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John Sarkett

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg comes to Chicago Monday night

February 3, 2011 at 7:41 PM

Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg comes to Pick-Staiger Hall, Evanston, Ill, Monday night, Feb. 7,  7:30 p.m. with the New Century Chamber Orchestra to perform works of Wolf, Bartok, Piazzolla, and Tchaikovsky.

I remember some years ago I heard her 'take-no-prisoners' rendition of the Brahms Violin Concerto on classical WFMT here in Chicago, and it stopped me dead in my tracks.  Subsequently, I learned more about this remarkable artist, and included her story, as chapter 184 in my book, "Extraordinary Comebacks 2," as follows:

Chapter 184. Salerno-Sonnenberg, Nadja 

Weighed down with despair from a lost love, violin virtuoso Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger. It jammed. Eight months of crippling depression followed (1998), but she still she managed to perform, in Carnegie Hall, no less, just two weeks after trying to take her own life. 

For most people, classical music means little or nothing. For some, it is a cherished part of their life. For a very, very few, it is life itself. NSS is one of the latter. 

Something of a raw nerve in human form, Salerno-Sonnenberg was and is an outsize personality in every way, one that seems to manifest the excess of romanticism in human form.  Just like the music she loves, some say she is manic-depressive, at least in her rolling, rollicking, intemperate stage demeanor. Her renditions of familiar romantic classical workhorses stop the listener in their tracks, and astonish for their originality, power, purity and passion. It is not music playing, but a force of nature coming from an unknown source. 

A documentary of her life, Speaking of Strings, strived to provide some insight into the genesis of the NSS musical vision, and succeeds in part, but some of what drives Salerno-Sonnenberg remains private and elusive, too.  Some insights into her angst may include the fact that she was abandoned by her father at three months, moved from Italy to New York at age eight, and grew up a tomboy and tough. As a young grade-schooler, she was asked to bring in something that she loved for show and tell. She chose a record of the Brahms Violin Concerto. When classmates laughed, she tore the record from the player, and ran all the way home. She has been struggling to fit her personality to everyday life, in one way or another, ever since. And for her fans, that is the source of her appeal.

We all struggle with life, to fit in and/or make it fit us, and perhaps that is why her playing is so compelling to so many. It is raw, real, and correspondent to the real feelings inside us all, whatever they really are not just what they are supposed to be – not the prettified picture we must present to the world on a daily basis.  Salerno-Sonnenberg’s mother tells her in the documentary it takes a lot of courage to be happy, a sentiment at once obvious, paradoxical and profound.

That Salerno-Sonnenberg finds that courage, packs it into her music and sends it out to a grateful world is the stuff of her daily rising up again. She practices, she tours, she performs – she immerses herself in her art, her Herculean task. That is her regimen, her vocation, her comeback.

Paraphrasing T.S. Eliot, Salerno-Sonnenberg becomes the music while the music lasts, and that saves her life --- every day.


We look forward to her visit here Monday with great anticipation.....interested in your comments on NSS pre- or post-concert here......JAS


From al ku
Posted on February 4, 2011 at 11:58 AM

 if you are interested in my comment,,,here is one

"some say she is manic-depressive, at least in her rolling, rollicking, intemperate stage demeanor."   if that is the case, "some" would probably insist that joshua bell gets some electrical shock therapy then. :)   it is bs.

if you are quoting "some" to arrive at that sentence/observation, you should probably qualify the sources, because taken as a whole that sentence is highly descriptive of something--perhaps a sign of good writing with vivid imagination that is fit for novel-- but not necessarily  manic depression in its clinical sense.  in other words,  it is highly speculative to the point of being offensive and irresponsible.  

perhaps it is too convenient to know ahead of time that she has suffered from depression and then try to link her behaviors to it.  

and there is another reason that i post.  to signal to those who are against prodigies that i am here to answer their concerns:)


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