Saturday, July 9, 2016

Death and Transfiguration

Death and Transfiguration
A Daniel Jacobus Mystery
Gerald Elias
Minotaur Books
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-312-67835-7
$ 34.99
322 pages

"Management gave me a week for my eyesight to come back.  The doctors called it fovea macular dystrophy, a swanky term for sudden blindness.  They always have fancy names for diseases they can't cure.  They said, Yeah, it's possible it'll come back.  But it didn't.  And I had to give back no only the concertmaster position but my job in the orchestra as well."
These words belong to Daniel Jacobus, who is an incredibly talented violin concertmaster. 
Daniel Jacobus is a crusty grumbling soul, but no one can doubt his genius when a violin is in his hands. That is when the magic of music happens.
Daniel has reasons that for his crustiness.   Years ago when he was auditioning to become the concertmaster, he lost his sight.  Sudden blindness.  Yes, he could and would continue to play beautifully from memory, but how can he watch a conductor?  Can anyone be successful as a blind concertmaster?  
Now he still spends his days with his music but works as a teacher, sharing his musical gifts with the younger generation.  That is if they can tolerate his nasty disposition.
Scheherazade "Sherry" O'Brien is likely to become the next concertmaster of Harmonium, an outstanding highly regarded world-class touring orchestra direct by the legendary musical director, Vaclav Herza.  She has the position temporarily but dreams of it being permanent.
Sherry calls Jacobus requesting a private lesson before her audition.  When she asks about the fee, Jacobus simply states, "Incalculable," and hangs up.
Daniel also feels a little conflicted with this contact since his former student and surrogate daughter; Yumi Shinagawa is also trying out for this position.  At least this will allow him to judge Yumi's competition.
When Daniel hears her play, he knows that Sherry should be the concertmaster.   Apparently, she has a problem with the conductor.
World class conductor Vaclav Herza is a combination egomaniac and sociopath.  The audiences around the world love and respect the musician.  The people who know him realize that he is both unpredictable and dangerous.
What is unusual about this book about the inside of the music business is how closely the story parallels the music "Death and the Transfiguration" by Richard Strauss.  Few people understand the behind the scenes reality of the music world which is not glamorous.  This book continues the insight into diligence,  perseverance, talent and leadership all combining into genius.
Gerald Elias creates his stories from his life as a violinist with the Boston Symphony, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony, adjunct professor of music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyam String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.  
Death and Transfiguration is the fourth in the Daniel Jacobus series following Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, and Death and the Maiden.  Another book in the series, Playing with Fire, which should be released September 1st.
Death and Transfiguration is a well-written mystery plopped into the world of professional musicians revealing their flaws and the joy of creating voices that cannot be described in words.

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