Croatia Chronicle: Part Five
Everyone is in high spirits after yesterday’s rollicking,
wildly successful Carnival and the party at Rok and Lea’s. The big event for
the day is our pianist Jose’s recital for us in the Kastel. He has a big
performance coming up in Spain
I admire, and envy, his single-minded focus, which I once had, but has now become a wavering, dim beam of light barely illuminating a jumble of diverse spheres - dance, music, history, food, cooking, science, writing, nature, animals, travel, photography, and others that blow in and out with the winds of mood and circumstance. Which is better: excelling at one thing to the exclusion of all else, or mediocrity arcing a wide swathe across many fields and areas? A Jack (or Jill) of many trades, but master of none? Or a brilliant star, emitting a dazzling pinprick of light? We become one or the other, or something else altogether, or, if we are lucky, a genius hybrid, the Jack of all trades and Master of them all. Who chooses what? Based on what?
We have our practice sessions. The Carnatic music songs are
coming along nicely, and it is so gratifying that they enjoy singing them so
much. They have learned about a dozen Sarali Varisaigal, and two geethams, Varavina and Sri Gananatha,
and sing these now with confidence. There is Olinda
Lunch is getting better every day. The good olive oil is now present at every meal, and we consume colossal quantities of it, pouring little lakes of it on our bread plates, over our salads, over anything that might taste better with it. Bruno smiles indulgently at our group, and I think he likes us a lot, which is why he sneaks in little extras for us, like the oil, balsamic vinegar (which is also now present at every lunch and dinner), fruits, and yogurts. He knows I like the brown bread, and he brings some slices of it just for me. He is a kind man at heart, and its little gestures like this that show that this is true.
More practice after lunch, then a quick siesta. The days are getting a little warmer now, and a siesta seems to be the most natural, most sensible thing to do. Even the birds and crickets fall silent in the hottest hours of the afternoon. Why shouldn’t we?
We’ve put up little posters all over the village, inviting one and all to Jose’s concert. Jose acts diffident about it. “If three people come, I’ll be happy”, he claims, and warns, “the pieces are far from ready. I still need to do a lot of work on them.”
A few minutes before 8 o’clock, when the concert is due to start, the hall is already half-full, and by the time Jose appears on stage, to enthusiastic applause, only a handful of empty seats remain.
Jose plays Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, one of the loveliest of all of Beethoven’s sonatas, the haunting melodies made all the more poignant by the knowledge that he knew then that he had lost his hearing forever, that he, whose every bone and sinew, every cell, every breath of life, was suffused with sound and music, would be doomed to a future of deathly silence, where the only sounds he would hear would be those created from the depths of his mind.
There is pin-drop silence while Jose plays. Thunderous
applause follows when he finishes. He has been in a trance while playing, eyes
closed, and he gets up slowly when the applause breaks out, as if emerging from
a reverie. A Ballade by Chopin follows,
tender and fierce in turns, and this too is greeted with sustained clapping. A fiendishly difficult, mind-bogglingly complex and goose-bumpingly beautiful Liszt
piece, his Spanish Rhapsody, composed after his travels through Spain
The crowd rises as one to its feet. The applause continues as Jose goes in, comes out and bows, goes in, comes out again, the applause acquiring a steady rhythm now, people stomping their feet and shouting Bravo! Jose has no choice but to continue playing.
What a marvelous evening! Jose was certain that the kids would find his concert boring – after all, they had been up until late the previous evening jamming it up with Olinda and the others, and he felt his music would surely pale in comparison. He underestimated everything – his playing, the kids, and most of all, the power and beauty of the music he made that evening.
All of us glow with pride as we head back to our rooms after the concert. He is our Jose, after all.