited me to his house to develop the project.'

 The Brazilian maestro was left unable to play his beloved symphonies on his Petrof piano following decades of battles with injuries and disease. But he is now able to effortlessly play again with nine of his ten digits

 The gloves are unique and are the result of several months of work. The  and cost only about 500 Brazilians reals ($125) to build. Now Martins never takes off his new gloves, even when going to bed

WHO IS JOAO CARLOS MARTINS?

João Carlos Martins is an acclaimed Brazilian classical pianist and conductor, who has performed with leading orchestras in the United States, Europe and Brazil.

He first shot to fame with accolades and praise as a child prodigy.  

He is considered one of the great interpreters of Johann Sebastian Bach's music.

He was first a pianist who was with the leading pianist at the Boston Symphony.

His career was derailed by injurie and disease. 

A degenerative brain disease, an arm injury sustained in a football match and being a mugging in Bulgaria robbed him of his dexterity. 

It has been 21 years since Mr Martins was last able to play the piano freely.

Costa and Martins spent the subsequent months testing several prototypes. 

The perfect match came in December, and cost only about 500 Brazilians reals ($125) to build. Now Martins never takes off his new gloves, even when going to bed.

'I might not recover the speed of the past. I don't know what result I will get. I'm starting over as though I were an 8-year-old learning,' he said, joined by his poodle Sebastian, named after Bach, 

Martins said he has received more than 100 gadgets in the last 50 years as miraculous solutions to his hand problems but none  worked well or long enough.

'But these gloves do. I can even tune them accordingly,' he said, showing how he can rearrange the glove's internal pads to play at a faster or slower tempo. 

'That doesn't mean it's all sorted. The muscle atrophy plays a role. Sometimes I try to play a speedy one and get depressed because it just doesn't happen yet.'

Martins is now reinvigorated by his gloves and is practising early in the morning and late at night, to the delight of his neighbours, until he can interpret an entire Bach concert perfectly.

'It could take one, two years. I will keep pushing until that happens,' he said. 'I won't give up.'