It is here, while standing under the dim orange light, with rain
cascading down from the clouds, that I finally allowed myself a small
smile. Carnegie Hall, New York City, drenched with rain that is
trickling down my back, I smile back on that five year old girl forcing
fear out of her system.
For a child of only five years old I remember being bright, if not a
little peculiar. Even as a girl I rarely smiled, much less played with
other children. My interests lay more with books, with history and
languages and, most of all, with music. I never felt out of place in
Russia. I felt at home there. I was a petite girl with a short, severe bob
haircut, high cheekbones and deep set grey eyes. My mother said I
was a vision of Russian beauty. I didn’t really know what that meant.
But I knew I liked the cold, monochrome streets of St Petersburg and
the grand architecture of the old buildings in the city. I knew my
mother was happy living in our small apartment outside of the city,
even if it did smell like dampmould. She somehowmanaged to make
it seem homely.
Nothing could have prepared me for that particular day. The day
that everything changed. I had never seen a room so big in my life.
The walls were tall and covered in decorative wallpaper, swirled with
images of gold leaves and deep blue flowers. A dwarfing crystal
chandelier hung from the centre of the ceiling, its cool florescence
providing enough light to fill the whole space. There was a stunning
beauty about the space, but also a distinct clinical feeling, like a
hospital waiting room or a dentist’s office. In the centre of the far
wall, opposite the door, sat a single woman staring sternly at me, her
cold black eyes unblinking. In the room’s centre was a small black
stool and a cello.
Remember not to be scared. Miss Dernova has asked for you Elise, out of
everyone she wants to hear you.
I remember walking toward the cello, my footfalls echoing
throughout the hall. My throat was as course as sandpaper. I sat on
the stool, keeping my back tall and face neutral.
I picked up the Cello and placed it between my knees.
… remember not to be scared…
I didn’t have time to smile, I was concentrating; concentrating on
the piece, on the movement of her bow hand, on the feeling of the