Recreating the concert that never was

On May 3, 1943, one of Germany’s most gifted young pianists was expected to give a recital at Heidelberg University. Karlrobert Kreiten never turned up.

He had been arrested by the Gestapo for making anti-Hitler remarks, reported by a zealous neighbour. Tortured and abused, he was tried by the Nazi judge Roland Freisler and condemned to death by hanging, along with 185 others.

Kreiten, a Dutch citizen, was 27 years old.

Next week, the pianist Florian Heinisch and author Moritz von Bredow will tour Germany with what should have been Kreiten’s Heidelberg recital – works by Bach-Busoni, Chopin, Mozart, Beethoven and Liszt.

Tour dates: Bonn (19th), Cologne (21.6), Dusseldorf (22.6), Bremen (24.6). Heidelberg (26.6), Hamburg (27.6), Munich (29.6), Berlin (30.6)

kreiten

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  • Kreiten was in earlier years a pupil at the Stern Conservatory of Claudio Arrau, who recalled him thus: “…a great, extraverted virtuoso who was making a tremendous career. He was not Jewish…but at a party, he said, ‘I don’t know why people worry about the war, because it is already lost.’ The Nazis took him away in the middle of a concert the next day.” (From Joseph Horowitz’s Conversations with Arrau.) This at something of a turning point in the War. As the regime realised that their prospects of victory were dimming, they unleashed on the home front a ‘war’ against ‘defeatism’. Kreiten was an early victim of that. By some 18 months later, they were so obviously obsessed with their notions of defeatism, that arrests became more and more indiscriminate. Eventually, even Furtwangler went in fear of arrest. In that last year, the Nazis were in the throes of a grotesque melange of desperation and paranoia. The results can still break one’s heart 70 years later.

  • Sometimes SD takes-on the air of a graveyard, but this I would not want to have missed. Wonderful, wonderful playing, although the manic-drunk ‘An der schöne blaue Donau’ with the hysteric Fingerspitzenpirouetten is a bit of a waste. But in those times, such pieces were well-deserved deserts after the audience’s diligent seriousness.

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