Well, let's get to work, in two weeks he has to participate in two competitions for concertmaster, he is here with me, with his magnificent violin and his two bows to be fine-tuned ... two bows not mine, but not bad, I must say.
I thought about it from the day we made the appointment, among the bows that I have just finished there is one that seems to me to call "Salvatore! Salvatore!" ... and so, before putting myself to work on the two bows that Salvatore brought me, I take that bow from the case and offer it to Salvatore, begging him, while I get to work, to try it.
Salvatore looks at me, a little sly, takes the bow, looks at it with great attention, tends it, then gently rests it on the piano, takes up his violin, resumes the bow, tunes, and begins ...
I am at the workbench, I see him out of the corner of my eye, now almost all my attention must be directed to what I am doing, time is short, Salvatore must leave early ... light opening, Brahms, and then Franck
Salvatore is a young man, tall, dry, with a blue eye, a classic Norman... he speaks little, with me he has always shown himself to be affable and kind. He left his region many years ago, there, if you don't have a sponsor, a godfather, eh, the roads are closed... not that in our parts it is much better, we know that it is not so, but it is that we are many more, that there is more mess, and that sometimes there are glimmers.
Glimmers, gaps, "opportunities" often opened by quarrels between sponsors, between the godfathers of the north, quarrels in which no one has to win, and then, sometimes, even who do not have a sponsor, a godfather, may succeed. I've seen it happen so many times that I'm sick of it, but what do you want to do, that's how things go in the world... ah yes, of course, not only here, so many witness of many musicians that I have personally known.
Salvatore is proud, he has not been able to bend, and he has come to the north, ending up in a cold, foggy, hostile city, study, study, and still study, endless attempts, endless lessons, given and taken, endless masterclasses ... Salvatore does not give up, he is good, very good, very very very good.
Here he is at the capriccios, here is the 24, devilish Paganini ... perfect.
More than one hour has passed, the first bow is okay, I take a break, a coffee, and cigarette, ah yes, it's time. We take the coffee together, Salvatore lays the bow on the piano, lays the violin, a few traces of fatigue, as if he had just begun, we sit at the table and have coffee, I wait quietly for him to speak, we are not in a hurry, we do not waste time, this no, but we are not in a hurry.
The cups are empty, I enjoy the cigarette, he does not smoke, but he is not bothered by it ... and finally those impossibly blue eyes look into my eyes, the look is triumphant, happy, magnificent, and says: "with this bow I can do everything, with this bow I feel confident that I can do everything".
I know he is not rich, I know his history and his present, enough to know that he cannot afford, now, to buy my bow.
I know that he is proud, and that he will never ask me to lend it to him, deprivations and defeats have been many, and they have not stopped him, I know that they will not stop him for many more years.
I know that he cannot say anything else, he cannot say more than what he has said, and that he expects me to understand without him having to say... and that I find a solution that he can accept, as I have done in the past, for other issues.
I look at him, I know I have a light smile on my face, I'm happy, I heard him play for over an hour, one piece after another, one more difficult than the former, at times I felt like I heard Krylov, even knowing that it was him ... ahhh, Salvatore, Salvatore, what do you want me to say, what do you want me to do...
If you accept it, I'll give you the bow until you've finished the contests
In those seconds, those passed between the last of his words and the first of mine, the tension had gone through the stars, I felt it, very clear, strong, I felt his, my mirror neurons always work great, with some musicians even more, and I felt mine, huge, I felt the desire, the very strong desire, his and mine, to be freed from that tension and to be able together to enter a different world from the one in which we usually live.
Where things do not go as we do, where merit is not just a useless sound, but it is recognized, appreciated and respected... ahh, Hamlet, yes.. the contempt that patient merit receives from the unworthy... more than four hundred years ago, and we are still there.
And the tension melted, all of it, instantly, leaving us where we wanted to be.
His gaze was magnificent, happy that I had understood, grateful for the help I offered and the way I had offered it, not diminished, no, on the contrary, he knew that it was the result of the full recognition of his merit, of his impeccable execution, he knew that I knew that there had been no mistake, no hesitation, at any point of that totally private performance, but only and always great, great mastery and interpretative intelligence.
He knew that I wanted him to "simply" redo, there, in front of the commissions, what he had just done with me, he knew that for him as for me, approaching perfection is the only real reward, that succeeding in this defeat is not possible.
After a few seconds of silence, with a smile and happiness in his voice, he tells me: yes, I accept it... if I win the contest, that bow is mine, you can ask for whatever you want.
One of his bows was ready, and mine also, I suggested he leave the other bow, it was a little more battered, he would come back to pick it up another day.
We said goodbye, joyful and confident.
It ended up winning both competitions, both organized by serious and important stable theaters, one in the north, and the other in the capital of the region from which he had had to leave, many years before ... he chose to return to the land he had to leave.
Note: to protect Salvatore's privacy, and still be able to tell this story, I took the precaution of changing his name, which is therefore not Salvatore, places, which are not those generically indicated, and also the instrument, which could be any of those that require a bow. Even the authors mentioned, Brahms, Franck, Paganini, are a disguise, like having mentioned Krylov, for me the world number 1. For the rest, the story is entirely true.