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02 June 2013

Julie Thomas: The Keeper of Secrets

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"The Tears of an Angel"
New Zealand author Julie Thomas has written a remarkable book which has already gone into my best reads for 2013. It is a really good read - compassionate, historical, essentially musical and at times extremely emotional. It is a story of a German Jew (a Holocaust survivor), a Spanish Catholic (Maestro Conductor) and a music loving Russian billionaire, and a very special violin made in the early 1700's by Guarneri del Gesù.

We all know about Stradavarius violins, but some of the world's most famous violinists, such as Paganini, Heifetz, and Menuhin, preferred Guarneris to Stradivaris  because of stronger fundamentals of the lowest notes and a darker sound than a Stradivarius.

Before WWII Simon Horowitz lived in Berlin with his wealthy Jewish family and had played the violin since he was four years old. His family owned many priceless things, but the most precious and valuable was a Guarneri del Gesù violin. When Daniel and his family were sent to Dachau, the Nazis added the violin to their museum of stolen artefacts.

Simon was the only member of the family who survived Dachau. Many years later his grandson, Daniel, shows extreme talent as a violinist and at the tender age of 14 wins an international competition run by Maestro Rafael Gomez. Daniel is just as dedicated to baseball as music and when his family tries to make him stop playing baseball because he may damage his hands Daniel decides to give up music. To persuade Daniel to keep playing, Maestro Gomez delves into the past of Daniel's family and that of his benefactor, music loving Russian billionaire Sergei Valentino and discovers amazing tales of horror, survival, deception and love.

While reading is my greatest passion, music is not far behind - "Although music can be many things, in its truest incarnation, at its deepest core, music is the power to command emotion." This book combined my two greatest passions and touched my emotions as few books have done. The book could also have been titled "The Tears of an Angel" - you need to read the book to see if you agree.

Well done Julie Thomas - you have written a notable book. Congratulations on having the book published by HarperCollins in both the Australasian and US markets.

PS After reading the book I searched for information about violins made by Guarneri del Gesù. The images show absolutely beautiful instruments which have touched the hearts of musicians through the ages. A couple of years ago virtuoso violinist Aaron Rosand  sold a  Guarneri del Gesù violin he had played for over 50 years for around $10 million, reportedly to a Russian billionaire!

Hear and see a Guarneri del Gesù violin played

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