I ordered a bottle of Tokay. I knew a long night was in front of us. The restaurant was closing down, but the owner granted us permission to stay in the garden as long as we wished. The musician slowly sipped his glass of wine and coordinated in his mind the memory of his youth.
Finally, he started his narration,
“My name is Markos Legovitch. On my birth, I received the stigma as a bastard and that hung heavily over me dictating my life. Because of this status my mind had always been at a loss and as well influenced my artistic career.
“I remember my mother had openly talked to me about my father. She said he was generous and she always thought of him as her hero. When young, I would create an image of him through my mother description and imagined him to be an hero of the Round Table and he would arrive to take me away with him on horseback. My mother told me he was a Calvary officer, and she had always hoped he would come back one day. Reality was quite different. He never came back to the town on the Dalmatian coast, where we lived.
“Life became more difficult for us, the day Mother lost her father and all his belonging became property of my grandfather’s first son. It was necessary for her to accept some humble work to live. After years she got clerical work through the factory’s owner benevolence. Mother has always been an attractive woman, and the business owner, was quite a few years older. He fell in love with my mother and asked her to marry him solving, in this way, her financial problems.
Crakova is where I grew up and still today is the town I call home and where my memories are. I remember the loving way Mother used to keep this violin, wrapped in a silky shawl. Often when we were together she allowed me to hold this instrument. That was also the time she used to talk to me of my father.
She told me that my father was a Prince, someone very important in life, and he lived in a real castle. She also told me he was a great musician. Many in his family had been musicians before him, and that violin had been handed down, by tradition, to the first son born in the family. That’s why that violin belongs to me, because I was his first son.
My father also explained that the miniature painted on the back case of the violin, a rose with a mountain’s background, was the heraldic crest of his family, the Monterosa.
Mother always emphasized the fact that the violin would have proved my real identity whenever I met my father’s family.
Nevertheless, years after, that violin caused me many disillusions and miseries. It happened on the day I thought that I finally had found my father and his family.”
Suddenly the emotions were visible on Markos’ face. His voice trembled. I topped our glasses with some wine. And gently told him,
“Please rest for a while. I need to know your story, providing it doesn’t cause too much suffering. You look very distressed while you are remembering your past. If you wish we can always meet again in the morning, after you have had some rest.”
“No, my friend, it is imperative I tell you all now. I know I will never have the courage to tell again the story of my past life. Besides, tomorrow I will leave. I return home and I feel that I will never come back to this town.”
“But if I want to see you again, where can I find you?”
“I told you where my heart is, in my village, on the Adriatic. That’s where you will be able to find me. But it’s time now to resurrect the rest of my life. I feel at ease in the semidarkness of this place. I have more courage to revive those days of the past. At dawn I’ll be weaker and my will to talk of the past will be gone.”
After a pause to recollect his memories Mark started,
“On my sixth birthday, my mother and step father gave me a present. It was a smaller scale violin, the right size for my age. Within six months with nobody’s help, I was able to play a few simple tunes. My mother was pleased and proud of me. At that time, I couldn’t understand much about music. It came naturally from inside me. Even when I only heard a tune once I could go home and reproduce it on my violin.
I remember I was nine years old at the time a group of gypsies camped at the outskirts of Crakova. They were talented musicians and it was the first time I heard those gypsy’s rhapsodies. It was the best violin music that I have ever heard before. I was hiding behind one of their wagons lying on the bare ground, facing the sky with my hands locked behind my head. I closed my eyes to better concentrate on the rhapsody.
The gypsy’s music fascinated me and enraptured I was glued to the ground. I couldn’t move away from my dreams, till Mick, one of the gypsies, found me there.
“Hey boy, what are you doing there? Why are you hiding?”
“Sorry Sir, I was listening to your music. I never heard anything so beautiful before.”
“Hey you are only a kid. Kids like to run and play football better then music.”
“Yes Sir, I also like to play football when I am at school with the other children, but I also want to learn to play the violin in the way your people do.”
“Well, let me see what you can do. Come with me”
Mick took my hand and guided me to his wagon. From a locked timber chest he took a small violin, He gave it to me with the bow and said,
“Let me see what you are capable of, boy.”
I concentrated for a short time, then, I repeated the last Gypsy sonata I heard played by them. Nick stood there, with open legs, and his knuckles closed over his flanks. He seemed amazed while he was listening to me.
“Well boy, I think you are talented. If you wish, for the time we are here in town I’ll teach you other tunes. But just know that we gypsies are playing from the heart. We don’t read music as other musicians do. We have learned the music played from our fathers, and the father’s fathers. All this goes back in time. In this way, we keep alive our traditions.”
Mick was my first music teacher. He really was possessed by the music. It came naturally from the depth of his soul and pulsated in him as the blood into the lover’s body.