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Book Review: Daniel Kossov: Pictures of an Outstanding Musician by Rosemary Ellen Tingley

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In Daniel Kossov: Pictures of an Outstanding Musician,  Rosemary Tingley writes of the internationally known violinist and concertmaster: “He would hear a piece of music, or read a piece of music from the manuscript and instinctively, without further thought, he would know how it was supposed to sound. He would simply know how the composer intended the music to be. And in this simplicity is the magic.”

Daniel Kossov is unquestionably a genius. He left America’s prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in 2001, coming to Perth as the youngest ever Concertmaster of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra (WASO).

Those among us who possess ordinary intelligence are drawn to geniuses because their minds are dramatically more powerful than ours. People have been drawn to Daniel Kossov and his musical gifts all his young life. So, even if you have little or no interest in classical music, if you are intrigued by human genius, you will be captivated by this intelligent exploration of the subject of genius. If you are a lover of both, you will passionately embrace this beautifully penned story of Kossov and his love and dedication to music.

Tingley is an excellent teller of Kossov’s story. She began to develop and nurture a close friendship with Kossov through her daughter, Jennifer, who played the cello with him at pianist Anna Sleptsovas’ wedding. Their friendship began almost immediately upon his arrival in Perth. Tingley, in addition to her writing, works as a cartographer (mapmaker) and teaches young children the piano.

She is a passionate devotee of the ballet and symphony and effectively captures the essence of what makes Kossov tick. Without Tingley’s intelligent, insightful and intimate treatment of Kossov’s story, the book would surely be a much different experience.

I found Tingley’s writing style to be most pleasurable. She includes original poetry throughout the book that she believes express the feelings and mood of Kossov in relation to who he is and what he is experiencing in his life and work during his tenure at the WASO. But her poetic bent is an undercurrent that runs throughout the book, skillfully woven with her delicate prose. She frequently blurs the distinction between the two forms and creates wonderfully moving passages and vignettes.

But while I was captivated by Tingley’s beautiful words, I too often was disconnected from them by the book’s editing, or lack thereof, particularly the flow and pacing of the storytelling. The book does not present its vignettes and anecdotes chronologically, and the transitions back and forth are sometimes jolting. Some reflections linger a bit too long. Some of the tangents the author takes add little to the story. But still, Tingley manages to keep the reader engaged with the magnetism of her prose and poetry.

(Reviewed by Joseph Yurt for Reader Views)

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