A Fine Musical Nursery
To those who give generously to art, art is generous in return. To little Alma. -- Selma Halban-Kurz
Little Alma -- "Almschi," as her family called her -- suited the role of celebrity child. With her huge dark eyes and kewpie doll beauty, her hair curled in perfect ringlets, she never failed to make an impression. Within the family she was known for her apple cheeks. Justine dressed her in lace-collared frocks with puffed sleeves and hand-sewn rosettes and taught her the traditional Austrian girl's "Knicks," or curtsy. Visitors to the Rosé home met Alma briefly. Her face aglow, she would make a graceful bow that drew a smile or a courtly kiss on the back of a dimpled hand, then a governess or nanny would whisk her away. Visitors remembered the willfulness on her small face, and perhaps the trace of a pout.
By 1909 Alfred was a vigorous seven-year-old; Alma, at three, was often in his shadow. Alfi did his best to be domineering, barking out orders and demanding to be heard. Using charm instead of bravura, Alma soon learned how to make her presence felt.
The Rosés lived within easy walking distance of Vienna's inner city in the fourth district, known as Wieden -- first at Taubstummengasse 4, then at Strohgasse 3. These were the neighborhoods favored by the dynasties of the Habsburgs' golden days, nobility and gentry from the far reaches of the empire who preferred cosmopolitan Vienna to their holdings in the provinces. Each year, after the autumn hunts at their splendid rural castles, the aristocracy returned to the capital.
Leila Doubleday (later Leila Pirani), a young Australian living in Vienna, recalled her first visit to the Rosés' comfortable apartment. 1 A violin and piano student, she had arranged an audition with the eminent Professor Rosé. Her heart pounding with excitement, she climbed past three levels of apartments belonging to counts and barons to the Rosés' on the fourth floor. A maid