restricted access 1. I Came by It Honestly
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1 Chapter 1 I Came by It Honestly I BELIEVE MY FATHER JUST looked Mr. Fleisher up in the telephone directory and asked if he could bring his son to play violin for him. Edwin A. Fleisher was a great man of music in Philadelphia. In that year, 1933, he published a list of his astounding collection of music from all over the world. He had already deeded the collection to the Free Library of Philadelphia. Mr. Fleisher always made time for a musical child, even a fiveyear -old. The Jewish “Hatikvah” sufficed as my audition, and he recommended a teacher for me: William Happich. So my father took me downtown to Brentano’s bookstore on Chestnut Street. But we didn’t enter the bookstore. We went in a door a few steps farther down the street, one that opened on a steep flight of stairs. These we climbed, then went around a corner, and climbed more stairs. On the third floor, we entered a room where a portrait of a stern man with wild hair faced us. “Who’s that? I don’t like him.” “That’s Beethoven,” my dad said. “Someday you’ll play his wonderful music.” “No, I won’t.” 2 ■ Shoot the Conductor A tall man in a dark suit came out of an inner room and shook hands with my father. His precise manners made me feel clumsy. Still, he was an improvement over the man in the portrait. He led us into the inner room, where I opened my case and removed my treasure. Playing the beautiful “Hatikvah” on my own little violin was an experience all to myself. I listened to what I was playing, and my mind drifted along with the notes, and the other people in the room might have gone down to Brentano’s for all I cared. However, they were still in the room. “Do you really want to play the violin?” Mr. Happich asked me. “Yes.” “Will you work very hard?” I had no idea what that meant, but I knew the conversation would go better if I said yes. “Then I will take you as my student.” I learned to say his name correctly, Mr. “Hoppik,” and got used to his formal approach to teaching violin. “You’ll never sound good until you tuck that left elbow in.” Did he realize, as he said such things in my father’s presence, where I had learned every bad habit in my repertoire? He showed me how to place my fingers correctly in the first position, at the top of the neck. I was sure I was ready for the second position. After about a month, Dad opened the door on Chestnut Street one day, and we confronted the stairs. “I’m tired.” “You’re tired. What’s anyone supposed to do about that?” “Can I have a piggyback ride?” My dad stooped down and I climbed on with my violin case. It was a good deal during the several weeks it lasted. The room where we waited for my lesson had a large rug woven in a pattern of squares. Since I wasn’t as tired as my dad, I hopped from square to square while we waited. “Stop it, Anshel. You’ll use up your energy,” he used to say. I Came by It Honestly ■ 3 Mr. Happich kept me in first position for three months. He provided the music, finding pieces that required only the notes I could play. I remember a piece called “Melody in F” that did justice to my enormous talent. But soon he started me on the études Otakar Ševčík wrote for teaching violin in 1880, and they did not do justice to my talent at all. Under the torture of his School of Violin Technics, I learned to navigate second through seventh positions, shifting, doublestopping , trilling, and string crossings. The odious études built solid technique for me, just as they long had, and still do, for young violinists the world over. “What else do you hear?” Mr. Happich asked me this right in the middle of a piece I was rendering oh-so-melodically. “I hear this song. That long A and then the short Ds.” “But what else?” Outside, a bus ground its gears on Chestnut Street. Was that what he meant? “What else?” he insisted. Then he played some notes on the piano. They sounded familiar. “This is what the piano was doing while you were playing your...


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Subject Headings

  • Brusilow, Anshel.
  • Conductors (Music) -- United States -- Biography.
  • Concertmasters -- United States -- Biography.
  • Music teachers -- United States -- Biography.
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