"IT'S a good thing I played the violin otherwise I would probably be in jail."
It's not the usual introduction a consummate, classical music maestro might admit to, but Attilla Sautov is not your average violin virtuoso.
The entertaining Uzbekistan-born Australian, who "liked to talk", had a small group of music lovers entranced on Monday evening by the skills he began honing as a four-year-old in his home city of Tashkent.
Initially taught by his father, the heavily accented Eastern European touched on his rather colourful years growing up where he "broke a few noses for the girls" and would practise violin for between seven and 10 hours a day from age eight.
"Now I am 38 and still learning today," Attilla said to the audience scattered among the first few pews of Grafton's Christ Church Cathedral.
What he still has to learn was lost those present to witness what was a fantastical display and interpretation of masters like Sebastian Bach, as well as a few of his party tricks and stories along the way.
While an early battle with the local lorikeet strains echoing through the chamber on this steamy night ensued during the Bach recitals, it was shortlived, and was all clear for landing when the program's highlight - the Niccolo Paganini Caprice numbers began after interval.
These pieces showcased the synergy between Sautov and his instrument through a memerising display, a whirlwind of seemingly impossible but sublime sounds that appeared effortless to retrieve from just four strings. The whimsical delivery and theatrical element to this lively performance just as impressive as Sautov's finesse with the violin.
The finale was a Henryk Wieniawski piece played in unison with his manager and freelance violinist Anna Moores, whose glamorous presence on a Monday evening in Grafton was refreshing on this humid evening. Their delivery of this "backwards forwards piece" (Sautov played forwards, Moores backwards) was mechanically perfect as they chased one another through the composition, meeting at beginning and the end.
The handful of violin students were fascinated by the Brisbane-based teacher who "makes playing fun". His early demonstrations and knowledge about the pieces he was about to perform gave a fascinating insight into his craft. "It is harder to play slower, and easier to play faster with the violin," he said while providing a practical display.
An audience member brought in his handmade violin after interval and Sautov obliged by dishing out a quick rendition of Amazing Grace to bring the dormant object to life.
After an exquisite couple of hours, including generous, multiple encores - "you can burn 170 calories from one hour of playing", he said while sweating it out - you could sense the man behind the music genuinely loved to play violin.
He also liked to entertain and with his commanding accent, if not completely interpretable in some patches, and the grand Gothic surroundings in which we sat, it was easy to feel you had been transported back to his homeland for a couple of hours.
Sautov said he would be back in September with one of his Eastern European friends for another concert. Let's hope there will be more ears there for him to enthral next time.
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