Alma Rose: Vienna to Auschwitz

By Richard Newman; Karen Kirtley | Go to book overview
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You are only as rich as your richness in tears. You are only as free as your success in surpassing yourself -- Franz Werfel

In 1913 excitement pervaded the Rosé apartment in Pyrkergasse. On 18 March, the Rosé Quartet would give the last concert in the soon-to-bedemolished Bösendorfer-Saall, the Viennese home of the quartet for more than thirty years. The hall, the converted riding academy of the Prince of Liechtenstein, had become famous for acoustics with "the resonance of an old violin." 1 Viennese music-lovers were sentimentally attached to it. It was fitting that their famous quartet should have the honor of the last performance in the grand old hall.

The program was the last of a series of six Rosé performances of Beethoven quartets. Included were the Quartets in E-flat, opus 74; C-sharp minor, opus 131; and A major, opus 18, no. 5. Stefan Zweig reported:

When the last measures of the Beethoven, played more beautifully than ever by the Rosé Quartet, had died away, no one left his seat. We called and applauded, several women sobbed with emotion, no one wished to believe this was farewell. The lights were put out to make us leave. Not one of the four or five hundred enthusiasts left his seat. A half hour, a full hour, we remained as if our presence could save the old hallowed place. 2

THE SUMMER holidays of 1913 ended as usual when the Rosé family returned to Vienna for the annual reopening of the opera on the emperor's birthday, 18 August. Arnold would be fifty years old on 24 October -- ten days before Alma's seventh birthday -- and a gala mood was blossoming. There were calls and gifts, plans for dinners and concerts, new dresses and fittings. Letters and telegrams arrived from every corner of Europe.


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