It happened again, the ghost in the Gagliano awakened to have a word with me.
I was called to play a funeral, something which, by its nature, is always a last-minute affair. The deceased was Hungarian, with a penchant for Gypsy music.
“Play whatever you want, but if you can find something Hungarian, or gypsy-ish...” was the request from his daughter.
Hmmmm. I started leafing through music. Zigeunerweisen seemed a little showy for a funeral, not to mention I haven't played it for 500 years. No, I don't have a lot of gypsy music right at the tips of my fingers, to be honest. Hungarian? Okay, here's this easy version of Brahms “Hungarian Dances,” but it's pretty peppy. Bartok? Ahhh, the Rumanian Folk Dances... I smiled. Hungarian, yes. But for a funeral? Doubtful. Still, I'll get it out. I pulled out a half-dozen pieces, many that were fairly borderline, others simply seemed like good pieces for a funeral. I'd test them out.
When the Rumanian Folk Dances came up, I turned to the one that was in my head, the beautiful Buciumeana. As I was playing it, I immediately concluded that it's just a bit too spooky and out-there for a funeral, unless it was directly requested, which it was not. NEXT....
“Oh no, not NEXT. We're finishing,” said my violin. “I'm curious.”
Okay, so my violin didn't speak, not really. But it didn't stop. Nor did I stop. My violin did not want me to stop.
I wondered, where was this fiddle in 1915, when Bartok wrote this piece? I know my violin spent some time in a state of disrepair, but I don't know when it happened, nor for how long its face was smashed before it was restored. Had it known this piece? Or was this the first time?
The violin seemed curious.
“Go on, play the next movement, I want to know,” it said. It wanted me to play it quite fast, with no break whatever. All the way through to the end of the last dance, in a mad frenzy.
“Back to the beginning, let's hear the first dance,” said my violin. I obeyed, but by now, the violin no longer seemed curious. It was downright bossy. It seemed to be telling me how to play the piece. Heady here, delicate there. Do you feel the funny hesitations, the asymmetry in the “Braul”? More!
Oh you do NOT mean me to play “Pe Loc,” not with all those hideous harmonics, I said to my violin, without exactly speaking. For heaven's sake, I just had gum surgery a few weeks ago, give me a break. NO!
“Oh yes you will play the harmonics,” said my violin to me, also telepathically. “And loudly. You'll go there, get inside every single one, bring it out, you will not hide!”
And then again, the “Buciumeana.”
I shook my head. Thanks for the lesson, I thought, looking at my violin -- so much older than me, so filled with the wisdom of the world. How long did it stand in the forest, as a tree? And in whose hands did it play, whose music, in the last 200 years? Where did it spend the world wars? In which churches did it sing? In what halls, homes, studios? Who loved it? Who abused it?
How did it ever fall into my hands, how can it be mine? Yet, it is mine, but only for my life. My violin may live longer.Tweet
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