“Elfi,” Stefan said when she came off stage, “I am so proud of you! It’s great having such a talented sister.” he hugged her, grinning.
“Stefan, I’m not the only one with talent. Look how well you’re doing with your clarinet. You are already in the Youth Symphony Orchestra, and you’re only 12!” she hugged him again, and they went to meet their parents.
At 18, Elfi left home, to go to Mozarteum University in Salzburg, where she continued her music studies as well as the academics. During her first university year, she played Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D Minor in Jahn’s hall in Vienna, where both he and Mozart had played. It was so thrilling to feel that she was following in such distinguished footsteps! This performance, too, was greeting with a standing ovation, and the personal congratulations of conductor Kurt Koesler. Awed by that, Elfi bowed again, and went offstage to the waiting arms of her family.
“Mama, papa, I am so happy,” she said. “I am doing the things I love best, and I believe I am doing well at both. My councillor has suggested that I take second year courses, he thinks I can finish university at least one year faster. And it won’t interfere with my violin studies!”
“Ach, leibchen,” papa exclaimed. “How did we get such an intelligent, talented daughter? My heart swells with pride when I look at you!”
“Thank you, papa,” Elfi said. “But, papa, don’t forget Stefan. He is just as talented and smart as I am. After all, he is in the Youth Symphony, and several grades above his age level with both the clarinet and piano, and he’s only 13! I didn’t do that well.”
“You are correct, leibchen, your mama and I are proud of both of our children.” he turned to look at Stefan. “Such incredible offspring for two such ordinary people! It is a miracle.” He beamed from one to the other, his face glowing with pride.
Marta watched and smiled. Yes, they had two incredible children and she was as proud as Heinrich. “You both know how proud I am of you,” she said. “And Elfi, if your councillor thinks you can do it, and you feel confident, then go ahead. You are doing so well with your music and academics. When you graduate, you can go for your Master’s, and even a Phd! You can be an astronomer, or a physicist, and a concert violinist as well. And just think, you would be Doctor Elfi Von Croy, astrophysicist and world famous concert violinist! How proud we will be!”
“Yes,” Heinrich said. “And how far will Stefan go? He’s doing so well with his clarinet, and the piano too. And now he brings home a letter from school saying he show great ability in biology; we could see both of our children become doctors. How amazing!
Time passed, and both Elfi and Stefan did well in their studies. One early spring day, Elfi hurried into the house. “Mama, papa, Stefan, I’m home!” she called out, as she ran into the kitchen.
Her mother looked up from the strudel she was making, surprised to see her daughter. “Elfie!” she exclaimed. “How good to see, you, but what are you doing home now? You still have two months before the term is ended.”
“Mama, I had to come home, and it’s the Easter holiday. Oh, mama, I am so excited! I have been asked to play with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in the Theater an der Wien, with conductor August Doppelmayer! He’s the second best conductor in Vienna! Meister Ludwig Andritz said I’m to play Paganini’s Violin Concerto number 1, Opus 6, one of the most difficult concertos!”
“Oh, Elfi!” Marta exclaimed. Heedless of her flour covered hands she grasped her daughter in her arms in a fierce hug. “What a great honour! Oh, I am so proud of you!” she stepped back, tears streaming down her face. Raising both hands, she wiped her cheeks.
Elfi burst out laughing. “Oh, mama, now you are like your strudel! And I am all over flour, too.” laughing, she reached for a towel and gave it to her mother. Marta took it, and laughing too, wiped the floury mess off her face, while Elfi brushed at the flour on her coat. Taking it off, she draped it over a chair. They stood and looked at each other, overwhelmed by the honour.
Just then Heinrich and Stefan came in. “Elfi!” Stefan shouted, and rushed to hug his sister. “How great, you are home for Easter!”
Heinrich reached to hug his daughter, too. “Yes, this makes the holy day even better.” he said.
“Wait until you hear her news,” Marta told them. “Tell them Elfi,” she turned to the beaming young woman.
“I haven’t told even you all of it yet, mama,” she grinned. She told her father and brother about the honour accorded her. “But playing in the Theater an der Wien is not all. I am to graduate in June! Summa cum Laude. Professor Klara Boxleitner wants me to do my Master’s right away, and my Phd next year. I am almost overwhelmed by it all.” she looked at her family, waiting for their reaction. Of course, it was happy and enthusiastic.
After the concert, Herr Pauli Rudel, the premier conductor in Europe, came backstage to speak to her. “Miss Von Croy, I am very impressed by your mastery of such a difficult piece. This coming August, there will be several special performances in the Musikverein. I would like you to play Tchaikovdky’s Concerto in D Major for the night of August 15th. Would you be interested?”
Elfi stared at him, stunned by this sudden honour. “Truly? You want me to play there? Oh, Herr Rudel, it is a dream come true!”
He smiled and held out his hand. “It is a date, then,” he said. “The Golden Hall, on August 15th.”
She nodded, gulped, smiled and agreed. On the night, she wore a new white silk gown, with her hair up, intricately braid and wound like a gleaming dark crown. The hall was full, not just all of the 1,744 seats, but all of the standing room spaces as well. She was nervous, but then she remembered what Herr Welser had told her all those years ago, when she performed before an audience for the first time. Think only of the music and the violin, and making it sing. Once again the performance was perfect, although this was the concerto that was pronounced unplayable when Tchaikovsky wrote it.
She took her bows, raised a hand to indicate the conductor, then the orchestra, and the applause grew. Finally, it died down, and she was presented with several bouquets, which she accepted with a smile. Then, bowing again, she walked off stage. She had noticed an area in the hall to the dressing rooms that was very cold. As she approached it now, almost floating in the afterglow of her performance, she was surprised to see someone laying on the floor. As she neared, she saw that it was a young woman, dressed in white, with dark hair. Then she realised that she could faintly see the floor through the figure.
She stopped, stunned. It looked a lot like her! Was this an omen? Then she became aware of a whispering sound, and the feeling that someone was standing beside her. The whispering became louder, and she heard “Elfi, please, you are the only one who can hear me. Please help me. I was murdered here, and the murderer was never caught. It was not the woman they arrested. I was ....” the voice faded, as did the body. Elfi stood, caught by the horror of that voice, it’s message, and the body she had seen. Who was it? And why was she the only one who could help?