Review by Charlotte Leamon
Roger Peltzman is a pianist from New York sharing his family’s story of escaping the Nazis in World War 2. With nothing more than a piano and screen projections, Peltzman delves into a one-hour monologue assisted by classical music.
He begins by recounting how his mother, Beatrice Stern, escaped the Nazis by fleeing outside a bathroom window whilst her brother Norbert, mother Flora, and father Mayer were taken to Auschwitz. Peltzman’s style of narration was informal, which allowed the audience to feel as though they were there living the story in real time. The projections helped ones imagination and were valuable in putting names to faces, and places into mind. As Peltzman walked around the stage, he told the story of his uncle who was a budding musician and pianist. Taking the world by storm and winning competitions since he was 13 against university students, he was simply a musical genius. Once Peltzman discovered this through his mothers story telling, he was captivated and intrigued.
Peltzman decided late in his life (late in music years as he words it), that he wanted to be a musician. Through tumultuous hardships, including the death of his father, and later in life his mother, he discovered his trauma and PTSD inherited from his mother and her experiences. He starts to research into his family by visiting Auschwitz and finding their names in a Belgium part of the site. He received their belongings, and delved into the past of his distant family, whom he knew not much about. Unfortunately, after Beatrice escaped all three of the Sterns were taken to Auschwitz, where they all met their end too young, Norbert only being 21 years of age. After researching Norbert more, Peltzman felt a connection through their mutual love of music and piano. One woman living in Brussels named Ghislaine Hennessey reached out to find Beatrice, however she came across Peltzman. Soon hereafter, Peltzman visited Hennessey in Brussels and played on her Steinway in which Norbert played too when he was living with her. Peltzman speaks of the moment of fear and pressure as he was reliving the traumatic past of his family.
In the evens that followed, Peltzman curated a concert in honour of Norbert. He performed and recorded it in Berlin at the Conservatoire Royal de Bruxelles where Norbert studied and received a medal from the King. Once the recordings were finished, Peltzman took it to his piano teacher where they both could hear a moment in which Norbert took over and began to play.
Throughout the performance, Peltzman’s style of storytelling was captivating and touching. A heartbreaking story was told beautifully through images and music. The beautiful quotes that were projected throughout this story were moving and created a beauty within this tragic story.