As we draw up in the main street of Cooroy on a recent day in May, I remark “What lovely, tidy but very small town. How will he fill the local Arts Institute for a violin recital?” My Austrian companion is particularly intrigued but I feel at home at once as I am used to the mysteries of small Aussie towns and the surprises they hold.
Drawn by the anticipation of a real Russian violinist we had made our way through the lush Noosa hinterland through several other small towns to Cooroy.
We walk up the steps to the hall and find a stocky young man of distinctly foreign appearance dressed in recital clothes but clearly hot and bothered and very emotional and almost ready to leave.
He has some kind of unexplained drama happening with his travelling companion and appears to be alone at this point trying to prepare for the performance and sell tickets at the same time.
“What can I do?” It was one of those moments to step up.
He thrusts a cash box and a wad of notes at me, I get it. Soon I am seated and ready for business. Nobody is in sight and only three or four people wandering awkwardly around the empty hall. It would be just too much to bear if nobody comes. My friend makes sure the violinist is able to relax and prepare.
We yearn for this to be an extraordinary experience. Personally, after years in regional WA, I am starved of live classical music.
Despite the initial dramas we can feel his passion and intensity and feel determined to help.
After half an hour more people trickle in, then there is a queue and suddenly the hall is full. It is overflowing. Locals of all kinds join the very well dressed from Noosa. Everyone mingles, helping willingly with unstacking the chairs and seating the elderly. A party appears with Betty their grandmother. It’s her 90th birthday and the word spreads. Music lovers of all kinds pack the room. My friend finds herself sitting happily next to a fellow German speaker from Hungary.
When I finally decide I’ve had enough I slip out of my front of house role and sit down, just as our violinist Attila Sautov plays Happy Birthday with a flourish. Then we all sing for Betty. It’s a perfect ice breaker.
What follows is pure magic. I’m not a musician but I know what moves me, what sets my heart and soul on fire and this is it. I don’t have the words or terminology to describe the technical aspects but I know when I am in the presence of genius.
He plays a Stradivarius embracing it like a lover setting it alight with passion. In between the melting beauty and range of a program of mainly Bach and Paganini he intersperses his fusion music. This is where he merges his brilliance with every genre of music you can imagine from gypsy to Led Zeppelin.
He also tells some of his personal story. As a child in Uzbekistan his composer father imposed hours of very tough practice each day from the age of 5. He refers to life and work in Europe and elsewhere, his seven languages and eventually arriving in Australia where he is now a proud Aussie passport holder.
I have only experienced this kind of genius live a few times in my life in major capital cities. Then it was contained within the discipline of an orchestra. This is clearly not Attila’s current pathway. He is a free spirit. For whatever reasons deeply rooted in his past maybe including the trauma of displacement from home and whatever has happened to him since, he is now essentially a one man band.
He is currently touring the regions with his unique recital part theatre, part amazing music, part humour and all woven together with love and magic. He has help but clearly there are a few challenges.
It was impossible for me not to see him and think about the current sad and toxic politicised refugee situation we are witnessing here in the lucky country. I have no idea whether he was a refugee or not but he mentioned he is from a minority group so it’s possible. Either way his music adds to our cultural experience. It is a perfect example of how new talent infuses and subtly changes our world as we absorb a different interpretation of music we thought we knew.
At the end I felt overwhelming gratitude and enrichment from the experience of his unique gifts and I’m sure I was not alone as I joined the standing ovation in that little hall in Cooroy one sunny Saturday afternoon in May.
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