I woke late the next morning. My head was aching and spinning with a terrible hangover.
The night before, my musician had disappeared rapidly after collecting his remuneration and left me with many unanswered questions.
“I will be able to find him tonight.” I thought,
I returned to the Balatan tavern but he wasn’t there. Nobody at the tavern remembered him.
He wasn’t in any other tavern either. Slowly, after a couple of hours of searching, I walked back to my hotel.
My hopes to see the quizzical interesting man again were gone. I thought that I would never solve the mysteries surrounding my musician’s life.
“It’s quite impossible to find a man in such a large place,” I told myself. “I can only hope that during my last two days in Budapest I can discover his whereabouts.”
That night, returning to my hotel, I walked through the Cathedral piazza. Around the church, the poor musician was begging. They played their instruments and pushed their hats in front of the harried passer-by for the few coins they threw.
Soddenly in the distance, a violin propagated notes into the air. Or was my imagination playing tricks on me? But inside me was a clear compelling voice,
“Follow your instincts, follow the music…”
I finally reached a restaurant. I was exhausted by the long walk, and very thirsty. I sat at a table in the outdoor garden and ordered a boot of beer. It was nearly closing time. From the bar came the music of a violin playing the ‘Blue Danube’. Then brusquely it was silent. I decided to rest longer, before going back. Then I heard behind me, heavy steps on the gravel path.
They stopped, and I had the sensation of someone standing behind me. A man’s shadow appeared, and he was holding a violin in his hand. With pleasure, I noticed he was the musician I had tried to find for the past week.
Without being asked, he sat down at my table and ordered drinks for both of us. He was no longer the arrogant and loud entertainer I met a week earlier. His eyes had lost that eagle’s powerful look, and his hands slightly shook. He addressed me
“I owe you my thanks for your previous generosity. Tonight, we’ll celebrate. I’ll take the rest of the evening off”
In his hand, he had that bundle of forints notes I gave him a few nights earlier.
“I congratulate you. You really are a talented violinist.” I told him.
“Talent goes together with skill, to be able to reach perfection. Techniques, practice, and dedication are the base of the optimum. Any dedicated musician looks for perfection, but only a few, know how much it costs to reach such a point.”
And he continued “You must be a musician yourself. What instrument do you play?”
“I only play for pleasure. I am a violin maker. I also spend time writing articles about music.” I told him.
“This is why you are not possessed by the demons. Music is my torment and the only reason to live. The demons of music compel me to create notes reproducing the perfection of sound. All notes are important in creating music, even the simple ones.
“I need to be surrounded by the harmony of music, or else the monotony of silence will overpower my soul and I won’t survive.”
He talked earnestly to me and after a moment of reflection,
“I don’t have to battle life for too long now. When the time comes, I will not leave any regrets behind. Music has always fulfilled my needs and passions.”
He paused, and after a sigh and a long sip of beer, continued.
“You most likely ask yourself why I have kept away from public appearances and why I have renounced being a famous soloist. You will never understand my crucial dilemma. I am a perfectionist. Even the smallest note from my violin must be the purest.”
I was listening with interest to my musician, but at the same time, I was admiring his violin that he had left on the table.
“Your instrument is very rare and valuable. It was crafted in the last of Guarneri’s period and it’s capable of giving such full round sound. It is similar to the one Paganini used, and it is worth a lot of money.”
“That violin is my life. Besides, it has a great sentimental value to me. It was my father’s gift at the time I was born. That violin is part of me and it had forged my life. No money in the world would separate me from it.”
“I can understand the great sentimental value to you. It wasn’t my intention to ask to buy it. It is only my appreciation of such a magnificent instrument.”
My friend took care and time to properly pack his violin in the old case,
“No more music tonight. You say you are a writer. I want to tell you the story of my life. Perhaps one day soon, you can write about me and my life. It is something that until now I have jealously kept to myself, but I know my life is running quickly to an end. I know you will properly use my confidences, in writing of my violin and my life.”
I ordered a bottle of Tokay. I knew a long night was in front of us. The restaurant was closing down, but the owner granted us permission to stay in the garden as long as we wished. The musician slowly sipped his glass of wine and coordinated in his mind the memory of his youth.
Finally, he started his narration,
“My name is Markos Legovitch. On my birth, I received the stigma as a bastard and that hung heavily over me dictating my life. Because of this status, my mind had always been at a loss and as well influenced my artistic career.
