Fictional: Ernest Bloch Competition for Young Musicians of Oregon by Virginia Euwer Wolff

  • The Mozart Season
  • by Virginia Euwer Wolff
  • Publisher: Scholastic, Inc.
  • Pub. Date: April 2000
  • ISBN-13: 9780439163095
  • Age Range: 12 and up
  • 256pp
  • Edition Description: REPRINT

School is out and softball season is over and 12-year-old Allegra Leah Shapiro is looking forward to a pleasant summer doing kid things. Then comes a surprise. Mr. Kaplan, Allegra’s violin teacher, tells her she is a finalist in the fictional Ernest Bloch Competition for Young Musicians of Oregon. She’ll compete on Labor Day. ”This is the Mozart season,” Mr. Kap-lan says. So much for kid things. Allegra’s summer-long task is to get her playing of Mozart’s Violin Concerto No. 4, in D into competition shape. But as she delves deeper into the often subtle difficulties of the piece, she also faces vexing questions about life. One of them is a problem of ethnic identity: Her father is Jewish and her mother is a gentile, and her brother David says he and Allegra are never going to be fully accepted by either group. ”Religious Jews feel sorry for us; Gentiles think we’re Very Interesting. We’re outsiders to all of them.” But Allegra has support: loving parents; two close friends; an eccentric older musician with a mysterious past; and perhaps even the spiritual presence of Mozart, who composed the concerto when he was a kid (19 years old) himself. She is also inspired by stories of her great-grandmother Leah, who perished in a death camp in World War II. Virginia Euwer Wolff’s novel, which gathers strength as it progresses, offers intriguing glimpses into the life and work of professional musicians (the author is a violinist herself) while unpretentiously exploring age-old philosophical questions. The ending is quite satisfying. There are no pat answers, but Allegra is a much more mature person at the end of the Mozart season than she was at the beginning.