17. “What about that black violin?” Johannes asked him the third evening. “What’s interesting about that?”

Erasmus looked up and paled slightly.

“That violin? If I were you I wouldn’t even touch one of its strings.”

“Why? Is it so bad that it’s not worth playing?”

“Quite the opposite! It’s the most extraordinary instrument I’ve ever come across. A mere breath is enough to set it vibrating. But the music it makes is so strange, that to hear it once is to be changed forever. It is like taking a draught of pure happiness. Once you have tasted it, you are never the same again. Playing the black violin like that, too.”

“Have you ever played it?”

“Only once. A long time ago. I haven’t touched it since. It is like love. When you have been in love-and I’m talking here about true love-it is something you can never forget. There is nothing worse than having been truly happy once in your life. From that moment on, everything makes you sad, even the most insignificant things.”

39. I was standing in front of my workbench when the idea first hit me. Why not make a violin that was just like Carla? If I wanted to reproduce her voice, I should start by taking the inspiration from her body. I would have to make a violin that caught the black of her eyes and the color of her hair. I remembered that somewhere on one of the dusty shelves in the library I had come across a small treatise, written by Antonio Stradivari himself, which explained how to make a violin made almost entirely from ebony. When I found it, I was glad to discover that among other things, the treatise contained a secret recipe for a black varnish, a varnish that I had not used before. Encouraged by my findings, I went back to work.

The shaping of the instrument’s body and sound box was no simple matter. Ebony is an extremely hard wood, and to work it requires both strength and great care. Assembling all the pieces was no easy task either, but finally, after many patient hours, I succeeded. Then came the varnishing, which took me another few weeks of painstaking work.

Two months later, the black violin was finished. The last coat of varnish had dried, and the time had come to see how it sounded. That night there was a storm. The lightning lit up the sky.

I picked up the violin and ran my finger over the surface of the varnish. As I did so, the wood started singing. This was no ordinary violin.

The bow glided over the cords as gently as a feather settling on a ripple of water. The sound grew, and swelled: like a woman’s voice. Like the voice of a soprano.

I stopped playing, almost bursting with happiness, for I knew I had finally made my dream come true.

That night, I played the black violin, and I played in a way I had never played any other instrument before. It was like holding Carla in my arms.

40. A few days later, I returned to Venice. It was the time they call the acqua alta, when the waters of the lagoon had risen and some of the tiny streets were completely flooded. And yet I felt unmoved by this sad landscape. I was so eager to see Carla again and to show her the black violin.

The Ferenzi Palace appeared to be sinking into the water of the Grand Canal. Since the quay was under water, I moored my gondola to the bars of a window. Waves rimmed with green algae were lapping at the steps.

To my surprise it was not the butler who opened the door, but Count Ferenzi himself I was shocked by his appearance, for his cheeks were hollow, his eyes were glazed, and his skin had a waxy look to it. He had aged terribly, and seemed to be weighed down by grief. ”Ah, Erasmus,” he said, “so good to see you. Perhaps you will be able to help us.” “Why, what has happened? Are you unwell?” He took a handkerchief from his pocket and dabbed at his forehead. “No, no. I’m fine,” he said, and then, in a whisper, “it’s Carla.” “Carla? What’s happened to her?” ”Ah, if only I knew. She’s been taken ill. She has been in bed for the last ten days.” “Can I see her?” Without waiting for an answer, I went in and ran up the stairs. As I opened the door I saw her lying in bed, looking pale and wan. She was clearly very ill. I went over to see her.

“Carla,” I whispered, “what’s the matter?” She turned her head slowly toward me and I could see from the expression in her eyes that she was in great pain. “Look, I’ve brought the violin I promised you. Listen what a wonderful sound it has!”

But as soon as I touched the strings, Carla looked horrified. Her eyes widened, and she grabbed my arm, imploring me to stop.

“It’s terrible,” said the Count, arriving in the room behind me. “My daughter has a high fever, and the doctors have no idea what is the matter with her. The poor child has been fighting between life and death for more than a week now. ”

I looked at Carla, lying on the bed, her face the very picture of sadness.

“And the most terrible thing of all,” said Ferenzi, “is that since the night she first became ill, she has lost her voice completely!”

I felt the ground slipping away beneath me and had to steady myself against the bedpost to stop myself from fainting.

“What’s the matter?” asked Ferenzi. “Nothing,” I said. “I just feel a little tired, that’s all.” I looked at Carla and could see that she was crying.

Maxence Fermine,The Black Violin,” 2000

Music box intro : Musica Ricerta IIGyorgy Ligeti : Nicoles Dream – Sample : La Petite Messe Solennelle. I. Kyrie – Rossini : O Venezia, Venga, Venusia – Nino Rota : Through the Streets of Venice – Pino Donaggio : Venetian Church bells : Those two girls : Stormy Weather – Lena Horne : Wind : Strange Happenings – Pino Donaggio : Symphony No.5 Adagietto – Mahler : Le Petit Nicolas – Gabriel Yared : I Only Have Eyes for You – The Flamingos : Stillness Of The Mind – Abel Korzeniowski : O Belta Rara, O Santi Modi Adorni – Gabrieli Madrigals : Tom’s farwell : Farewell Theme – Eleni Karaindrou : Crash – 55 Mins

Image -Cover of The Ravished Image Or How To Ruin Masterpieces by Restoration by Sarah Walden

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