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The Fortune of the Hour

1950 Society: Concert before Christmas in the Synagogue of Ichenhausen

The 1950 Society organized an Advent evening with the pianist Professor Sontraud Speidel in the synagogue of Ichenhausen. She played works by Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Liszt, and Robert Schumann. Snow, rain, and slippery streets were forgotten, when Ichenhausen’s restored Baroque synagogue (which had been destroyed in 1938 as were all synagogues in Germany), and reopened as a house of friendship somewhat more than one year ago by the cooperation of many persons, appeared in a bright light. Staying under the star with 16 beams, which is reminiscent of the canopy of heaven together with many little stars and the blue color, is a great experience. Annegret Bock was right, when she said in the beginning: The Angel announced Christmas in the Jewish Bethlehem. What would be more obvious than preparing oneself for Christmas, and recalling the sense of Christmas sincerely, at exactly that place, after the terrible incidents 50 years ago? Everyone had ample time for reflection.

The eyes, emotions, and feelings were addressed long before the first note sounded. The commercialization and kitsch of Advent was far away.

Solemn and spiritualized, Sontraud Speidel began the "Aria Variata alla Maniera Italiana" in a minor, BWV 989 by Johann Sebastian Bach. Was it the fortune of the hour, a lucky chance, or just the excellent interpretation of the artist from Karlsruhe, that everything was right from the first note and the first themes on? The light, the colors [the pianist, the star on the stage, of course a part of the large room-painting, which encloses the audience], the architecture, and the ornaments harmonized with the sound in an unique manner. The acoustics, which was found as somewhat problematic in the recent concerts with string ensembles, was faultless during all performances of this piano evening: the lid of the grand-piano was in the right direction, and the vault of the ceiling reflected smoothest pianissimo chords as well as loudest fortissimo ascents with nice harmony and without any blur or disturbing echo [the feedback at the beginning, caused by the microphone at the speaker’s desk, which inadvertantly was not switched off, was soon recognized and turned off].

Bach’s Aria was well suited for answering unanswered questions, which were addressed in the spoken introduction, and which must be acknowledged by everyone in this room. The clear phrases were full of depth, and the wide bows of tension were well reflected, all variations were related to each other. Some ornaments of the room seemed to be repainted, and the details of the colored glass windows gleamed and sparkled in the music.

A different world was entered in Franz Liszt’s "Variations on a Theme of Bach": weighty theme, filigreed and distinct the variations. The “Weeping, Crying, Sorrow, Sighing” touched one’s most inward emotions, but it was far from despair. The loneliness of the Crucifixus increased greatly until the Chorale, which went through many variations, spoke the formal and final answer.

In the “Great Sonata in f minor, op.14” [Concerto Without Orchestra] by Robert Schumann, the outstanding technique of the artist was fully displayed: absolute accuracy, keen rhythm, elegant ornaments, precise coordination of the hands, even the most difficult passages were absolutely perfect! Was there really no orchestra? The Allegro and the Scherzo lived by the rhythms, and the Andantino expressed Clara Wieck’s destiny in many variations from her husband’s perspective: a very spiritualized interpretation full of love and affection. The Prestissimo at the end of the Sonata was very effective, but also full of personal magnetism.

The artist returned the favor for the vivid applause, by playing one of the “Songs Without Words” by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy.

(bw) Suedwestpresse Ulm

Translation: Dr. Jürgen Rodeland, John Nisbet