Gerald Elias: Violinist, Author & Blogger

Jerry Elias, former violinist with the Boston and Utah Symphonies and author of four murder mysteries with a blind violin pedagogue as the protagonist, has agreed to be an occasional blogger for Polyphonic. In addition to writing mysteries Jerry has much to say about classical music, performance practise, playing violin, and much more.

His fourth mystery, Death and Transfiguration, was recently reviewed by Victoria Doughtery:

I think I’ll never look at a Thursday the same way again.  Not after reading Death and Transfiguration by Gerald Elias.  The story begins on a Thursday, when Daniel Jacobus, retired violin virtuoso and sometime sleuth, receives a visit from an up and comer at a world-famous touring orchestra.  She’s being tormented by her Maestro and asks for his help, but he largely dismisses the young woman’s complaints.  The legendary Vaclav Herza, one of the last great conductors from the bygone era of classical music, is hardly the first brilliant Maestro to behave like a tyrant.  Musicians usually put up or shut up.  After listening to her play a nearly perfect score, and offering scant advice about her troubles with the Maestro, Jacobus sends her on her way.

But it’s Thursday and no good news ever comes on a Thursday; at least where Daniel Jacobus is concerned.  And Jacobus, despite his best efforts, can’t seem to get the girl and her story out of his head, or out of his life.  When the young woman in question ends up fighting for her life after an apparent suicide attempt, Jacobus throws himself into an investigation of Vaclav Herza’s tawdry secrets and cruel nature.  It is an investigation that may well cost him his life.

The fussy and self-satisfied world of classical music is one not many readers know much about and it’s delicious to dig in and explore the complex nature of such a small, elite society.  Elias takes us hand in hand through the kind of vicious back-biting that becomes commonplace in a landscape where people of enormous talent and skill fight – sometimes to the death – for a meager handful of positions.  To top it off, it’s a world that has been losing cultural and commercial ground for decades, so the stakes cut to the very core of every player.  It’s not just about money and power or even love, the usual culprits in the majority of mysteries, but about the struggle for preserving excellence, tradition, innovation and commitment in a fast-changing, fast-food world.

As a protagonist, Daniel Jacobus is counter-intuitive.  Not only is he aged and blind – proving once again that old age and treachery can trounce youth and skill on any given day – but he’s cranky, fastidious, self-centered and a snob.  He’s also brilliant, gloriously difficult and the kind of friend you want when you’re in trouble – even if he doesn’t play well at a dinner party anymore.

Jacobus’ blindness, rather than limiting his efforts open him and the reader up to a whole new way of solving a crime.  As a musician, and a superb one at that, he can derive more from what he hears than most of us can using all of our senses combined.  It makes for wonderful suspense and an edge of your seat anticipation of events you as a reader are powerless to predict.

So, it’s apt that Death and Transfiguration begins on a Thursday – the least predictable day of the week.  The day that sits on the precipice of a wonderful weekend filled with conviviality, adventure, and even romance or a lonely block of time you just want to get through.  And it can all hinge on a phone call or a visit or even a good book.

Victoria has a curious website, and is currently publishing “Dead Cold” – very short “flash” fiction. Her first author (of six) is Gerald Elias. You can read his short fiction “Snagged” at Victoria’s website, but just during this week, and read his thoughts about music here on the Polyphonic blog in the near future.

About the author

Ann Drinan
Ann Drinan

Ann Drinan, Senior Editor, has been a member of the Hartford Symphony viola section for over 30 years. She is a former Chair of the Orchestra Committee, former member of the HSO Board, and has served on many HSO committees. She is also the Executive Director of CONCORA (CT Choral Artists), a professional chorus based in Hartford and New Britain, founded by Artistic Director Richard Coffey. Ann was a member of the Advisory Board of the Symphony Orchestra Institute (SOI), and was the HSO ROPA delegate for 14 years, serving as both Vice President and President of ROPA. In addition to playing the viola and running CONCORA, Ann is a professional writer and editor, and has worked as a consultant and technical writer for software companies in a wide variety of industries for over 3 decades. (She worked for the Yale Computer Science Department in the late 70s, and thus has been on the Internet, then called the DARPAnet, since 1977!) She is married to Algis Kaupas, a sound recordist, and lives a block from Long Island Sound in Branford CT. Together they create websites for musicians:

Ann holds a BA in Music from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, and an MA in International Relations from Yale University.

Read Ann Drinan's blog here.

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