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
"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
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
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
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
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
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, lightheartedly . . . 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.
(cont. in the book)