Alice in Adar; Ullmann at Neue Galerie

Posted on Mar 4th, 2014 by Jeanne Golan

Just a month ago, I’d told an audience that one of my delights in playing Ullmann’s Fourth Sonata was turning to its opening page and finding the little note Alice wrote me next to the dedication to her.  I often think of the afternoon I spent with Alice Herz-Sommer, then a mere 107 yrs old.  (Here’s a smidge of the video from that day.)  In the cold call I made to her a few weeks prior to ask if I might visit, she told me to come over “right away, this afternoon!”  With me in NYC and her in London, I booked the soonest flight I could, but that first long-distance conversation already revealed her ability to bring out the best in people and curiosity to learn of me as much as I wanted to learn of her.  (More about this in the Dec 2010 & Jan 2011 blogposts.)

She passed away this week, as it turns out on the same date on the Hebrew month of Adar as my father.   They shared many traits and concerns; both were guided by the devotion they felt for the things they loved and believed in, and had irrepressible senses of humor.   So I lit two candles and felt rich for being touched by each of them.

Alice also won an Oscar last night (The Lady in Number 6), which means she and her inspiring life can touch others as well.  For a musician, the mitzvah we look to is to have art resonate with those around us, so it’s wonderful to think that others can experience some of what I did sitting and talking with her in her living room.

As for Ullmann, who initially brought me to Alice in my quest to know him better (their friendship spanned from school days to professionals in Prague and finally being imprisoned at Terezin), March 27 at the Neue Galerie is on the horizon!  David Garrison and I will present the Rilke monodrama Die Cornet, which we had a magical time with at Roulette last month.  In Rilke Reimagined,  this piece will be heard in a whole new way.  Designed for the café/cabaret, its companion pieces are an assortment of songs by Alma Mahler and Ullmann that feature other Rilke poems, as well as nods to popular music of the time that Ullmann quoted in his last pieces in Terezin.  There’s even a birthday-gift cakewalk from 1943 that he playfully credits to “Victoire Ullmann, Baron de Tannfels, Village du Therese”.  Victory indeed!!  Here’s the link – scroll down a bit to find it –é-sabarsky

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