Who was this maestro in the metropolis?

083Who was that dark, curly-haired young violinist we heard playing in Amsterdam–in the Rijksmuseum tunnel on July 20 and near the queue for the Anne Frank house July 21? He was wearing in a loose T-shirt, shorts, and tennis shoes, but he played the most technically demanding and most elegant classical violin concerti, one after another–Tschaikovsky, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Bach–as well as I have ever heard them played and all from memory. He may have looked like an emaciated college student but the beauty of his violin and the tender cradle of its case suggested otherwise.

Most people were walking on by but when the four in our group stopped to listen, a small crowd gathered with us. After enjoying some of the sweetest compositions ever written, I ventured out of the crowd to ask him in English who he was. He said, “Benjamin.”

“Do you play at the Met?”

“I’m not that good.”

“What kind of violin is that?”

“Nothing special.”

I dropped a few Euros in his violin case and backed off to continue appreciating this private concert, thinking, “Yeah, right! You are somebody. I’ve read about you! You’re that famous musician who does subways and street gigs anonymously, delighting the ears of common people with music it would cost them dearly to hear otherwise!”

When we came home I Googled “Benjamin violinist Amsterdam” and when that produced nothing helpful, I tried “famous violinist street performances.” I got sites for Joshua Bell but the pictures of Joshua don’t look like “Benjamin.”

He looks more like a young Gil Shaham–who plays a Stradivarius, by the way–or Hagai Shaham (any relation?) but both are now in their 40s. Gil does concerts with his sister, a virtuoso pianist, and she is on Facebook. Shall I send her this young man’s picture and ask if he’s a member of their family?

Who IS this modest man?



About Jessica Renshaw

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4 Responses to Who was this maestro in the metropolis?

  1. tedrey says:

    Perhaps not, but check out this Austrian Benjamin. You saw him close up. Wait to scan all the pictures of him; his appearance is mercurial.


  2. Hmm. His pictures look good–but the man himself is now 46.

    American-Canadian Benjamin Bowman is 34, closer to the age of the man we saw. His citizenship might account for my not noticing an accent. In any case, Bowman is certainly an appropriate surname for a violinist!

    I’m trying to nail it by checking their schedules. Who could have been in Amsterdam during those dates?

  3. I don’t think that skinny kid looks anything like Bowman. The kid’s hair looks fuller than Bowman’s, and Bowman looks a little more filled out than the kid. By the way, the kid was probably not playing concerti – the violin part wouldn’t make musical sense without the orchestra part, it seems to me.

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