I became acquainted with multi-talented composer Elaine Fine through her marvelous blog Musical Assumptions. It is a treat for me to begin my mornings by reading her posts which reflect her broad and diverse understanding of the fine arts. Although we grew up in the Boston area around the same era, our paths hadn't crossed as youngsters. I suppose that might be because my mother schlepped me back and forth to New York City for all-day classes at Juilliard Pre-College while Elaine participated in Greater Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra activities.
When I published my blog Frantic many of my characters, such as Sarah Scriven and Harry Ellis Dickson, had significant influence during Elaine's youth, as she is the daughter of Boston Symphony's former principal violist, Burton Fine. After reminiscing about our mutual experiences over the internet and by telephone, we struck up a delightful friendship. One day I told Elaine that although I physically reside in Seattle, my emotional ties in music are elsewhere. I shared with her the turmoil that became our reality in 2004 at the behest of a local conductor and his cronies. From that year forward, local colleagues became, in my eyes, betrayers, especially after I was forced into resignation from the ballet as concertmaster. Ilkka and I were no longer invited to partake in most musical events; we felt like characters in a "Twilight Zone" episode or Kafka novel, not knowing what, exactly, we had done to deserve such mistreatment. Regrettably, it's not unusual for the victim, rather than the tormenter, to blame him or herself, and I explained to Elaine that for years afterwards, I avoided social interaction all together.
Perhaps because Elaine witnessed factionalism in the professional orchestra through her father's prominent position, she empathized with what Ilkka and I had experienced. She reminded me to focus on music's true mission, as a means of ennobling and healing the human spirit. I have grown to accept and recognize that there is more out there, much more, than being a cog in the wheel, or an orchestra musician. Each one of us holds a key to enrich the lives of others.
Elaine Fine has composed a set of "conversations" for two violins specifically tailored for us. It is a delight to delve into fresh compositions. As I've mentioned before, to introduce new works is a bit like being a midwife in the birthing process; each composition reveals its own personality like a human being. The first work in the series recalls to my mind elements of Bartok's style; the second is a fusion of a Finnish folk-song and Yiddish melody. I requested that Elaine not go easy on us technically; we love for ourselves and students to be challenged! In the third of the series, which is yet to be recorded, she weaves in the vitality of a Wieniawski Caprice with Chopin, and in the fifth, Elaine suggests the Norwegian composer, Edvard Grieg stylistically. For some reason, the fourth conversation, a hauntingly beautiful dialogue which evokes Jewish neshama or soul, just moves me to tears. Here it is: