Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis
“The Ensouled Violin” by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky
Card picked: A Queen
Thoughts: There’s something about the violin. It mimics the sound of a voice, whether human or animal, maybe too well. I can’t think of an instrument that is wrapped in so much superstition. Mme. Blavatsky reminds us of the story of Tartini to whom the Devil came in a dream and played what would become Tartini’s “The Devil’s Trill”. Similar stories also sprung up around Paganini when he came on the scene. His techniques were unorthodox and he coaxed sounds from the violin that were new to the audience. Was his success based on talent and ability? Or had Paganini made other darker deals?
That’s the atmosphere in Paris when Franz Stenio and his teacher, Samuel Klaus, arrive. Franz is a very talented player and has a good share of adoration. He dreams of the muses and nymphs and Orpheus, and Mme. Blavatsky name-checks just about every personage from Greek myth that is applicable. Under Klaus’s tutelage and encouragement, there is no doubt that Franz could impress in Paris. If not for Paganini. In an effort to comfort Franz, Klaus decides that Paganini must have done something unnatural to gain his talent, and you can’t feel bad about not being able to compete with that, can you? Klaus’s theory is that Paganini uses human intestines for his strings…and Franz starts to wonder if he can’t tap into the mysticism he believes in to gain advantage.
I won’t give away the ending, but after some rather long passages of sometimes dry history, the last few paragraphs are a pretty nasty piece of work. (And I mean that in a good way.)
The final showdown between Paganini and Franz Stenio involves Paganini’s “The Witches Dance.” This video is not of that, but I couldn’t resist a clip from a movie about Paganini starring German violinist rockstar David Garrett. Supposedly, Paganini inspired fangirl shrieking and fainting long before The Beatles.
About the Author: From Mrs. Oliphant yesterday to Mme. Blavatsky today. I’m glad woman have been allowed to use their first names. (Don’t get me started on the Mrs. Husband’s-First-Name Last-Name thing. The only thing worse than researching a Mr. John Smith is researching a Mrs. John Smith…) I’m more familiar with Mme. Blavatsky as a spiritualist. I had no idea she wrote fiction.
Extra Diabolic Violin Showdown
One of my favorite bits of country music storytelling.