“The Luthier From Mittenwald”
The Luthier From Mittenwald

“The Luthier From Mittenwald”

In the realm of Violins, Violas, and Cellos,

there was once an art-crafter extraordinaire

A Luthier-

to whom there was no equal in the whole wide world.

 

His name was Leo Schoeffer.

He was born in a small town called Mittenwald

in the region of Bavaria, Southern Germany.

 

His tinkering skills went way beyond

crafting, repairing, restoring, fine-tuning even stringing

any of those precious instruments.

 

His incomparable abilities

weren’t only in the quality of his work

neither on his level of craftsmanship 

when working the wood

-which were both better to none-

what distinguished him

as the best Luthier, there ever was,

was the fact that

Leo could “feel” and “breath” 

the string instruments as well.

 

One magnificent winter night,

while attending a concert gala in Munich,

the largest city of Bavaria;

The Luthier observed attentively

that within the beauty and magnificence 

of the music performance,

although not noticeable to the audience,

his trained eyes and ears

detected that something was amiss 

with the leading Violinist.

 

This anomaly was taking place in spite 

That all that could be heard 

throughout the concert hall,

was the crispiness of 

splendorous masterful music;

It was the sound of Heaven and Angels.

 

And yet to the experienced Luthier

the intimate and profound connection

between the Violinist and his instrument,

were simply not there.

 

After an “Apotheosical” grand finale,

the Fiddler and the Philharmonic Orchestra

were acclaimed at length by the public;

three times the curtain dropped,

three times it had to be raised

to the continued applause;

Shortly after,

the ever-perceptive Luthier

went backstage to meet

his longtime client,

the leading Violinist.

 

“What’s wrong?” Asked the Luthier.

“I don’t know, is a mystery to me,” Replied the Fiddler.

“Did you drop it?”

“No”

“Did you hit something with it?”

“Neither. As usual, it never leaves my eyesight

until safely stored away at home.”

“Tuning, perhaps?”

“Either. It’s perfectly tuned.”

“Let me take a look.”

 

With great care the Violinist

handed the centuries-old Stradivarius, 

worth millions,

to the only person in the world,

other than him,

allowed to touch his most irreplaceable instrument.

 

First, with deliberate pause,

The Luthier drew the violin close to his ear

while gently knocking

-using a single knuckle-

every inch of the wooden surface.

 

He carefully listened to the echoes’ acoustics,

resonating throughout 

the violin’s inner chamber.

Next, using them as the palm of a hand,

he proceeded to delicately slide three fingers

over the violin’s carcass,

feeling every curve, angle, and joint of the invaluable

musical instrument;

He did this with his eyes closed,

seeking and expecting absolute perfection and smoothness

in the old masterfully crafted wood.

 

When finished, 

The Luthier smiled at the Fiddler.

“Let me work at it. 

I’ll find out what’s happening.”

 

The next day,

The Luthier returned the Stradivarius 

to the Violinist.

“Play it, please,” The Craftsman asked.

The eager artist, fiddle-bow on his right hand,

his violin over his extended left arm;

quickly mounted the violin on his shoulder and against his chin.

But just before the virtuoso started to play,

The Luthier noticed the discomfort 

on the genial artist,

once more.

 

Sure enough,

the moment the musician 

rendered a couple of notes

with his beloved instrument;

He stopped.

“Still the same problem. What’s wrong?”

Said the frustrated Violinist.

 

With a benign smile, 

The Luthier approached the Fiddler.

“Don’t move the instrument,” The Luthier said.

With great care and deft touch

The Luthier ever so slightly

moved the position of the violin

on The Violinist’s shoulder.

 

“Now place your chin back on it,” 

The Luthier asked.

The Fiddler did 

and his face was immediately illuminated.

 

Totally transformed, 

he unleashed a 10 minutes solo,

releasing all of his repressed 

musical passion and desire

with fury and joy.

 

“What did you do to it?”

An exhausted yet beaming Fiddler said.

“Frankly speaking…nothing..” The Luthier responded.

The Violinist reacted with total surprise.

 

“But I still earned my fee though…

You see, I spent hours evaluating your Stradivarius;

Besides minute tinkering,

nothing else was necessary.

I concluded that the issue 

was of a different kind.”

“So, I went back in my mind to your concert performance

and your subtle discomfort,” explained The Luthier.

“You noticed it?” Asked a startled Fiddler.

“Of course, I did,

I know your routine quite well by now.”

“How did you fix…?”

The Violinist began to say but interrupted himself.

“My posture?” He asked.

“Not exactly.

It was all in the positioning

of your Stradivarius on your shoulder.

 

When I went back in my mind to the concert

I replayed your performance

over and over again,

until I noticed

the subtle change

compared to the past.”

“One tiny tad, and you noticed it?”

The Violinist asked.

“That’s right,

the apparent mechanical correction

placed you in the right frame of mind

to cause the imperative 

symbiosis and communion,

the ONENESS between the violin and you,”

The Luthier said…Then added,

“In people like you

that’s the only way

how the superb, incomparable quality

of your Stradivarius violin

and your immense talents

come out simultaneously and in full display.

“An ever so diminutive deviation,

just a tad,

is the difference between

ordinary Greatness

and utter, unfettered and galloping Genius,”

concluded the masterful art-crafter.

Erasmus Cromwell-Smith

Aug. 2020.

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