Maxim Vengerov is considered by many to be the best violinist in the world and commands upwards of £20,000 a performance – but few are as rewarding as the one he gave for nothing at a hospital for those with severe neurological conditions and traumatic brain injuries. If any encounter can be both heart-rending and heart-warming, this is it. On one side of the hall stands a virtuoso musician in the prime of life. Some say he is the world’s finest violinist. Certainly you would have to go a long way to find a human being who so obviously demonstrates such a perfect rapport between mind and body, eyes and brain, brain and fingers, physique and inner emotion. As Maxim Vengerov plays, so his whole torso sinuously sways and arcs in an ardent physical expression of the music that flows from his Stradivarius. This is the package – the handsome, 32-year-old Russian, the mesmerising virtuosity, the priceless piece of old wood – that is said to command fees of £20,000 or more for a night’s work in the world’s top concert halls.
But today Vengerov plays for nothing. Or rather, he plays for love. We are in a magnificent panelled hall at the Royal Hospital for Neuro-disability in Putney, southwest London. Arrayed in front of the musician are about 60 wheelchair-bound patients who, in many cases, have minimal control over their limbs, their minds – and their lives.
Rarely can such contrasting extremes in the human condition have been brought into such charged proximity. Rarely can a man capable of conjuring such transcendental beauty out of thin air have faced an audience that knows such physical deprivation.
“What appeals to an audience like this, what gets through to their subconscious, are two things,” Vengerov tells me later. “Rhythm and serenity.”
Source - Times