An unexpected success
– Shame about the ending.
– Yeah, the rest sounded quite good, I think.
The cello hanging on my shoulders, I reached the girls outside the artists entrance. The weight of the case made me swing a bit on my high heels, quite unsteady on the wet pavement.
Janela was smoking her post-stress cigarette, listening to the comments of the other two. Michi looked mildly happy, while Chiara was visibly disappointed: – Now I need to walk. What are you doing ladies? Are you coming to take the food with me?
I forgot that we hadn’t eaten since the early morning. Luckily Chiara always takes care of our nutrition and, before the last round, she ordered some take away salads at the restaurant. Tuna salad at 4 pm. Not bad.
I felt displeased as well, but I tried to keep a constructive attitude. – We did our best. We can for sure aspire to the audience price. Did you notice how much they clapped after each performance?
– So, are we already assuming that we’re not going to win? – Michaela made bold to ask.
– Well, there were a couple of objective mistakes…
– Perhaps the others went wrong as well…
– Girls, I’m going, are you coming with me or are you going back to the hotel? – Chiara called us to order.
We decided to head to the lodge right away and started climbing the small hill towards the luxurious Leon d’Oro. We had a long wait ahead, before the announcement of the winner.
Finally I got to my room and threw myself on the bed, exhausted. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to cry or not. Suddenly something came to my mind, a little thought Chiara had shared with me some time before: – You know, I’m afraid I might have a curse on me, a curse that makes me finish second whatever I do –. If we got the audience price, it would feel like we finished second…
Someone knocked at the door: – Salads are ready –. No time left for crying. Better this way.
Janela’s room was the most spacious and it even had a balcony. Of course, nothing but the best for the first violin! We gathered on her terrace to devour our unusual snack. The clouds were thinning out after the morning rain and, in the distance, shy fragments of bright sky were lightening the horizon.
– As S. said, we have to consider this experience as part of our personal artistic journey. We’ve learned a lot –. – Definitely! Whatever happens, preparing for the competition was very useful –… – We fought quite well, taking everything into account…
The mood was not the best, but all efforts were made no to show it too much.
Later on, at dinner, before the prize-giving ceremony, we found the other contestants and, at last, the panel members reached the pizzeria. As soon as we saw them, the same simple but haunting idea started taking shape in all of us: “They know”. They could eat smoothly, while our pizza was struggling to fill our stomach, totally blocked up by a twisting question mark, as heavy as a bowling ball: “Who?”
“Alright, here we are”. Finally the moment of reckoning came. People slowly started to fill the theatre and we took our seats in the parterre together with the other participants. A fake nonchalance was supposed to hide our annoyance for being kept endlessly waiting, all in concert dresses, even if we knew that only one ensemble would perform after the ceremony: the mysterious winner.
The girls and I lined up at the back of the hall. Suddenly Chiara whispered something in my ear: – The chairs are set the way we want! –. I looked at the stage: three seats and a piano stool at the place of the violist. Right, that was our combination. I tried to collect my thoughts: “So, cellists usually ask for a piano bench but as far as I’m concerned (yes, I want to be the original in this case), normal chairs are preferable, so Michaela chose the stool. Who else could have needed that combination? Maybe a group that keeps the cellist in the middle… The Quartetto E.! But they wanted two piano benches, I remember. All the others leave the cello external, in front of the first violin and therefore, I think, we can exclude them, unless…”
– No, it’s just a coincidence, let’s not get ideas! – I firmly replied to Chiara.
However, when the chairman of the jury called the competitors on stage I couldn’t help thinking of those stupid chairs.
The speech started: – We’ve come to the end of the first edition of the competition…
“Is my heart beating too fast? I don’t know what to look at! Try to keep calm! Is it better to smile or to stay serious? What should I do with my hands? I don’t want to appear ridiculous if they’re taking pictures…”
– Special thanks go to…
“When is he coming to the point? Damn the seats, for sure Michaela and Janela noticed them too…”
– The audience prize goes to the Amai Quartet!
“Oh, finally! Fine, we finished second, but it was predictable”.
Sincerely grateful to the jury and to the people in the hall, we bowed conventionally, tensing every single muscle of our body in order not to show a slight disappointment.
– And now it’s time to get to the winner. The resolution of the panel members was unanimous…
“Wow”, I thought, “this people must be really good, I’m curious to see who they are”. The chairman went on singing the praises of the successful ensemble, while I kept looking at him with astonished eyes. Since he was dwelling too much, my attention got drew by the certificate that one of the jury members was holding in the hands. I tried to read through it the name of the winner: “… Quar…”. In vain, all struggles were useless. My impatience became almost anger, since that piece of paper and that solitary piano bench seemed to mockingly stare at me, as if even inanimate objects already knew how everything was going to end; I couldn’t stand it…
– AMAI QUARTET!
At the peak of my delirium, I barely realized that we got the award and I almost shouted: “That’s not possible! We’ve just received the audience prize!”
Luckily this thought didn’t come out from my brain, but surely the expression on my face revealed all my great surprise. I instinctively attempted to hug the girls, but my movements got clumsy, due to the general excitement of the moment.
Suddenly somebody asked what we would like to play at the winners concert that had to follow shortly, but I was totally unable to decide anything. All I managed to do was stammering something vague, while (thank God) Janela spoke with determination, showing a much better presence of mind: – Prokofiev!
“Of course! Sergei Sergeyevich, how could I be so stupid not to think of you?”
That piece became our warhorse.
“See Chiara? No curses at all! And yes, you were right, you and the chairs!”