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Bonny Buckley

Shanghai Entertainment

May 23, 2008 at 3:17 PM

The violin is a link connecting now with the past and the future. Have you ever wondered where your instrument was played before you owned it, or stopped to consider where it might go in the future?

Tonight I had the great good fortune to be able to attend the chamber music concert of Pinchas Zukerman at Shanghai Concert Hall at People's Square. Originally the concert was scheduled for Monday night, May 19, but because of the national period of mourning for victims of the Sichuan area earthquake one week earlier, the concert was postponed. In fact all entertainment was cancelled for most of the week in China.

While enjoying every pristine moment of Zukerman's playing, I kept wondering what my own fiddle would sound like from the stage, as it has its own long and sordid past of performances, much of which is lost in history.

Two colleagues happened to be able to accompany me to this concert and they seemed to dearly enjoy it as much as I did, despite even a false start to one movement of a Mozart Divertimento for String Trio in which the cellist did not have her pages opened properly, so they had to start over after a few bars. It was actually amusing and reminded me of my own day, because today was my students' culminating performance and there was one very similar false start between 2 sixth grade students playing Vivaldi Concerto in A Minor -- yes, a sixth grade pianist and sixth grade violinist. The pianist had skipped a measure and was completely perplexed, stopped and did not continue. The violinist played a few more measures and realized she was on her own, so she did the mature thing and just started over. The actual performance was quite lovely once they had their bearings, and the crowd went wild with applause afterward.

It was my first time to hear Zukerman and see his body: no neck. I was amazed at his facility and the warmth and depth to his instrument. The other players equally mesmerized me with their musicality and apparent enjoyment in what they were doing. It's one thing to put on a CD of chamber music. It is an entirely other thing to sit close to the players so you can see their expressions, from laughter to scowls, to imagining what is going through their heads. It was by no means a flawless performance, yet afterward the crowd clearly wanted an encore with about 5 curtain calls, yet none was to be given. I know what goes through my head during a performance and how it is something like being connected to light, as thoughts go screaming past at a speed that happens in no other circumstance that I can think of.

And I had to wonder where that violin was played before Zukerman acquired it, and where it will go when Zukerman no longer plays it, hopefully many, many years out. I feel very blessed to have heard this concert. It was a truly uplifting end to my own work that I have poured into students this semester. It isn't every day one gets to hear the Guarneri del Jesu violin of 1743!

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