Trained that way
by E. Uro Rail
His perfect father had hammered music into his head until there was room for nothing else. But when his father, a great cellist himself, slowly came to accept the reality that his son understood the mathematics and intricacies of music more than the sweetness of the cello, he re-directed Peter’s education to become a conductor, to direct others, to inspire them, to give them passion, and to breathe passion into their hands, their hearts, their instruments. This, his son could surely master.
And is a baton not an instrument? Is it not a magic wand? “There is music within you, Peter,” his father said, when, on Peter’s fifteenth birthday his father gave him an ivory baton, in a teak case lined with purple felt. “This is the instrument you were always meant to play. You will be great interpreter of all the greats. Think of it! Mozart! Hayden, Beethoven! All contained in that slender stem of ivory, waiting for you. I can feel it.”
Peter had watched as a younger sister and brother, and two brothers slightly older than himself had progressed under his father’s tutelage to become what his father had hoped would be Peter’s good fortune: to be one with their instruments. Dorothee played piano and clavier: Erik and Uli mastered violin, and Deiter, the youngest, learned his father’s instrument.
It was Deiter, though, who received hour upon hour of instruction, encouragement, praise. If only I had studied harder, been less distracted, more attentive, thought Peter, that could have been me. Instead, Peter was relegated to the post of being their conductor, but it was a false assignment: his father dictated the philosophy of each particular piece, who spoke of nuance, who inspired his children. In their small cottage in the German countryside, all was sweet chaos. The piano, of course, was immobile, and Dorothee had exclusive use of the living room. Deiter had the kitchen in which to practice; Erik and Uli had a bedroom, and Father, of course, practiced and perfected in the dining room. The silent baton required no such privacy, and Peter’s only opportunity was when the family rehearsed together, after each musician knew their part. But what was Peter’s part? But that was years ago.
The concert in the Stadthalle was scheduled for six p.m., and Peter barely arrived in time for the last train. His father, his siblings, had already departed, he was informed. But of course, they would not begin without his presence.
He looked at his pocket watch, dangling captured on gold chain, and slipped it back into his vest pocket. He shook hands with the station master, after a brief apology for cutting it so close. He adjusted his tie, the brim of his cap, as he boarded, but first surveyed the platform for any late arrivals. There were none.
A lurch forward, and they were on their way to Berlin, everyone seated but himself.
“Tickets, please,” he said in his most formal, authoritative voice. Passengers turned and smiled as the conductor approached.