In ode to Jewish musicians in Nazi Germany, noted violinist finishes father's interrupted workRAANANA, Israel (AP) — In 1933, the promising young Jewish-German violinist Ernest Drucker left the stage midway through a Brahms concerto in Cologne at the behest of Nazi officials, in one of the first anti-Semitic acts of the new regime. Now, more than 80 years later, his son, Grammy Award-winning American violinist Eugene Drucker, has completed his father's interrupted work. With tears in his eyes, Drucker performed an emotional rendition of the Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77, over the weekend with the Raanana Symphonette Orchestra.Initially, the Nazi culture ministry granted the Kulturbund relative freedom, so long as its performers and audiences were exclusively Jewish. As the years progressed, however, and the Nazi ideology took deeper root, greater restrictions were imposed until eventually they could only perform Jewish works, with Bach and Beethoven off-limits. The Kulturbund was reduced significantly after the pogroms of Kristallnacht in 1938 — when Nazi-incited riots marked the start of the campaign to destroy European Jewry. Musicians went underground or fled, like Drucker's father, who went to America.In many ways, Ernest Drucker's experience was a watershed moment that made the Kulturbund necessary. As a top student at the Cologne conservatory of music, he was scheduled to play the entire Brahms concerto at his graduation ceremony in the summer of 1933. Shortly before the event, he noticed his name had been crossed off the program. His teacher threatened to resign if Drucker's name was not reinstated, and a compromise was reached with the school's newly installed Nazi administrators whereby Drucker could perform the first movement only before being replaced by a non-Jew. Drucker played in front of rows of Nazi Stormtroopers before being whisked offstage and ultimately into the refuge of the Kulturbund.His violinist son Eugene Drucker said he didn't know if it was "my place to correct a history wrong." But backstage, after the performance, he was clearly moved. "As a musician I feel like the circle is never completely closed," he said. "But I was standing there at one point ... and I really did start to think about my father."
On looking for a performance of this particular opus, I listened to one on YouTube by violinist Lisa Batiashvili and orchestra inside a beautiful historic theater. On imagining myself being a Jewish musician on stage, looking out upon a sea of Nazi SS faces as this soaring, deeply-human piece is played, the bone-chilling fear and cognitive dissonance of such exquisite beauty and unspeakable horror sitting together is nearly paralyzing.Brahms Violin Concerto in D Major, Op. 77 with violinist Lisa Batiashvili
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