It is a very fortunate privilege to inform you of a record of great musical and historical significance. This is the story of Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, a very young musician whose life was saved by her cello. It is also a testament to life in Auschwitz and the founding of a musical dynasty. Anita Lasker-Wallfisch narrates her own story which is illustrated by music chosen and played by herself, her son Raphael Wallfisch and grandsons Benjamin and Simon. The highlight of the recording is the rarely heard and very beautiful "Requiem" Op. 66 for three cellos and piano by the 19th century Jewish Composer, David Popper. It is played here by three generations of Wallfisch cellists.
Anita Lasker-Wallfisch was born in Breslau (now Wroclaw), to a middle-class assimilated Jewish family and the youngest of three sisters. Her musical talent afforded her the opportunity to learn to play the cello which would eventually save her life. The family’s attempts to arrange emigration before the outbreak of World War II failed, except for an older sister who fled to England. In 1942, Anita’s parents were deported and she was never to see them again. Anita and her other sister were sent to an orphanage. Anita could write in Gothic script, which the Germans used on official documents, so she started to forge papers for escapees. "If the Nazis were going to kill me, I wanted to die for what I had done, not for what I was."
Anita and her sister tried to escape too, but were arrested at Breslau station, imprisoned as troublemakers and deported to Auschwitz/Birkenau in 1943. Her life was saved by becoming the only cellist in the small women's orchestra under the leadership of Alma Rosé, the niece of Gustav Mahler. She played every day, sitting at the gate, accompanying other prisoners in and out of the camp to Strauss’s Radetzky March. They were in Auschwitz for a year, living in a hut opposite the gas chamber.
Anita was transferred to Bergen-Belsen in November 1944 and liberated by the British Army on the 15th of April 1945. She has lived in England since 1946 and became a founder member of the English Chamber Orchestra.
This is the only studio recording of a rare performance with son Raphael and grandsons Benjamin and Simon Wallfisch, celebrated musicians in their own right. As you listen to this musical memoir, it will uplift and inspire you as you remember for the future.
"I had many illusions when I was liberated. I thought that our suffering was an atonement for all time, and that the generations to come would be free from prejudice forever. Alas, I was wrong."
"Testament" by Anita Lasker-Wallfisch is available from Amazon.com, Tower Records & Barnes and Nobel.
Track listing includes:
From Jewish Life: no 3, Jewish Song
Baal shem: 2nd movement, Nigun
Suite for Cello solo no 3 in C major, BWV 1009: 6th movement, Gigue
Suite for Cello solo no 3 in C major, BWV 1009: 4th movement, Sarabande
From Jewish Life: no 3, Supplication
Melodies hebraiques (2): no 1, Kaddisch
From Jewish Life: no 1, Prayer
Requiem for 3 Cellos and Orchestra, Op. 66