“I remember my mother had openly talked to me about my father. She said he was generous and she always thought of him as her hero. When young, I would create an image of him through my mother’s description and imagined him to be a hero of the Round Table and he would arrive to take me away with him on horseback. My mother told me he was a Calvary officer, and she had always hoped he would come back one day. The reality was quite different. He never came back to the town on the Dalmatian coast, where we lived.
“Life became more difficult for us; the day Mother lost her father and all his belonging became the property of my grandfather’s first son. It was necessary for her to accept some humble work to live. Finally, after years she got clerical work through the factory’s owner’s benevolence. Mother has always been an attractive woman, and the business owner was quite a few years older. He fell in love with my mother and asked her to marry him solving, in this way, her financial problems.
Crakova is where I grew up and still today is the town which I call home and where my memories are. I remember the loving way Mother used to keep this violin, wrapped in a silky shawl. Often when we were together, she allowed me to hold this instrument. That was also the time she used to talk to me about my father.
She told me that my father was a Prince, someone very important in life, and he lived in a real castle. She also told me he was a great musician. Many in his family had been musicians before him, and that violin had been handed down, by tradition, to the first son born in the family. That’s why that violin belongs to me because I was his first son.
My father also explained that the miniature painted on the back case of the violin, a rose with a mountain’s background, was the heraldic crest of his family, the Monterosa.
Mother always emphasized the fact that the violin would have proved my real identity whenever I met my father’s family.
Nevertheless, years after, that violin caused me many disillusions and miseries. It happened on the day I thought that I finally had found my father and his family.”
Suddenly the emotions were visible on Markos’ face. His voice trembled. I topped our glasses with some wine. And gently told him,
“Please rest for a while. I need to know your story, providing it doesn’t cause too much suffering. You look very distressed while you are remembering your past. If you wish we can always meet again in the morning after you have had some rest.”
“No, my friend, It is imperative I tell you all now. I know I will never have the courage to tell again the story of my past life. Besides, tomorrow I will leave. I return home and I feel that I will never come back to this town.”
“But if I want to see you again, where can I find you?”
“I told you where my heart is, in my village, on the Adriatic. That’s where you will be able to find me. But it’s time now to resurrect the rest of my life. I feel at ease in the semidarkness of this place. I have more courage to revive those days of the past. At dawn, I’ll be weaker and my will to talk of the past will be gone.”
After a pause to recollect his memories Mark started,
“On my sixth birthday, my mother and stepfather gave me a present. It was a smaller scale violin, the right size for my age. Within six months with nobody’s help, I was able to play a few simple tunes. My mother was pleased and proud of me. At that time I couldn’t understand much about music. It came naturally from inside me. Even when I only heard a tune once I could go home and reproduce it on my violin.
I remember I was nine years old at the time a group of gypsies camped at the outskirts of Crakova. They were talented musicians and it was the first time I heard those gypsy’s rhapsodies. It was the best violin music that I have ever heard before. I was hiding behind one of their wagons lying on the bare ground, facing the sky with my hands locked behind my head. I closed my eyes to better concentrate on the rhapsody.
The gypsy’s music fascinated me and enraptured I was glued to the ground. I couldn’t move away from my dreams, till Mick, one of the gypsies, found me there.
“Hey boy, what are you doing there? Why are you hiding?”
“Sorry Sir, I was listening to your music. I never heard anything so beautiful before.”
“Hey, you are only a kid. Kids like to run and play football better than music.”
“Yes Sir, I also like to play football when I am at school with the other children, but I also want to learn to play the violin in the way your people do.”
“Well, let me see what you can do. Come with me”
Mick took my hand and guided me to his wagon. From a locked timber chest he took a small violin, He gave it to me with the bow and said,
“Let me see what you are capable of, boy.”
I concentrated for a short time, then, I repeated the last Gypsy sonata I heard played by them. Nick stood there, with open legs, and his knuckles closed over his flanks. He seemed amazed while he was listening to me.
“Well, boy, I think you are talented. If you wish, for the time we are here in town I’ll teach you other tunes. But just know that we gypsies are playing from the heart. We don’t read music as other musicians do. We have learned the music played by our fathers and the father’s fathers. All this goes back in time. In this way, we keep alive our traditions.”
Mick was my first music teacher. He really was possessed by the music. It came naturally from the depth of his soul and pulsated in him as the blood into the lover’s body.
End Part 2