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Of Brahms & Mothers

By Evelyn Estava:

My mother took me to the symphony every Sunday, without fail, from the time I was about 10 years old to around 15, when I myself joined the Simón Bolívar Symphony. I would've been about 13 when I heard the Brahms concerto for the first time. The soloist was Bronislaw Gimpel, one of the great violinists of the 20th century. I was enthralled by Gimpel's spectacular playing, but mostly by this PIECE! Such fire, such tenderness...the slow melody of the first movement — I could not get it out of my mind. The very next day I begged my mother to take me to a record store (didn't have to beg too hard, she was also a diehard music lover) and bought an LP of Nathan Milstein, another one of the greats. I wore that record out! At the time, I was already a violin student, not a very serious one, though, so I was sure I would never be able to play this piece. Enter Margaret Pardee, the woman who would become my teacher and mentor for the next 10 years. She not only whipped me into shape, but also had an absolute confidence in my ability and potential, which made me see it in myself. I learned the Brahms concerto with her in the summer of 1996 at the Killington Music Festival in Vermont, and I was over the moon when I performed it there with piano accompaniment. Little did I know how positively life-changing it was going to be when I performed it with orchestra the following year. It was an experience like no other concerto I had performed up to that moment. Since then, I have played it many times with many orchestras, but that thrill never dims.

The Brahms concerto is an intense piece, taxing for the performer, unrelenting in its difficulty, from the first page to the last. But it is also immensely rewarding, musically and spiritually. Playing this great work is like climbing a great mountain — hard work, sweat, practice and tears — but when you get to the top of that mountain you can shout to the winds: I AM A VIOLINIST.

I dedicate this performance in memory of my mother, Susan Estava, and my second mother, Margaret Pardee.

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