Escape into Excellence
Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way. -- Viktor E. Frankl
During her tenure as leader, Alma revolutionized the women's orchestra. Anita said that it was "like night and day." Even the slight music the orchestra had played before Alma's arrival sounded better under her direction. The ensemble became musical, and its repertoire broadened to include serious classics. Flora, the accordionist, remarked with pride many years later: "I can never forget the 'Emperor Waltz,' where I had a solo twice."
Hélène Scheps, concertmistress of the orchestra (a post she later shared with Helena), testified to Alma's dedication to music:
Alma, with the big talent in a family of artists, was to me a virtuoso with profound musical sensitivity. . . . It was an emotional experience to see Alma's desire to make a true orchestra out of us. She was a complete musician. It wasn't something you can learn, nor something you could study. It was born and bred in her. . . .
Music for her was the most beautiful and most important thing. She worked with a determination that was almost desperate to turn us into an agreeable-sounding ensemble -- with a special sound that I have never found in any orchestra since. When one day we accompanied her in "Zigeunerweisen" by Sarasate, she complimented us because we had played well. It was a reward of great value to us. We were comrades!
My work with Alma was very pleasing to me, because I understood her intentions, and I think that Alma appreciated this receptivity and my work as the first violin principal.
Praise from Alma was as memorable as censure. Fanny remembered: "One day, Alma was playing "Czardas" by Monti on her violin with her back to us.