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David Russell

A thing for leather...

July 26, 2009 at 12:27 PM

I forgot my mute-again! 

I was rehearsing with colleagues at the Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival in Burlington, Vermont. One movement of the Faure C minor Piano Quartet calls for using a mute for the middle section of the piece and it creates a lovely color. Unfortunately, I had forgotten to pick up my mute from the desk in my hotel room, and when the time came for using it---I endured the good-natured chiding of my colleagues for leaving it behind. But that is when things took an interesting turn...

Stefan, the group's 'cellist put on his mute and Susan (our violist) inquired with surprise: "Is that a leather mute?"  That got my attention because I hadn't seen a leather mute in years. Stefan told us that it was in fact a leather mute and that the Burlington Violin Shop (just down the street) was selling them!

Susan and I looked at each other. The look on our faces enabled us to read each other's mind. We had to have one-- and the sooner the better.As soon as rehearsal was over, I was on a mission to purchase two of these rare treasures. One for violin, one for viola.

I entered the shop while my wife and son waited outside in the car. Greeted warmly by the nice lady behind the counter, I said quickly and quietly: "Rumor has it you sell leather mutes. Is that true?"   After a moment of laughter, she assured me it was true and inquired how I found out the shop sold them. Moments later, I left the shop with my $13.00 (yet priceless) treasures.

No sooner had I settled back into my car my wife said: "Isn't that Frank Huang feeding the parking meter?" I looked and said I didn't think so. Frank was the relatively new violinist with the Ying Quartet and I thought the odds of seeing him in Burlington, Vt. on this particular afternoon, feeding quarters into a parking meter unlikely. Then, taking a second look I realized it was in fact Frank Huang.

I got out of the car and approached him as other members of the Ying quartet gathered around the parking meter. When Frank recognized me he exclaimed: "Whoa! How random is this?! What are you doing here?" I laughed and explained about the Chamber Music Festival and that I was just downtown to buy a leather mute...

Suddenly, there was silence as a now familiar look crossed the faces of the Ying Quartet. "You bought a LEATHER mute?"someone asked. Smiling, I shared my find with them. Less than one minute later, the Ying Quartet walked through the door of the Burlington Violin Shop to buy their own treasures! I'm still smiling as I imagine the reaction of the lady behind the counter! In fact, she called me the next day and we shared a good laugh.

Treasure comes in many forms.


From Kristian Rahbek Knudsen
Posted on July 27, 2009 at 2:10 PM

Speaking of mutes. Does any one know where to find those old fashioned two-pronged mutes made out of soft aluminium?


From Catie Rinderknecht
Posted on July 27, 2009 at 4:45 PM

That's interesting!

What about a leather mute distinguishes it from other kinds of mutes? 

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