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Evansville Courier & Press

December 3, 2006
Musical tributes capture mood of holiday season
By David Locker

One of my favorite ways of getting into the holiday mood is to listen to Christmas music. Music has the power to inspire the feelings of awe, peace and goodwill that come with the season. My heart lifts when I hear a good choir sing the old-time carols ... And in keeping with the spirit of music, here are a few recent titles on the subject.

Violin Dreams by Arnold Steinhardt (Houghlin Mifflin, 2006). This was a wonderful memoir of Steinhardt's musical life, his search for the perfect violin and his quest to perfect the playing of Bach's Chaconne (the last movement of the D Minor Partita).

Steinhardt's parents were music loving Polish immigrants. His mother had played Beethoven's Violin Concerto over and over to him during her pregnancy. When he was 6 years old, this same piece moved him to tears and prompted the start of violin lessons.

The violin teacher in vogue during this era was the Russian Leopold Auer. He had taught Jascha Heifetz, perhaps the most famous violinist of the 20th century. Two of Steinhardt's first teachers were pupils of Auer.

Steinhardt went on to study at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia and became assistant concertmaster with the Cleveland Orchestra under George Szell and then first violinist of the Guarneri String Quartet. The perfect violin came to him from a member of the Budapest Quartet, and he ended up dancing and playing the Chaconne on an open-air stage at the base of the Rocky Mountains.

It is an exhilarating book.

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