“Are you coming to see the Amati bass at the Palacio Real?”

I didn’t know of any famous bass in Madrid; I’ve been there dozens of times… an Amati? It’s the rarest of double basses from the 17th century! It seemed unbelievable. “Skeptical” only began to describe my feelings. I was sure we would find some broken-down Spanish imitation. It’s the end of the tour; I’m tired, I need some time for shopping and some sleep before the concert.

“Come on, here are the photographs.”

The photos from the internet weren’t too convincing.
Against my better judgment, and perhaps as a compromise to Eran’s youthful enthusiasm, he is about half my age, I agreed.

We set off for the Palace, and while I waited in line for tickets, Eran went to the information desk. “We want to see the Amati contrabass.”

“Yes, the King has a collection of Stradivarius violins.”

“No, we want to see the bass. It’s an Amati and I have photographs.”

“Well, ask for a ticket to the picture gallery.”

At the head of the line we asked for “Picture Gallery”.

“Only Stradivarius…”

“No, we don’t want violins! We want the CONTRABAJO! (using the Spanish pronunciation.)
“No, there are “Picture Gallery” tickets only: special guided tour…this part of the Palace is not open to the public!”
Eran went back to the information desk. The lady went to the guard and asked when the next guided tour is in English. “They can come back at two o’clock.”

“Excuse me Madam, but we are musicians from the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra…Zubin Mehta!! We are playing for your Queen this evening and we can’t come back at two o’clock!!”

That did the trick! She picked up the phone to the Museum director. After a hurried explanation, she asked us to wait 2 minutes. The call came back; the information office was closed, “Please, come with me.”

We followed her into the museum, past the Chinese tourists, behind those thick red ropes that block doorways, through silent galleries, down a corridor that was being renovated, stopping at a double door with the King’s crest. “We wait here for a moment.”

A guard appeared and he pulled out a key 30 cm. long which looked like it had last been used in the Inquisition. We were let in to the private instrument collection of the King: harps, pianos, guitars, string instruments, and in the second room…. Wow!…lay an absolutely gorgeous double bass looking more Amati than I could ever imagined! The bass is preserved in a large glass case. The photos say it all, but there’s no way to convey the feeling of being in the presence of a genuinely rare and especially beautiful instrument. Unlike the King’s “Strad” quartet which is taken out every month for concerts, it never gets played…such a pity!

We had 5 minutes to see the bass and photograph before being escorted out! What an honor!

Eran’s perseverance and his quick thinking really paid off in a big way!

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