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I note – with some anxiety that my noting will jinx him – that Roger Federer is into the quarter finals of the Australian Open without having lost a set.  He plays Andy Murray next.  I don’t expect that he’ll beat Murray (who has beaten Roger more often than Roger’s beaten him), but one can hope.

The word is that Roger Federer was quite the hothead when he was a teenager, and that it was only when he learned to control his temper, or direct his fiery passion for tennis in a more productive way, that he began to achieve greatness on the court.  Federer seems to possess a kind of two-chambered athletic heart, one filled with fire, the other with ice.  The result is beautiful: fire and ice on command, not slush.

Claudio Abbado, the great Italian conductor, died yesterday.  I never saw or heard him live, but heard enough recordings to respect him greatly.  The characteristic sound of an orchestra under his leadership was warm and expressive, with at least some of that warmth coming from what is said to have been his ability to develop close relationships with the players in the orchestra.  He had, according to Leonard Bernstein, whose assistant he was in the early 1960s, “conductor’s eyes.”

And yes, you can read the phrase “conductor’s eyes” with a knowing wink if you want to.  It was true.  Abbado made music on and off stage.  Hs second child, Misha, was the result of his relationship with the charismatic violinist Viktoria Mullova (30 years his junior).

Mullova, I confess, is a musician who has always had a tremendous power over me, even as she has been dismissed by others as an Ice Maiden.  But those that consider her cold are just plain wrong; she, too, has a two-chambered heart, one stoked with fire, the other with ice.

Whether you’re talking tennis, music, or music made in the bedroom, great things come from fire and ice – and it ain’t slush.