SPIRITUALITY, METAPHYSICS, PHILOSOPHY, ANCIENT MYTHS IN FICTION AND IN FACT

 

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THE HUMAN POTENTIAL NEWSLETTER

 BEST OF THE MONTH

VIRTUOSO -exserpt from THE AVATAR SYNDROME

Stan I.S. Law
 

Two weeks before Anne would turn sixteen, she had her first solo violin performance. Diana, Michael, John and Peter all sat, side by side, in the front row of the Pollack Concert Hall on Sherbrooke Street. Not that acoustics were good so close to the stage, but they, all four of them, wanted to be close to Anne. To see her every move, every grimace, every twitch of her eyebrow, every nuance of expression that might be painted on her face.

Anne was much too old to be considered a child prodigy. Mozart was four when he composed his first symphony. He qualified to be called a Wunderkind, Michael agreed, but not Anne.

"No way," Michael insisted, "Anne is very talented, after all she's my daughter," he postulated with a straight face, "but she's no prodigy. She just works very hard."

Michael desperately wanted Anne to be, what he called, 'normal'. He had read about too many cases where the so-called 'wonderful children' had their lives destroyed by success too early.

Peter tended to agree. He knew a thing or two about the fiddle. Also about child prodigies. But early success did not necessarily spell impending doom. Yehudi Menuhin had played solo violin with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra when he was just seven years old. At eleven he'd made his debut in Carnegie Hall with Beethoven's violin concerto. When Einstein heard him two years later, he is reported to have said: 'Now I know there is a God in heaven!'

Peter smiled at his own thoughts. He loved that story.

On March 12, 1999 Yehudi Menuhin died in Berlin, Germany, ending one of the longest and most prestigious careers of any American violinist.
But he had to admit that Anne was no prodigy. And, for that matter, she was no longer a child. Not in the usual sense of the word. Biologically she exhibited signs of a sixteen-year-old, but in every other sense she was mature beyond her years. Well beyond. One could, or at least he could, conduct a normal 'adult' conversation with her. Precocious perhaps, but no Wunderkind.

She walked on stage with a long, confident step. The conductor, who had just received his MA in music at McGill University, walked four paces behind her. When she stopped just to the left of the conductor's platform, she bowed once, and without any delay checked the A string with the first violinist. She then made the usual quick check of D, G and E fifths with each other. The conductor tapped his baton on the lectern. The audience took a deep breath.

Peter knew the concerto by heart. After all, just two years ago he'd played it for her on two sticks in her very own garden. He was also instrumental, so to speak, in aiding Anne with the deeper understanding of the composer's intent. Technically, Anne was perfect. The coordination between her bow and the fingers of her left hand was nothing short of astounding. At least, to another violinist, who once went through the same paces. Not since Paganini, he often thought. Not since the man who had been accused of having been in cahoots with the devil himself ­ though Peter never understood how they had managed to credit the devil with such beauty. Well, technique wasn't all, but it sure was a necessary ingredient of beauty. Peter was sure that had Anne started ten years earlier, she would have made her mark as a prodigy. But there was a great gulf between technique and musical maturity. Especially, when the pupil or student was virtually self-taught. Peter hardly considered himself to be a teacher, particularly of a concert violinist.

Incongruously, he became aware that for the first time he was dissecting Anne as an object, as an instrument for producing music. When alone, practising, he had always been under the spell of her physical beauty. He had been too close to her, then. Too close physically. He could smell her hair, observe the curve of her lips, pouting, as she added her inimitable legato to articulate a particular passage. Yes, even while keeping strict tempo with the Allegro Moderato. There, he'd been under her spell. And here? Here he was detached, set a distance apart, lowered to the stalls while she, at long last, was raised to the podium where all goddesses belong.

One doesn't place demands on goddesses. One can only admire them, worship from afar....

His detachment didn't last. Moments later the music swept him, consumed his critical faculties, leaving him, once again, mesmerized, enchanted, transported, fascinated.

 

Anne was coming to the end of the first movement.

Where did she find such depths of emotion? The intense longing for something ineffable, perhaps forbidden, still unknown... Could it have been a longing for love? Not as we humans define it but at a still deeper, much deeper level, something that had its source in the realm of the divine.
Peter's thoughts wondered, incongruously, to a song he'd heard as a teenager.

