Zuzana Ruzickova is one of Europe's most renowned harpsichord players, and has made dozens of recording during a career spanning over a half a century. But 60 years ago, after three hellish years in Nazi concentration camps, she feared she might never play again. Here she recalls coming home from the War to her hometown of Pilsen in west Bohemia, when she was 18.
"We had to stay in quarantine until August. And then when we came home that was very, very difficult. First of all we didn't find any members of my family - 17 members of my family perished in the camps. Secondly I had my career in mind all the time, hoping, and my hands were so badly damaged that my teacher said that there was no hope of my resuming my career as a concert pianist."
Zuzana Ruzickova had been a talented 15-year-old when she was sent to the camps, and at times believed she would never hear music again. So how did it feel when, with her hands gradually on the mend, she was able to sit at the keyboard and play once more?
"Oh, wonderful! That's where I resolved to work and work and work, because I realised that there was no life for me without music. It was awful because I had no technique. It was not very moving; it was rather scary."
But she did manage to get her technique back, and - a decade later - won her first major international competition, in the German city of Munich. Was it difficult playing in Germany, just a decade after the fall of the Nazis?
"To go to Munich was my only possibility to take part in a competition, so of course I went. The difficult thing to resolve was, when I already had my career, whether to play in Germany or not. In the end I thought well, there must be - and I met - quite a lot of people in Germany who were not Nazis.
"And there was such a big culture which Germany had and which it could go back to. I said to myself that if I were an entertainer I wouldn't go, I probably wouldn't go, I wouldn't like to entertain the Germans. But to make the Germans that they had Bach, and the whole spirit of Bach, that I thought was more or less a good thing."
The great Zuzana Ruzickova, who will be appearing at the Prague Spring music festival on June 2.
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