I was as lonesome and low as ever I had been. Here I was in Fresno, of all remote places—remote from the big cities I was used to and the people I knew there. Fresno means “ash” in Spanish, the town being named after the Fresno River that flows from the Sierra Nevada and nourishes the groves of fig trees and other agricultural treasures of the Great Central Valley of California.
My life was in ashes. I lived three Volkswagen Beetle-hours away from my two young children whom I visited every weekend. My marriage had crumbled. I had a job in “Fresno County Mental Health.” My belongings, other than clothes and necessaries, fit into two wooden orange crates—mostly books and records. I had no disposable income after giving most of my paycheck to my soon-to-be former wife.
My father said Beethoven brought him through The Great Depression when he was struggling to hold the family business together after all his senior relatives died, and then jobless and working a government make-work job for a year until the day I was born in January, 1937. We had music in the house, always— not only Dad’s Beethoven and Brahms, but Aunt Angie’s Tchaikovsky and Chopin, Mom’s Bach (Ave Maria), Aunt Bee’s and Uncle Harry’s more eclectic selections, and Grandpa’s popular Greek ballads and dances.
I was the one, much later in life, who “discovered” Mozart. It was Mozart who rescued me.
I don’t know how I came upon his Sinfonia Concertante, but there it was and I played it on my portable turntable and speakers of barely adequate fidelity. It was a warm and clear Sunday morning, the first weekend since I moved to Fresno that I had not visited my two children some 200 miles away.
The first movement began in the major mode quite cheerfully, but not yet extraordinarily, but then … as the introduction concluded with the string section approaching then lingering in the upper registers, out of the sky came a sublime violin voice that soared like a bird down to earth to play for me.
My heavy heart began to stir. I opened the door to my apartment to let in the sun and warm morning air. I eased myself to a sunny spot on the floor, let the music wash over me, and was taken by Mozart to a place where, after daily playing of the piece in all its movements, I recovered my natural optimism and my life began again.
The music eventually attracted a woman a few doors away on the second level overlooking the communal swimming pool, but that’s another story…