I’m coming towards the end of my week in Fiesole, a week of baking heat during which I have realised that much of the music we’ve been studying must have been written in a cooler climate. In this kind of intense heat we can hardly face playing, or even hearing, some of the more energetic movements.
One day between classes, a group of us were discussing whether human emotions are shared by animals, and one of my colleagues told us a delightful story about his wife, who teaches the violin to children.
Their dog always gets very agitated when small children come to the house for violin lessons, as though he realises that his mistress’s attention is diverted more thoroughly from him while young children are in the house.
One day the violin teacher was working in the garden, and the dog was keeping her company. She looked round at a certain moment to see that the dog had quietly gone indoors. After a while she went indoors herself, to see the dog coming guiltily down the stairs from the attic, where he is not allowed to go. He gave her a look as he passed.
The violin teacher thought nervously of the row of tiny new violins arrayed on the bed in the attic. She ran upstairs to find that the tiny violins had all been decisively kicked off the bed into a heap in the corner. Moreover, the bedclothes were all disordered, for all the world as if the dog had been sleeping in the bed. Downstairs, the dog was waiting with a look of mingled sorrow and righteousness, as if to say, ‘Now do you understand how I feel about these children?’