I first fell in love with the sound of a violin during my Freshman year in Princeton. I distinctly remember sitting on a bench during a cool autumn afternoon, trying to decipher Herbert Marcuse’s criticism of the twentieth century industrial society when a Venetian window on the second floor of a dorm room suddenly opened and moments later, the entire expanse of greenery was overtaken by the most majestic opening movements of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. Needless to say, my understanding of Marcuse has faded with age, but the music I heard that day stayed with me forever.
The mysterious musician turned out to be a virtuoso mathematical genius, a girl who had been homeschooled since the age of six and had entered an educational institution for the first time when she was admitted at Princeton. While I struggled to get an A in Multivariable Calculus, she had covered the material by herself when I was in eighth grade. While I spent my summer vacation studying Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata on a small tropical island off the coast of Brazil, she worked for the National Security Agency on projects involving cryptography. She would later be awarded the highest prize for best academic performance shortly before graduation.
Unfortunately, despite her musical virtuosity and mathematical genius, she was seriously handicapped in terms of social skills and this is coming from someone who is known for being naturally reserved and taciturn. As fate would have it, we never exchanged a single word, only a few glances, but through her impassionate music, she spoke more than most women I have known throughout the years, instilling in me a profound respect for her chosen instrument, the violin.
So when I learned that the Locrian Ensemble of London would be playing Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, having Rita Manning on solo violin and Matthew Draper on solo oboe, I immediately thought of my mysterious classmate and decided to revisit my deep appreciation for the beauty of her instrument.
The concert was held at St. Martin in the Fields, the same Church where I last watched Mozart’s Requiem and it was a heart wrenching experience. Before actually playing the Four Seasons, the Locrian Ensemble played Vivaldi’s “Ala Rustica”, Bach and Vivaldi’s Concerto Grosso, Bach’s Air on the G String, Bach’s concerto for oboe and violin and Morricone’s “Gabriel’s Oboe”, the theme of the movie “The Mission”.
Though I still preferred the main attraction, every piece played showcased the violin and in some cases even the oboe to perfection, displaying the full panoply of powers that this instrument possesses. I am still torn as to what concerto was my favorite because the Spring, Summer and Winter all have their towering moments, making it nearly impossible to choose.
However, what I can say is this: anyone who wishes to appreciate the beauty of the violin should listen to these concertos being performed live. This is a decision you will not regret. Somewhere in this world, there is mathematical genius and musical virtuoso who would most certainly agree. In fact, she might be playing right now. Let’s just hope that she left the window open once again.