CPR Classical received the news of Alice Herz-Sommer's death yesterday with heavy hearts and joyful reflection. At 110, she was the oldest-living Holocaust survivor and likely the oldest living pianist.
How appropriate, and not surprising, that music was her motivation. It carried her while she was in the Terezin concentration camp north of Prague during World War II.
"Music saved my life and music saves me still," she said. She played Bach on her piano every day, up to her final weeks.
I never had the privilege of interviewing her, but I spoke with her biographer, Caroline Stoessinger, in 2012 for the occasion of Herz-Sommer's 109th birthday.
Even once removed, Stoessinger's stories of overcoming unthinkable adversity through music left one with a profound awareness of its power. Herz-Sommer lived on music, like food or air.
A new documentary about Herz-Sommer called "The Lady in Number 6" is up for an Oscar at the Academy Awards this Sunday. Coincidentally, it's showing at Denver's Sie Film Center through Thursday.
The timing of the Oscar nomination couldn't be better, not just because of her death. Hers is a story the world must know.
If nothing else, it helps us understand the role music can play in realizing the potential of the human spirit.
Monika Vischer hosts weekdays from 10 a.m to 12:30 p.m. on CPR Classical.