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Musician/author Gerald Elias, right, has just released a memoir on e-book.

E-Book Review: 'Symphonies & Scorpions' by Gerald Elias

By Stephen DanknerSpecial to iBerkshires
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Musician/author Gerald Elias is widely known by Berkshires classical music aficionados for living a double artistic life as a violinist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, performing at the BSO's Tanglewood Music Festival each summer, and also being the gifted author of six classical music-themed mystery "whodunits": "Devil’s Trill," "Danse Macabre," "Playing With Fire," "Death and the Maiden," "Death and Transfiguration" and "Spring Break."

Now, Elias has just released his first downloadable e-book, "Symphonies & Scorpions." A memoir, he has subtitled it "Ramblings of a Wand'ring Minstrel on the Boston Symphony's Far East Tour of 2014."

Elias's narrative describes in compelling detail his travels with the BSO on their two extensive trips to the Far East – the first, in 1979, and the second, in 2014. Readers familiar with the author's fiction will be engaged by the same fascinating storytelling combined with his perceptive backstories and asides about life on the road for 100 symphony musicians, their attendant administrators and patrons across continents and 12 time zones, to exotic and wondrous locales.

Elias, his pen (or word processor) in hand and seemingly ever at the ready, chronicles memorable experiences that situate the reader alongside the author and his BSO confreres as they travel, negotiate unyielding security checkpoints, perform in Asian concert halls both unaccommodating and spectacular, dine on exotic food (e.g. scorpions on skewers) and much more – all while performing Mahler, Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninov. It's an amazing journey – actually nothing less than a musical odyssey of discovery. Readers will share with the author the trials, tribulations and ecstasies he experienced.

In the book's introduction, he writes: "In Symphonies & Scorpions you'll glimpse both the glamour and the drudgery of an international concert tour. You'll sit next to me on the hallowed stage of Symphony Hall in Boston and in concert halls in China and Japan for four weeks of rehearsals and concerts, meeting my congenial and occasionally cantankerous colleagues, listening to the Maestro's words of debated wisdom. You'll fly with me nonstop from Boston to Tokyo, dine on succulent Peking duck, squirm through Beijing alleys crowded with scorpion vendors, and be spiritually restored in a Tokyo park floating in tranquility."

Is this not enticing? An unforgettable trip of a lifetime, to be sure. With beloved classical symphonic music as both the conduit and a shared bond, Elias describes how the love of this art form, performed so masterfully and with such commitment by the Boston Symphony, unites people and breaks down barriers.

I would recommend this book to all inveterate travelers, as well as culture vultures – all those seeing adventure in faraway places, yet where people are, as Elias writes, "overwhelmingly friendly, intelligent, accommodating and caring."

"Symphonies & Scorpions" by Gerald Elias was a joy to read, and I highly recommended it. To download "Symphonies & Scorpions," as well as two Kindle Editions and an audio CD of his Daniel Jacobus musical mysteries, go online here.

A former violinist with the Boston Symphony and longtime associate concertmaster of the Utah Symphony, Elias has performed on five continents as violinist, conductor, composer, and teacher. Since 2004 he has been music director of the Vivaldi by Candlelight concerts in Salt Lake City, and continues to perform with the Boston Symphony at their Tanglewood summer festival. He was first violin of the Abramyan String Quartet from 1993-2003 and has been a faculty member of the University of Utah School of Music since 1989.

His Daniel Jacobus mystery series takes place in the dark corners of the classical music world and has won extensive critical praise. His debut novel "Devil's Trill," a 2009 Barnes & Noble "Discover: Great New Writers" selection, and his second award-winning novel, "Danse Macabre," were recently released as unique audio books produced by Alison Larkin Presents, with music performed by Elias, receiving high praise from AudioFile.

The sixth installment of the Jacobus series, "Spring Break," was released in the summer of 2017 by Severn House. I also wrote about that and wrote that the mystery is "wonderfully and imaginatively conceived, written and plotted, and is a joy to read." The prestigious Strad magazine wrote, "a very deftly written murder mystery … guaranteed to please." Elias's short stories, provocative essays, and reviews have graced a growing number of diverse and distinguished anthologies and online journals, from Ellery Queen Magazine to Opera magazine.

A native New Yorker, Elias resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, and West Stockbridge, Mass., where he continues to expand his musical and literary horizons.

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