The great concert violinist Niccolò Paganini (1782-1840) was standing before a packed house, surrounded by a full orchestra. He was playing a number of difficult pieces, and he came to one of his favorites, which was a violin concerto.
Shortly after he was under way and the Italian audience was sitting in rapt attention, one of the strings on his violin snapped and hung down from the instrument.
Relying on his genius, he improvised and played on the next three strings. To his surprise (and the conductor’s as well), a second string broke. Now there were two dangling as he again began to improvise and play the piece on the two remaining strings. You guessed it! Almost at the end of this magnificent concerto, a third string snapped. Now there were three dangling, and he finished the piece on one string.
The audience stood to their feet and applauded until their hands were numb. They never thought to ask for an encore; they expected to leave. But Paganini held his instrument high in the air and said, “Paganini and one string,” and he proceeded to play an encore with the full orchestra.
He made more music from one string than many violinists ever could do on four. The difference, of course, aside from his superb abilities, was one of attitude. Instead of falling to despair and self-pity, Paganini’s splendid attitude allowed him to take a very difficult situation and turn it into a triumph.