Late in World War II, violinist Gottfried Keller is taken to a nearby concentration camp to play recitals for a select group of inmates. At first this seems similar to other Wehrmacht assignments, when he has been called to play for wounded soldiers at various hospitals. He soon learns that this time is very different. He is to play a crucial role in the Kommandant’s experiment designed to re-inject some measure of hope into the souls of the catatonic camp prisoners. Gottfried finds, however, that he is as much a part of the experiment as the inmates, as memories of forgotten Jewish colleagues and a lost love come flooding back.
This debut novel is a story of shared guilt, an examination of how the individual reacts when confronted with evil. As his world of music interweaves with the stark realities of a world gone mad, Gottfried struggles with the answers. Ultimately they prove to be as deep and complex as the pieces he plays, the meaning of which seems as elusive as the perfection of their rendition.
The author is a world-renowned violinist, a member of the Emerson String Quartet. Portions of this story are drawn from the author’s own life as well as his father’s experiences in early Nazi Germany. They add poignancy to a tale that seems at times ethereal and transcendent, not unlike his beloved music. Although the story is compelling and thought provoking, it is the descriptions of Gottfried’s playing that resonate most fully.