In 1976, at age 6, I was the youngest violinist ever to play in the Pennsylvania Reading Symphony. I don’t remember anything about this concert, where I played with talented musicians who were far superior to me in accompaniment, but I think it’s safe to say that it was my “career” as a violinist ” the highest point.
I played for another six years, but when my mom gave me the option to give up the violin at the end of elementary school, I never gave the instrument a second thought (unless I needed a current anecdote to open a review of a book by The Violinist ).
My decision to give up the violin disappointed my mom, but I did a lot of other things over the next few years that made my decision to give up the violin a footnote on the list of ways I let my mom down.
Arianna Warsaw-Fan Rauch also quit the violin, but her decision sent ripples through the music world bigger than my own. Rauch went to Juilliard and played professionally with some of the greatest musicians in the world.
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Classical music fascinates and fascinates her, and her memories of her early exposure to music and composers are more convincing than my memory of having to play “Mississippi Hot Dogs” to learn how to bow. (Here I am referring to the first recital in my violin teacher’s suburban living room, where I draw my bow over the strings of my violin instead of bending over to the deafening applause.)
Rauch still loves the music she plays, which is evident when reading “Demystified,” which is subtitled “A Low-Key Guide to the High-Key World of Classical Music.” Rauch’s goal is to open the world of classical music to a wider audience with a warm hand and a self-deprecating and funny writing style.
Her footnotes are definitely a highlight, such as the one she uses in the part about musicians who don’t make much money and have to put up with rude behavior from donors and sometimes have to kiss rings of people they might not like.
“In short, the Nightmare Witch hates me,” Rauch writes, “and I hate her, but I have to pretend I don’t—now that she’s dead. (I didn’t kill her, though. She just really Yes, really old.)”
“Deciphered” is for lifelong fans of classical music as well as those who wish to better appreciate the talents of the likes of Mozart and Beethoven. If I had read this book at 12, I would still have given up on the violin, but I might look back with a tinge of sadness.
Drew Gallagher is a freelance writer and video book reviewer for Spotsylvania.