On the legendary violinist and leader of the Amadeus Quartet Norbert Brainin
For the Nobert Brainin 80th Birthday Concert - Wigmore Hall 28 May 2003
My first experience working with Norbert was one I shall never forget; it exposed me to the personality and mind of a man who’s musical instinct and understanding reach a level that is not only breathtaking, but deeply inspiring and motivating:
We were playing through the Schubert String Quintet and were midway through the slow movement. My attention intensely focussed on Norbert in order to place each pizzicato note precisely into his sighing phrases. Tension almost unbearable, my nerves heightened at the thought of upsetting the flow of this unique musical voice in mid-sentence. Suddenly, Norbert stops and looks seriously straight into my eyes. I think: ‘That’s it. He’s going to throw me out!’ After a moment, Norbert says: “Do you know the one about the two violinists who met on a New York street corner and one says to the other, ‘What’s your violin?’ The other says, ‘A sixteen ninety-nine Stradivari’. The first says: ‘Boy, that’s cheap!’.
From then on we were best of friends. Norbert knew how to break the ice and how to lead a young man nearly 40 years his junior to the musical heights reached by very few. The footprints Norbert leaves on each of our subsequent musical encounters are a mix of humanity and searing musical standards. Footprints that cannot be filled but only followed and examined. They lead me and his public to a truly beautiful place.