By: Bruce Levine
Avery laughed. It was a bitter laugh. He’d been through it before, many times in fact. And each time it had gotten harder.
Losing a bid at an auction happened, but this one hurt more than usual; he especially wanted to win this particular item; he wanted the violin for his granddaughter.
At eleven years old Brittany Karlstadt had already displayed a remarkable talent. She’d made her New York debut with a recital in Town Hall at age seven and had already performed the Mendelssohn and Beethoven concertos with several symphonies in cities around the country. To say that she was a virtuoso by age ten was simply stating the obvious – Brittany was a child prodigy and having a Stradivarius of her own would have cemented her place in the violin world, concurrent and commensurate with her talent.
Brittany’s parents had done everything they could to foster her career, sacrificing significantly personally and financially. A Stradivarius, however, was far beyond their means, no matter how hard they tried.
It would have been a significant hardship for Avery and he had to liquidate the majority of his holdings in preparation for the auction, but even at that he came up short. Now he had to come up with another plan.
Over the next three years Brittany’s career flourished, adding triumph upon triumph. For Avery, however, each success only reinforced his sense of failure to acquire a violin equal to her talent.
Avery’s plan included retiring and selling off the inventory, along with the name, of his rare book shop on Madison Avenue so he could accompany Brittany to the various cities in the United States and, more and more frequently, in Europe while her parents stayed at home with Brittany’s younger brother. In each city Avery used his contacts in the art, antiquities and auction world to pursue his dream.
It was another three years and Brittany had continued to climb the ladder of success, adding a number of significant recordings with major symphonies to her list of amazing credits.
And then it happened. The London Symphony had commissioned a violin concerto by a young composer who seemed equal to Brittany in every way and the orchestra decided to ask her to play the premiere. It was to be an extravagant event. The young composer and the young violinist brought together by a major world class orchestra. The music world was engulfed in what seemed tantamount to the greatest musical ever since Leonard Bernstein stepped onto the podium to replace the ailing Bruno Walter on November 14, 1943.
Brittany’s family and, of course, Avery were in London, all in VIP seats and, as the lights dimmed the audience grew silent in anticipation.
What happened next was totally unexpected. Instead of Brittany and the conductor entering a very distinguished looking man in white tie strode onto the stage.
The audience held its breath, expecting to hear some news of a cancellation or change.
Instead, the distinguished looking man introduced himself as the orchestra’s General Manager and stated that tonight’s performance was especially momentous. As he spoke another man walked on stage carrying a violin case. Then Brittany was escorted out by the conductor and the General Manager made his announcement.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” he said, “I am honored to announce that through an anonymous benefactor, a Stradivarius violin has been obtained for the lifelong use of Ms. Brittany Karlstadt and it is the benefactor’s hope that she will play tonight’s premiere on it.
As he spoke the man opened the violin case and the conductor took the violin out and handed it to Brittany.
With tears flooding down her cheeks she took the violin, the two men receded into the wings, the conductor stepped onto the podium, Brittany took her place and the audience continued the standing ovation.
The next day the front page of every major newspaper only contained coverage of what turned out to be one of the highlights of any musical season.
Avery read every newspaper and smiled a smile that only he could truly comprehend. For Avery his life’s dream had been fulfilled.