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m a y 2 0 1 6 A L I V E E A S T B A Y 27 and the only adults who would be there would be adults who might normally attend such a group—namely Lenny and I. For those who do not know or who may have forgotten, Jascha Heifitz was unchallenged as the greatest classical violinist in the world during the mid-20th Century. He was from the Russian school of music that emphasized three things: technique, technique, and technique. When Fritz Kreisler, another great violinist, heard Heifitz’s debut concert, he reportedly said about himself and other fiddlers, “We might as well take our fiddles and break them across our knees.” Although Heifitz was older than the “Cohen brothers,” he and I shared a birthday, February 2; he and Lenny died within a few months of each other in 1987. He is still considered one of, if not the greatest violinists of all time. Heifitz at the time was teaching master classes in violin at UCLA. A few weeks later, however, I received another call from Lenny: “Heifitz broke his leg and cannot appear.” Although the Los Angeles Times ran stories about the broken leg, I could not help wondering if this were a Lenny fantasy. Then, a few months later came the next call: “Heifitz will be at the youth group” on a specific date. On a cold, rainy, windy March night, the maestro appeared with a violin case which held a Guarneri and a Stradivarius. The teenagers would have been vastly more impressed if a famous pop singer or guitarist appeared, but they had to settle for the best in the world. The youth group was composed of children from Beverly Hills—not the apartment side—and one youngster had the temerity to ask what the two violins were worth. Heifttz answered about $300,000. (In the early 21st Century I heard that the Guarneri was worth about $2,000,000 and the Stradivarius about $4,000,000.) After a demonstration of the difference in sound between the instruments and two short pieces played to perfection, of course, it was time to leave. Heifetz still used a cane, and to get to the exit, we had to cross a marbleized floor that was fine in dry weather, but our shoes were wet. In one of my many less than intelligent moments, I offered to carry the violins for the maestro. He handed me the case and thanked me. I started to cross the marbled floor when I had a vision that is as vivid today as it was some fifty years ago. I had become Curly, the fat, bald one of the Three Stooges, and was carrying a violin case when I slipped, did a 360 in mid-air, and landed on my derriere atop $300,000 worth of violins. I froze. Mr. Heifitz asked if I would rather he carried the instruments. I apologized, and he said he understood. Occasionally today, I will see and hear Jascha Heifitz on the Arts Channel, on video, or on the radio. I think to myself, “I carried that instrument.” Then my now eighty-five year old face gets a warm, nostalgic grin and I think to myself, “Yeah, Cohen; for about fifteen feet!


AliveMay2016
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