THE SOLOIST by Mark Salzman


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Jury duty in a murder trial helps resolve a classical musician's deep professional crisis--in a haunting second novel from the author of The Laughing Sutra (1990) and Iron and Silk (1986), Salzman's acclaimed book (and later movie) about China. Cellist Reinhart (Renne) Sundheimer, the son of German Jews who fled to America, was once a child prodigy. After the war, his mother returned to Germany so he could study with world-famous cellist Johannes von Kempen, who had retired from the orchestra rather than endure false charges of Nazi sympathies. The ancient maestro, with his inspirational dignity, became the most important person in young Renne's life, softening its loneliness (no playmates, no girlfriends). Then, tragedy: at 18, a conjectural hearing problem drove Renne from the concert stage. When Salzman's story begins, Renne is 34, a cello teacher at UCLA, still a virgin, still grimly determined to concertize again. Two events reshape his identity. He becomes deeply involved in teaching a new prodigy, Kyung-hee, a nine-year-old Korean-American, and he serves as a juror in the trial of a Zen student accused of murdering his master. Salzman skillfully interweaves flashbacks with the nurturing of Kyung-hee and the story of the trial and its offshoot, a budding romance between Renne and fellow-juror Maria-Teresa, an attractive married woman. Renne's insecurity with women snuffs out the romance; then he finds himself the lone holdout for a guilty- but-insane verdict and the object of his fellow-jurors' contempt. Yet the two traumas cause Renne's regeneration as musician and as moral being: he sees the trial as "his graduate recital" for his old master, while he serenely guides his young protege toward a brilliant future. Salzman's handling of his weighty theme--the passing of torches as the ennobling essence of civilization--is unfailingly light and delicate: this is lovely, offbeat movie material.
Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1994
ISBN: 0679759263
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1993


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