The Gift of Music

Isolde Ahlgrimm, about one of ther war-time concerts in Vienna, 1945:

“In 1945, on the morning before a concert, the district where it was to be held was heavily bombed. I was sure that it would make little sense even to turn up at the hall, but in the end I decided to make my appearance. I walked through a depressing scene of rubble and broken glass only to find an expectant, hungry and war-weary audience that had also turned up at the hall and I played Mozart, including the D minor Fantasia. Never before in my entire life had music seemed such a divine gift as this evening. For, during this precious few minutes, for both performer and audience, it was just like heaven and every trouble was forgotten”.

(Peter Watchorn: “Isolde Ahlgrimm, Vienna and the Early Music Revival” Ashgate, 2007)

Isolde Ahlgrimm was 31 at that time, Vienna had been occupied by the Russians just a few months ago, the city was permanently bombed, Isolde’s husband was gone missing after being convicted and imprisoned one year earlier for having once said “It would be the greatest misfortune if Germany won the war”. Isolde herself was just able to start perforing again after the occupational ban on her (since her husband’s conviction) and was struggling for a decent living with little or no help from her husband’s family.

She became one of the world’s most important personalities in the field of technique and performance on historical keyboard instruments, yet she is constantly “forgotten” by her younger colleagues who were inspired and guided by her. It’s a shame I never knew about her, until I got my hands on this beautifully written book.

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