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Dramatic is the introduction; agitated, syncopated, the figure that holds the forms together: Seated in the intimacy of the salon, Klaas in an armchair beside me, I watch you and Ingrid playing Schumann’s second violin sonata. Ingrid, you’d told me, feels a particular sympathy with Schumann’s music; when it is sombre and unsettled, as here, when it stands still and become a mere murmur, leaving you with nothing to hold onto anymore, that’s when she comes into her own: Her perceptiveness is served by a touch of the highest sensitivity. As one both passionate and introspective, dreamily inward and expressive, she responds to both strands of the composer’s character. You hadn’t been a fan of Schumann’s violin music, you’d found his tendency to stay in the lower register unattractive and his writing somehow lacking. And then Ingrid played you on the piano the violin part of his violin concerto, and you found it marvellous. As you worked on the sonatas during your previous visit, you found her depth of understanding, her affinity with the music’s psychological underpinning, so impressive that you had no choice but to raise your game. And so, challenging your preconceptions, you found the fingerings and bowings that rendered the right nuance for every note, the right inflexion for every bar, and thereby revealed the astounding expressiveness of the music. Now as I listen to you I cannot separate melody from accompaniment, and so I cue my heart to the rhythmic pattern and consider the duo constituted by the two of you.
Clearly, your friendship is creative, vitalized by the tension between connection and separateness; clearly, there’s an easy reciprocity between you. And yet as Ingrid moulds this mercurial composition, never letting a note slip from her control, I don’t find it difficult to imagine her as shaky, weepy, out of control. There’s an extraordinary intimacy to your performance, you are playing for yourselves alone. Still, I can imagine Ingrid as a nine-year old, playing on stage for the first time; I can imagine how she felt herself the focus of attention, at last recognized. Did she decide there and then that this was her destiny? That this was the way to win back her mother, her mother permanently in mourning for her first daughter, killed in a car accident? Yes, her mother devoted herself to the dead sister (as you told me last night) and used whatever energy she had left to dote on the brother. And yet, I imagine however great the acclaim, the only regard that ever counted never came. Is it that disjunction between the applause received and her inner need that gives her beauty an intimation of the tragic?
When she fell for you, opening herself to intimacy, was she rebelling against the personality she had built? And you, when you met her, were you craving distance? Was your sense of self no longer feminine and affiliative, were you now in a masculine mode, emphasizing difference? Was that where you were at when Ingrid fell in love with you?
Restless, life pours forth from your violin; always on the edge of passion or introspection, it sings. With it, Ingrid’s piano sustains a fluent conversation. The blended texture of the music does not give opportunity for solo display: It is as one that the two of you play. Again I am struck by Ingrid’s face, her aura of vulnerability, of disinterested sovereignty.
The music, sombre and unsettled, comes to an end. Ingrid stands up, you put your violin down; approaching one another, you fall into each other’s arms. I am moved, moved by Ingrid’s emotion as the hounds of love assail her heart.
– You’re really immersed in Schumann these days, Marietta tells me.
– Yes. Chopin is perfection, Schumann is flawed. But I engage more with Schumann, I can bring out more. I love the tensions in his music, the emotional extremes.
Spontaneously Ingrid began playing ‘Of Foreign Lands and People’, the first of Schumann’s Scenes from Childhood. You stretched out on the sofa and lay your head in my lap. As the limpid tenderness of the melody drew me back into my interiority, I knew that if anyone can meet me there, it is you. In the fire of your soul you forged yourself when your world fell apart; to a beat away from your last breath you starved yourself to be free. And when your lover, your one and only, was thrown to his death from a motorcycle, you faced down the Furies and wailed yourself well. When the structures of competition offered you a way into the world, with pencil and paper, with violin and bow, you played to win and won. And I, born into emptiness, had but a flame in my heart, a gentle flame in the last redoubt. And with me, always, the chill chafing of a hand, the hand of madness awaiting me should the flame go out. Listen! Nostalgia makes distance intimate: Ingrid is conjuring grace from sadness. Resonant interiority, a slow cadence of chords: Silence, and a deeper silence.