Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Mozart Question

by Michael Morpurgo
Candlewick, 2008, 80 pages

Violinist Paolo Levi has played everything from Bach to Vivaldi, and jazz to Scottish fiddle music. But not Mozart; never Mozart.

Rookie reporter Lesley McInley has been given the chance to interview this world-renown musician. She has been warned, though, not to ask “the Mozart question” – Levi doesn’t like it when he’s asked why he doesn’t play Mozart. That’s why McInley is surprised to hear herself begin with the one question she simply can’t ask.

And she is even more surprised to hear Levi answer.

His answer is beautiful, poignant and horrible – Levi tells the reporter his whole life story, how he had to practice in secret because his father wouldn’t approve, how his father was a violinist too, but would never play, and how mother kept a violin hidden away, on the top of a cupboard. And he explained how his father, a Jew, survived the Nazi concentration camps by playing violin in the camp orchestra. Their performances were played outside, by the train tracks, and timed for the arrival of each new convey of Jews – the Nazis had them play Mozart to calm the new arrivals as they were sorted and sent to the gas showers.

While The Mozart Question is intended for pre-teens (so it doesn’t dwell on the horrors of the Holocaust) adults are sure to appreciate it too.

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