Montevideo, Uruguay – 1958 - A short, very fat, socially awkward, geeky 12 year old, played violin in a concert – as a soloist with the orchestra of the S.O.D.R.E. He got a standing ovation and did 4 short encores. The boy had played some Debussy, some Ravel and more, but what conquered the audience’s heart, came at the end when – against his music teacher’s orders – he played a superb rendition of Niccolò Paganini‘s Caprice Number 18. It was an extremely hard piece to play, especially for a little kid. Paganini is known for the devilishly intricate finger work his compositions require. The boy became very sick soon after and his parents (overly protective Holocaust survivors!) stopped his musical career right then and there, so as to take away any added pressure that might adversely affect him.
For more than half his life, since age 5, he’d studied the violin, practicing 3 hours a day after public school (in the mornings) and cheder (in the afternoon). During vacations, he often practiced 8 hours a day. Violin playing was his passion, suddenly, painfully, it was yanked away from him. It took a very long time to overcome the terrible void…
Kiron, Israel – 1968 – The socially awkward kid is no longer fat, no longer awkward, no longer a kid, he is a 22 year old married man who buys a violin. His then father in law – Bernard Fiedler, a”h – who had been a concert violinist in Vienna before WWII, encourages him. His wife proudly tells his parents; after a few days, the new violin disappears. “Your parents felt it was best,” says the wife.
Fast forward, Manhattan, New York – 2013 - The second act of David Rubertone‘s bar mitzvah took place yesterday at noon in The Bentley Hotel‘s Penthouse, at the beautiful Prime Grill Restaurant, I had the privilege of video taping and photographing it, as I did about 6 weeks earlier at the Manhattan Sephardic Congregation. Suddenly – as David entertained the guests – I, the once fat, socially awkward, geeky kid, was filled with emotions at the happy and the sad memories, the tears and the triumphs, that David’s violin playing brought back. Words fail me, but somehow I now feel that while the past is irretrievably gone, it is possible that my temps perdu, the days when I played the violin, might return yet.
One of the people who spoke at the bar mitzvah, addressing David, said that while he might think that it is his teachers who taught him over the years, it is really he who has been teaching them. I can’t speak for his teachers but, I do know that in the three times I’ve met David, I learned a lot and actually found that lost time I so painstakingly had been searching for, seemingly in vain.
Marcel Proust, whose multi – volume novel’s title I borrowed for this post, once said: The voyage of discovery is not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.
Yesterday’s bar mitzvah boy, unknowingly showed me a solution, taught me how to see with new eyes, gave me new strengths, made me discover new regions within myself…
Thank you David, perhaps it’s time to take up the violin again!
The once short, very fat, socially awkward, geeky kid