Professor Ann Elliott-Goldschmid, first violinist of the Lafeyette String Quartet at the University of Victoria, wrote about idea of playing intense and demanding music in a concentration camp:
One wonders if the date chosen for the Beethoven Abend was purposeful: March 27th, the day after Beethoven’s death. Significant?
The program ends with the “Kreutzer” Sonata, dedicated to one of the most famous violinists of the day Rudolf Kreutzer (violinists the world over know him intimately). Until Beethoven, the violin and piano were hardly equal partners in the world of duo Sonatas; the piano dominated in almost all ways with only a one or two minor exceptions in the “late” works of Mozart. Nothing had been written like the Kreutzer before and nothing has superseded it. It is the greatest sonata for Violin and Piano ever written.
A virtuoso work for two, Beethoven stretched this idiom maximally. The falling hymn-like opening for solo violin, written in double and triple stops is answered, in the minor, by the piano who questions the devotional statement of his partner. From this simple, yet profound opening the duality of the human experience is explored in almost operatic proportions.
To be able to play this sonata in the best of circumstances requires strength of will and body. Practising and rehearsing a work like this is an enormous challenge for both performers. It gives me some peace knowing that the in the hours of preparation, the focus and energy required for the musicians to bring the Kreutzer up to performance level would have provided each musician welcome relief from the realities of the world around them.
This performance by Yuja Wang and Joshua Bell is astonishing; now, imagine this extraordinary and demanding music being played under the conditions, both physical and psychological, that Alice Sommer Herz and Herman Leidesdorff had been living in for for more than a year.
What a miracle that that concert, in the Terrace Hall in Westgasse 3, could take place at all.