Violin is probably the closest instrument to the human voice. Violin vibrato makes our inner selves vibrate along with every thought of the musician. Violin reaches the deepest corners of our beings and makes us cry, makes the hair on the back of our necks stand up and makes us shiver from pure physical pleasure. The Old Italian violins are surrounded with the mystery of their making; every violin has a soul of its own and plays well only in the hands of a great master. Sometimes the violin gets compared to a voluptuous woman caressed by a skillful lover.
This January, Musical Bridges is participating in the citywide Beethoven festival along with the San Antonio Symphony and just about all of the other performing arts organizations in San Antonio. We are presenting seven sonatas for violin and piano, or to be more precise, for piano and violin. Our artists are fabulous violin masters and, of course, great pianists. (The piano part in these sonatas is more demanding than the violin – this is a little secret from me to you!)
As far back as I can remember, my father always loved his job as a violinist in the Moscow Philharmonic. I have very few childhood memories of him without his violin; they have always been inseparable and I seriously believe that the violin is his first and greatest love. I remember how proud I was of my father when he elegantly walked to the stage wearing his black tuxedo with violin next to his heart, to his temple, which was his orchestra. Now in his late seventies, he still lives and breathes music. Despite arthritis, he practices every day – it looks like he has the need to talk to his violin on a daily basis.
Many years ago, my dad’s colleague in the Moscow Philharmonic was Emanuel Borok. Life took him literally around the world: he immigrated to Israel, then was offered an Associate Concertmaster position in the Boston Symphony, then the Concertmaster position in the Dallas Symphony. Now, he will be one of our guest performers at the Beethoven Festival in San Antonio. Emanuel and Elena Portnaya will perform sonatas 1, 2 and 3 at the San Fernando Cathedral on January 29th.
Emanuel is one of those great masters who makes the violin do whatever he wants. His sound is like warm milk that penetrates your soul and warms you up inside out. It gives me great pleasure to see Emanuel play and even more pleasure to see him interact with my father when he flies in from Dallas, where he has resided for over 30 years. They communicate like they are two young and perky violinists back in the Soviet Union Orchestra in their early thirties, joking around and carrying on like there is no tomorrow.
Speaking of the mystery surrounding the old violins, Mr. Borok is the lucky owner of the legendary queen of violins, Hieronymus, by Antonio Amati, 1608. It is registered in some collectors catalogues as the “ex Benoit”. This is how Emanuel describes her: “A woman of high breeding, in her prime sophisticated age of 39+. Very sweet and charming, not without headaches in the evenings and occasional outbursts of non-cooperation. A real high maintenance lady with splendid rewards…”
…and he sure knows how to caress her.