Council of War
Experience and reflection pitilessly presented me with the blackest, most hopeless view of the world; longing, intuition, and the revelations music brought me were the only things that calmed and consoled me. -- Bruno Walter
One cold December morning in 1941, the composer Géza Frid and his wife were surprised by a telephone call from a woman whose name Rosé-- they recognized, although they did not immediately recall meeting her previously. She reminded Frid that they had met the year before at a house concert, when they had talked about the terrors of bombing, a raid on Italy in particular. She asked if she could visit him at home in Amsterdam and possibly play some music with him; she said she would bring her violin.
Frid extended an invitation, and on the appointed day Alma appeared at the door, her cheeks bright from the winter wind. Frid and his wife recalled greeting a tall, strikingly attractive woman who was "perhaps a little overweight." 1
Frid was thirty-seven at the time and known internationally as a composer of works drawing on Hungarian folk music and as a pianist and interpreter of Bartók, who with Kodály had been his teacher in Budapest. Frid had settled in Holland in 1929 and built an outstanding career; he had known Ravel and Debussy and played with orchestras conducted by Pierre Monteux, Serge Koussevitzky, and Willem Mengelberg. With some reverence, he recalled hearing the Rosé Quartet playing in Hungary when he was a youth. 2
After polite preliminaries and a warm drink, Alma and Frid began to play together. Four decades later, Frid remembered the pleasures of the encounter. In his lifetime, he said, he had played with a hundred and twenty of the world's foremost violinists, and Alma remained prominent in that company. "She was such a special somebody . . . such a pleasant person to play with. She didn't put herself ahead of another artist. She was not a show-off. It went so wonderfully