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558: Polio and Music

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  • sunilkzach
    Polio and Music Article from the Houston Chronicle on Nov. 18, 1995 Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at Avery Fisher Hall at
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 31, 2002
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      Polio and Music
      Article from the Houston Chronicle on Nov. 18, 1995

      Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert at
      Avery
      Fisher Hall 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 so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two
      crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time,
      painfully and
      slowly, is an sight. He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he
      reaches
      his chair. Then he sits down, slowly, puts his crutches on the floor,
      undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the
      other
      foot forward. Then he bends down and picks up the 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 to
      his chair. They remain reverently 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 violin broke. You could hear it snap - it
      went off
      like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound
      meant.
      There was no mistaking what he had 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 stage - to
      either
      find another violin or else find another string for this one." 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,
      and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know
      that. You c
      ould see him modulating, changing, 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. We were all on our feet,
      screaming and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we
      appreciated what he had done. He smiled, wiped the sweat from this
      brow,
      raised his bow to quiet us, and then he said, not boastfully, but in a
      quiet, pensive, reverent tone," You know, sometimes it is the
      artist's task
      to find out how much music you can still make with what you have
      left." What
      a powerful line that is. It has stayed in my mind ever since I heard
      it.


      And who knows? Perhaps that is the way of life - not just for artists
      but
      for all of us. Here is a man who has prepared all his life to make
      music on
      a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a
      concert,
      finds himself with only three strings. So he makes music with three
      strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was
      more
      beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made
      before, when he had four strings. So, perhaps our task in this shaky,
      fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music,
      at first
      with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to
      make
      music with what we have left. -

      Jack Riemer, Houston Chronicle

      Courtesy: Mauricio R. Barbiani, Rotary Club Venado Tuerto
      Cincuentenario, Distrito 4880, email: rotary50@...
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