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See latest reviews of other albums..., October 2016

This new film, broadcast for the first time on Holocaust Memorial Day, 27 January 2010, was made when Alice Sommer Herz was sharp and wise at 98. In conversation with Christopher Nupen, she speaks in her quiet, brave and straightforward way even when describing shocking events, and movingly plays Schubert, Smetana and Beethoven in a manner reminiscent of Artur Schnabel, who was one of her teachers. The style is redolent of a happier and more confident time in music making and is one which many will find heartwarming. …This is an inspiring film that celebrates the life of one of the world’s most remarkable people. © 2016 Read complete review

Shirli Gilbert
Musica Judaica Online Reviews, August 2010

Christopher Nupen’s film The Wonder and the Grace of Alice Sommer Herz is a labour of love devoted to the power of music, in Terezín and beyond. Nupen aptly calls his film “A Tribute” to its protagonist, a remarkable woman who will be 107 this year and still lives in her own apartment in London. Nupen has known Sommer for over 30 years, and while producing his award-winning documentary We Want the Light deliberately took more interview footage with her than he could use, with the intention of later devoting an entire film to her. The Wonder and the Grace is made up entirely of that interview interspersed with clips of Sommer playing excerpts from works by Schubert, Smetana, and Beethoven (she was still a sensitive and able pianist at age 98, when it was filmed). She recounts parts of her life story, from her early life in Prague and experiences of food shortages during World War I to her incarceration in Terezín, emphasizing throughout the succour and sustenance provided by music. At the heart of the film is Sommer’s remarkable character. She does not harbor any resentment towards Germans, believing “that we are all a mixture of good and bad.” She is a relentless optimist, and unequivocally attributes her longevity to this trait (by contrast to her twin sister “who died at seventy because she was a pessimist.”) With remarkable equanimity, though not without emotion, she talks in the interview about the suffering she endured, including the loss of her mother and her husband, and her struggles as mother to a young son in Terezín, though she stresses that her experiences were incomparable to those of inmates in Auschwitz. Moreover, she suggests that thanks to their access to music, musicians in Terezín were spared the ghetto’s worst horrors: “Theresienstadt was proof of the magic of music.” Throughout the film she affirms, over and over again, that life is beautiful, and declares that the most important lesson she has learned in her long life is “to be thankful for everything.” The film unsurprisingly does not attempt a critical analysis of musical life in Terezín, or indeed any contextualization beyond Sommer’s individual story. It is, simply, an act of homage to adignified, wise, inspiring, and altogether extraordinary human being.

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