The Evolution Of A Violinist by Orison Swett Marden

Story type: Literature

He was a famous artist whom kings and queens and emperors delighted to honor. The emperor of all the Russias had sent him an affectionate letter, written by his own hand; the empress, a magnificent emerald ring set with diamonds; the king of his own beloved Norway, who had listened reverently, standing with uncovered head, while he, the king of violinists, played before him, had bestowed upon him the Order of Vasa; the king of Copenhagen presented him with a gold snuffbox, encrusted with diamonds; while, at a public dinner given him by the students of Christiana, he was crowned with a laurel wreath. Not all the thousands who thronged to hear him in London could gain entrance to the concert hall, and in Liverpool he received four thousand dollars for one evening’s performance.

Yet the homage of the great ones of the earth, the princely gifts bestowed upon him, the admiration of the thousands who hung entranced on every note breathed by his magic violin, gave less delight than the boy of fourteen experienced when he received from an old man, whose heart his playing had gladdened, the present of four pairs of doves, with a card suspended by a blue ribbon round the neck of one, bearing his own name, “Ole Bull.”

The soul of little Ole Bull had always been attuned to melody, from the time when, a toddling boy of four, he had kissed with passionate delight the little yellow violin given him by his uncle. How happy he was, as he wandered alone through the meadows, listening with the inner ear of heaven-born genius to the great song of nature. The bluebells, the buttercups, and the blades of grass sang to him in low, sweet tones, unheard by duller ears. How he thrilled with delight when he touched the strings of the little red violin, purchased for him when he was eight years old. His father destined him for the church, and, feeling that music should form part of the education of a clergyman, he consented to the mother’s proposition that the boy should take lessons on the violin.

See also  Our First Burglar by Ellis Parker Butler

Ole could not sleep for joy, that first night of ownership; and, when the house was wrapped in slumber, he got up and stole on tiptoe to the room where his treasure lay. The bow seemed to beckon to him, the pretty pearl screws to smile at him out of their red setting. “I pinched the strings just a little,” he said. “It smiled at me ever more and more. I took up the bow and looked at it. It said to me it would be pleasant to try it across the strings. So I did try it just a very, very little, and it did sing to me so sweetly. At first I did play very soft. But presently I did begin a capriccio, which I like very much, and it did go ever louder and louder; and I forgot that it was midnight and that everybody was asleep. Presently I hear something crack; and the next minute I feel my father’s whip across my shoulders. My little red violin dropped on the floor, and was broken. I weep much for it, but it did no good. They did have a doctor to it next day, but it never recovered its health.”

He was given another violin, however, and, when only ten, he would wander into the fields and woods, and spend hours playing his own improvisations, echoing the song of the birds, the murmur of the brook, the thunder of the waterfall, the soughing of the wind among the trees, the roar of the storm.

But childhood’s days are short. The years fly by. The little Ole is eighteen, a student in the University of Christiana, preparing for the ministry. His brother students beg him to play for a charitable association. He remembers his father’s request that he yield not to his passion for music, but being urged for “sweet charity’s sake,” he consents.

See also  The Redemptioner by Edward Eggleston

The youth’s struggle between the soul’s imperative demand and the equally imperative parental dictate was pathetic. Meanwhile the position of musical director of the Philharmonic and Dramatic Societies becoming vacant, Ole was appointed to the office; and, seeing that it was useless to contend longer against the genius of his son, the disappointed father allowed him to accept the directorship.

When fairly launched on a musical career, his trials and disappointments began. Wishing to assure himself whether he had genius or not, he traveled five hundred miles to see and hear the celebrated Louis Spohr, who received the tremulous youth coldly, and gave him no encouragement. No matter, he would go to the city of art. In Paris he heard Berlioz and other great musicians. Entranced he listened, in his high seat at the top of the house, to the exquisite notes of Malibran.

His soul feasted on music, but his money was fast dwindling away, and the body could not be sustained by sweet sounds. But the poor unknown violinist, who was only another atom in the surging life of the great city, could earn nothing. He was on the verge of starvation, but he would not go back to Christiana. He must still struggle and study. He became ill of brain fever, and was tenderly nursed back to life by the granddaughter of his kind landlady, pretty little Felicie Villeminot, who afterward became his wife. He had drained the cup of poverty and disappointment to the dregs, but the tide was about to turn.

See also  Ziska, The Blind Warrior by Charles Morris

He was invited to play at a concert presided over by the Duke of Montebello, and this led to other profitable engagements. But the great opportunity of his life came to him in Bologna. The people had thronged to the opera house to hear Malibran. She had disappointed them, and they were in no mood to be lenient to the unknown violinist who had the temerity to try to fill her place.

He came on the stage. He bowed. He grew pale under the cold gaze of the thousands of unsympathetic eyes turned upon him. But the touch of his beloved violin gave him confidence. Lovingly, tenderly, he drew the bow across the strings. The coldly critical eyes no longer gazed at him. The unsympathetic audience melted away. He and his violin were one and alone. In the hands of the great magician the instrument was more than human. It talked; it laughed; it wept; it controlled the moods of men as the wind controls the sea.

The audience scarcely breathed. Criticism was disarmed. Malibran was forgotten. The people were under the spell of the enchanter. Orpheus had come again. But suddenly the music ceased. The spell was broken. With a shock the audience returned to earth, and Ole Bull, restored to consciousness of his whereabouts by the storm of applause which shook the house, found himself famous forever.

His triumph was complete, but his work was not over, for the price of fame is ceaseless endeavor. But the turning point had been passed. He had seized the great opportunity for which his life had been a preparation, and it had placed him on the roll of the immortals.

Leave a Reply 0

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *