How Much Music Can You Make?

On November 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Lincoln Center in New York City.

If you have ever been to a Perlman concert, you know that getting on stage is no small achievement for him.He was stricken with polio as a child, and has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches.To see him walk across the stage one step at the time,painfully and slowly, is a sight. He walks with difficulty,yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the braces and clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up his violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play.

By now, the audience is used to this ritual. They sit quietly while he makes his way across the stage tohis chair. They remain silent while he undoes the clasps on his legs, they wait until he is ready to play. But this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars, one of the strings on his violinbroke. You could hear it snap -- it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what hehad to do.

People who were there that night thought to themselves, "We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again,pick up the crutches and limp his way off the stage to find another violin or else find another string for this one, or wait for someone to bring him another violin.

But he didn't. Instead he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again.The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity, as they had never heard before.

Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that,you know that. But that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. You could see him modulating, changing and recomposing the piece in his head. At one point it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before.

When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room. And then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. Everyone was on their feet, screaming and cheering, doing everything they could to show how much they appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from his brow, raised his bow to quiet the audience,and not boastfully, but in a quiet reverent tone said,


No comments: