Honour for Auschwitz cellist

Honour for Auschwitz cellist


norman lebrecht

June 14, 2016

The indefatigable Anita Lasker-Wallfisch has been awarded the MBE in the Queen’s 90th birthday honours list.

Anita, also 90, survived Auschwitz as a player in the women’s orchestra. She came to London after the war as a refugee, co-founded the English Chamber Orchestra and has served ever since as a moral presence at the heart of English music life.



Among other music honours:

a knighthood for Universal chief Lucian Grainge for services to business and inward investment;

a knighthood for Simon Robey, outgoing chair of the Royal Opera House;

Companion of Honour to Dame Vera Lynn, singer;

CBE for composer John McLeod;

CBE for Paul Lewis, pianist;

CBE for Colin Lawson, director of the Royal College of Music;

OBE for lawyer and impresario Ian Rosenblatt, 56, founder of Rosenblatt Recitals;

OBE for Alison Balsom, trumper virtuoso.



  • Alan Dawson says:

    So after surviving the horrors of Auschwitz and then a lifetime of service to British music, this lovely lady gets a paltry OBE, whereas Rod Stewart, after a lifetime of making money for himself, gets a knighthood. Well played Dave, all in this together, eh?

    • Britcellist says:

      Yes, it is an aberration. How quickly people forget past history and instead are taken in by the outward trappings of celebrities. Who makes these decisions? If it’s the government, then I could understand the good old boys’ club having a hand in it, but if it is the Queen, I would be deeply distressed and surprised by her choices. She has the knowledge and should stand up for her less-famous subjects.

      • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

        It is the government. Please contact the Prime Minister’s Office with your grievance. I suggest you do it quickly, before the Brexit referendum. He might not be in power the day after.

    • Halldor says:

      No comment on this particular instance; just bemused by the re-emergence of that old snobbish equation – pop musicians “make money for themselves”, classical musicians give “lifelong service to music” (and nothing as vulgar as money, of course, changes hands…).

      A L-W is a phenomenal individual; you don’t need to belittle others to make that point.

  • M_von_Kolinahr says:

    Rod Stewart et al. aside (… yes, there may be a point there, I certainly know who I’d prefer), I watched Ms Lasker-Wallfisch in Christopher Nupen’s 2003 “We Want the Light” documentary (about the role and contribution of the Jews in the development of the Austro-German music tradition over the centuries – which was just the beginning of the whole discussion, of course) and also Stephen Fry’s “Wagner and Me” documentary, and found it fascinating to listen to what she had to say in both of those, as well as elsewhere – a very, very sharp and intelligent person indeed. Whatever way, I’m delighted to hear she’s been honoured.

    • Raphael Wallfisch says:

      Actually my mother received an MBE! She certainly deserves CBE, but these awards are very nice to receive and generally pretty randomly given. Several musicians receive high honours simply for playing their instruments well, giving very little else to the community at large.

  • Nick says:

    Agreed, it is the fact of an honour rather than the pecking order that is surely important. These pop stars usually get their K’s because they generate lots of foreign exchange and/or for charitable activities. I missed Christopher Nupen’s film, but Ms. Lasker-Wallfisch also appears with more remarkable memories in the 2014 Oscar-winning documentary “The Lady in No. 6”.

    • M_von_Kolinahr says:

      “The Lady in No. 6” – I must look out for that one! Christopher Nupen’s film, meanwhile, also comes in an immaculate DVD package with literally hours of extra (bonus) interviews, with the often very well-known participants expressing a wide range of different perspectives. The core documentary itself is only about an hour long, but Ms Lasker-Wallfisch is featured very prominently at a couple of points (as is Mr Lebrecht for that matter!), as well as for about seven minutes in one of the extra interviews. There’s a particularly exhaustive review of the whole thing here: http://film.thedigitalfix.com/content/id/63055/we-want-the-light.html

    • David Boxwell says:

      She also appears in “Wagner and Me” throwing VERY subtle shade at Wagner and Wagnerians like Stephen Fry.

  • Malcolm Kottler says:

    There are many places where you can watch Anita Lasker speak about her experience in the Women’s Orchestra at Birkenau.

    The longest interview I know (2 hours) is here. It was conducted in 1998:


    You should also read her autobiography entitled: Inherit the Truth.

    • M_von_Kolinahr says:

      … I must have a look at that long online interview, I’ve seen others with her, but not that particular one! – meanwhile, her autobiography is indeed on my wish list. 🙂

  • Britcellist says:

    I don’t object to Rod Stewart getting an award, he must have done good deeds to have been chosen. This has nothing to do with pop or classical cultures and should not have anything to do with money. It’s all about people. I am
    curious to know what makes him worthy of a knighthood in comparison to an OBE? It seems to me that so much publicity is given to pop stars (good or bad) and not much for those who have given so much of themselves or been through great trauma and made good lives for themselves.

  • Andrew says:

    And there’s STILL no knighthood for Julian Bream. Unbelievable.

    • Nick says:

      Anyone know if he was awarded one and turned it down? Several major artists have declined honours, including Vaughan Williams, Alan Bennett, Peter O’Toole and Paul Scofield.

  • Richard Boothby says:

    Another immigrant taking our jobs. Vote Brexit to keep these foreigners out.

  • Maya Jacobs says:

    I am Anita’s daughter so know her pretty well, and think it fair to say she is an optomistic cynic..she is also a rem arkable person whom the Queen had the honour of meeting at Belsen last year. The optomist in me would like to think that if Her Majesty , had made the connection, or been given the chance to, she would {I hope}have made her a Dame..that really is the only fitting public honour she deserves

  • Maya Jacobs says:

    I shuld add, I am not quoting her, just ‘knowing her’.