When we were children, a lucid mind and a virgin heart directed and potentiated our dreams. These were the years in which we were going to be astronauts, firemen, army generals, or who knows what. Over the years, life imposed itself to us, while the illusions were fading away as clouds carried by the wind. It could happen that we could not dare to look neither back nor forward in the years of our life passing by really fast because we would feel the dizziness of that emptiness. We cannot allow our hearts to stagnate and die. Neither we can become one of those who believe they know everything; because that way of being, quite superb by the way, closes to us the opportunity to learn and marvel at the truth and beauty which is always close to us; and in short, to be happy.
Today I will tell you about a case that I heard, though in truth I never knew if it was really true; but what really matters, I think, is that it happened thousands of times. The story is placed in the first quarter of the nineteenth century.
Once upon a time there was a famous novel pianist who lived in Leipzig. His parents, lovers of good music, had enrolled him into the conservatory, as from a very early age they saw in the child a very special talent for music, specifically for the piano. At home they had one of those upright pianos, inherited from generation to generation, that, although it was already quite old, still had a beautiful sound; especially when it was played by the grandmother who used to come during the Christmas holidays.
Over the years our child grew and became a renowned pianist in much of Eastern Europe. His rise, that was relatively easy for the intricacies of music, performance and concerts, was the cause to become a little proud and impertinent. He was reputed for not accepting a tip nor a correction.
It was precisely during a festival over Christmas that our pianist, when he was coming back from one of his tours, participated as a former student of the Humboldt Schule, at a Christmas gala that the school had organized … It was just after seven in the evening. Some of the school’s students, very nervous indeed, had played before some of his very own Christmas pieces; when, after a loud applause, our pianist came out to play the piano concerto No. 2 in D minor of Mendelssohn.
Once he finished the interpretation, the young audience that was not very demanding and somewhat boring, thanked his play with a loud applause. The interpretation he made was superb, though in truth, our pianist was not entirely happy. The noise made by children in the seats, and by some of the parents who were talking at the end of the room, had got him distracted and things had not gone as he would have liked it.
Old memories flooded to his heart, once the show finished. He remembered when he acted in similar galas as a student at the very same spot. Suddenly, our friend went to the college’s church to thanks God. Upon entering the church, that was illuminated by a few candles and the dim light of some side altars dedicated to the patron saints of the school, the smell of banks there and almost a heavenly silence, brought to mind the many years that he had spent there as a child. He thanked God, greatly moved, for the success he had on his life…
Suddenly, being in the middle of the central aisle, he turned around, and looking up he saw the long tubes of the wonderful organ where he began practicing as a child helped by Father H. von Reinhart, a former professor of the school of music. Moved by an irresistible impulse, he climbed the spiral staircase that led to the choir where the organ was. He lifted up the felt that preserved the keyboard from the dust, adjusted the stool, stretched his fingers … And after lifting his eyes to heaven as if seeking for inspiration, he prepared to play a sonata for organ Mendelssohn (Op. 65). It was a long time since the last time he had played it. He could not found the sonata’s score, but he had played it before so many times that he knew it by heart.
Our pianist, transformed now in organist, turned around because he heard a noise in the choir. A stranger in his thirties, with a long beard approached him and asked him if he could let him play the very same piece.
– Sorry, but I do not have the score. I’ve been playing it because I know it by heart. I’ve played so many times! Excuse me, but if you haven’t got permission from the friars you shouldn’t be here. Quite frankly, your face sounds familiar… but… no. Don’t touch this organ!
Finally, after two more polite requests from the stranger, the “grumpy organist” let him, as he thought to himself:
– If this bearded man really knew who I am he wouldn’t dare to interpret this difficult piece before me.
The stranger sat … and after a few seconds the sanctuary was filled with a beautiful, heavenly music. Our pianist had never heard anything like it. The sound was penetrating his heart and a hint of tears began to well up in his eyes. As the stranger finished to play, our pianist asked him:
– Who are you?
The man answered him:
– I’m Felix Mendelssohn.
Once the piece was finished, our friend, Mendelssohn and a boy that come to the church attracted by the beautiful music, took to the streets. The night had fallen and the ground was covered with the first snows… while in the distance some carols welcomed Child Jesus.
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It can be nice to remember the good old days. We can always find in them beautiful memories that bring to mind our own childhood. That was the time when we had not yet been trapped by the daily work or by illness or by the troubles of life. In those days, most probably it was God who led our lives and not us. Over the years, we became more complicated, while our personalities were filled with dark areas that now we would like to forget, as our heart grew cooler and harder due to certain kinds of life resentment.
By the way, our pianist almost prevents the creator of the composition to play his own music. Sometimes we also try to play the chords of our life while preventing our Creator to play beautiful music. Like the stubborn organist, we remove our hands from the keys reluctantly. But our lives will not produce beautiful music unless we let Him work through us. God has a symphony written for our lives. Let His will be done on us.
The power of God is never limited by our inability; but by our own pride!
Fr. Lucas Prados
[Translation by Miguel Tenreiro. Artículo original]