How much do you know?” asked the father. “Not as difficult as some instruments, maybe,” said the son, with a smile. “It’s like making a sandwich,” he added. “Very difficult, very difficult, sometimes more difficult than when you first started—but very rewarding in the end.” The dad nodded, satisfied.
By now, he had developed an excellent system for determining the quality of the violin, for judging the strength of wood and the thickness of the string. He was no longer looking merely to the player to see his progress but to judge his progress and see where it would lead him.
But he still had many questions. First, of the new violinist. Did he have any musical talent at all? Why was it so difficult for him to play? Where did he begin? Where did he end? Did he know every technique of all this new playing style?
“I’m not sure I know that much myself,” he admitted one day. “I’ve tried to learn a few things. But I’m not sure I understand it.” As he got more comfortable in the violin, it became easier to answer his questions. At his first lesson, he began listening to excerpts from Bach’s “M. S. Sonata” and Für Elise’s “Suite for Strings” to get a flavor of the music. Then he found a few pieces from Liszt and then an original music recital. His progress accelerated.
In September 1967, as the sun was setting over a large field of wheat, a young girl of thirteen came to the hall to make camp.
For the next day, until sundown the sun continued to shine over the fields. It was the first day of spring.
The child’s name was Ruth.
At the start of the second month of her life, Ruth was one of about two hundred thousand Hungarian nationals still in the countryside. As soon as her family was settled, they were sent to the new town of Tisza, a few miles across the Danube from Budapest. Tisza was a big, modern town, with a public swimming pool and a theater, but most of the residents were poor. Many of the villages were in ruins from the war—many homes had been set on fire during the civil war.
The first person Ruth met in Tisza was a boy named Petri. He had come to Hungary from Lwow, Poland, twenty years earlier on a train—
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