Sliding doors

Kurt Maier was born in Germany in 1911, and became a skilled pilot. He fought with the Luftwaffe during the Second World War, and rose to the rank of Major. He was awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves, for bravery and leadership. Perhaps surprisingly, Maier survived the war.

All the above is true, but that was another Kurt Maier.

The Kurt Maier who plays the piano on this record was a Jew.

He, too, was born in 1911, but in what was then Czechoslovakia. By the time the Nazis seized the Sudetenland area of Czechoslovakia in 1938, he was a successful musician. He escaped to the relative safety of Prague, but at the end of 1941 he and his mother were deported to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt, and later to Auschwitz. His musical skills kept him alive: he played in the camp band. He was transferred to a slave labour camp, and then again to Buchanwald. Astonishingly, this Kurt Meier also survived the war.

Amazing the different paths a life can take.7069 Maier 1964 A CU

In 1946 Maier migrated to the United States, and became popular pianist in the night club scene. He took the classical works he had grown up on, and arranged them with a jazz-tinged up-tempo flavour. This could easily be gimmicky – a sort of early model Hook On Classics – but it actually works well.

Piano Favourites was released in 1964, though the recordings are almost certainly older. It was one of those EPs that people would stack up on the radiogram and play at parties. And played a lot it has clearly been – it is a bashed and battered old thing. But like Kurt Maier, it has survived, and it carries an astonishing and inspiring story.

The track here is Maier’s ragtime take on Antonín Dvorak’s “Humoresque”.

  • Artist: Kurt Maier
  • EP Title: Piano Favourites
  • Track: A3 “Humoresque” (Dvorak)
  • Format: 7” 45 rpm
  • Label: Bravo BR 332
  • Manufactured in: Australia
  • Year: 1964

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