Where have you been when I've been standing yonder, blinking at a star?

He wasn't sure of the words. Her long dress of green taffeta clung to her girlish hips only just beginning to swell into womanhood, then flowed like molten emeralds down to her feet. The colour was a perfect match to her eyes. She looked taller in her gown. The high collar framed her face from below, while her fiery hair flowed freely, dancing with each movement of her head. Only her long arms were left bare. Bare and so incredibly talented.

Gigi... you're not at all that funny, awkward little girl, I knew....

Actually, Anne was never awkward. Unpredictable. Sometimes quite impossible, but never awkward. It was he who often felt awkward. Anne was still, at least in the legal sense a child. He had to keep reminding himself about that. A funny, if not awkward little girl....

She really did justice to the Adagio di molto. Her legato was much smoother, much broader than anything he, himself, had ever been capable of. God knows, he had tried. He'd shown her the fundamentals. That was about all. All too soon she'd taken flight on her own.

Her music rose and fell in flowing waves, interwoven with the Finish lakes and forests and the endless fields stretching into the distant, misty unknown.

Here, her longing was filled with sorrow, or resignation. No, it was more like acceptance.... Or perhaps reconciliation? A question or two, then peace, serenity of a summer's day hovering over a lustrous lake....

Anne... when did your sparkle turn to fire?

The music no longer belonged to Sibelius. She took it from him, she appropriated it with such ease. There was no act of usurping this jewel. Anne and the music were one. A single entity. Both magical, both beautiful, both....



The Allegro (ma non tanto) snapped him out of his reverie. Peter sat up straighter.

The joy of another morning . . . sparkling, brilliant, boisterous. All nature coming to life, awakening, swirling in a dance of life . . . soaring, receding, plunging only to rise again towards the sky. And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath soul and fowl that may fly about the earth in the face of the firmament of heaven... When did I hear these words? All creatures of the air...

Out of the corner of his eye Peter glanced at John and Michael and Diana who sat between the two men. Not one of them moved a finger. Not one even blinked. Anne's music had that effect on people. He had experienced this same magic so many times when she was practising. She refused to have anyone else present. Just him. Music was something he and Anne shared. She trusted him completely. He often felt the burden of that trust. After all, who was he to pass judgment on this angel?

"You are my friend," she would answer trying to get rid of the reservations painted on his face. "You are the only one I trust to tell me the truth." It was a gentle plea as well as affirmation.

He had. Only seldom he'd made remarks which made her wince. It was when she attempted to introduce her ego into a phrase. You don't own the music, he would say, the music owns you. Until now. Now the music was hers. If there was anyone who could find a way to separate the two then he or she was better than I am, he mused.

Anne seemed frozen in immobility. Was she still playing? Am I hearing her bow dancing arpeggios with such ease just to amuse us? No, Anne wasn't frozen. It had been he who wanted her to stop. To play no more. He refused to share her with this crowd. But jealous nature would not release her. It drew her inexorably into her mysteries.

...ephemeral dragonflies gliding on gossamer wings rose, carried on the breath of a forgotten zephyr, a sigh of a girl in an emerald dress, a winged fairy, a squadron of nymphs, mysterious, following her every turn, lithe, prancing, her feet barely touching the grass, playing . . . rising, and falling, only to alight, silently, on wild petals, swaying, barely, in tune, in tempo . . . allegro ma non tanto....

...rising again . . . allegro, joyfully, allegro ma non troppo, light-heartedly . . . tiny feet whisking across the water, ripples, a tremolo . . . her tiny feet skimming across the furrows between the crests, little, shimmering....

...beyond a crown of a forlorn willow weeping good bye . . . a whole forest, echoing firs, pines, hemlocks....
...weeping good-bye . . . to Anne still standing, still so far, inaccessible.

Anne come back . . . come back....



The roar was deafening. People were standing ­ all of them. People cried. Then they shouted ­ then cried again. Diana took a step towards Peter, put her arms about his neck, kissed him on the cheek.

"This could never have happened without you. Thank you. Thank you so much...."

Just then Anne looked down from the stage. For the briefest of moments their eyes met. Her smile told him the rest. It said the same thing Diana just said. And more.

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