"God bless you, my dear". These words were spoken to me by the famous pianist Lili Kraus when I saw her for the last time in 1974 in Perth., Western Australia. Her recital was fully booked, they said. Never mind, I just had to hear and see her. I could not let this opportunity pass by unnoticed. Shortly before the war Lili Kraus gave a concert with Szymon Goldberg at the Art Society ‘Buitenzorg’ at Bogor. This was my first encounter with her subtle piano playing. I was in my teens at the time and apart from enjoying the music, I felt there was a personal warmth exuding from her. As if she wanted to tell me something…. Later, much later I regarded my reaction as youthful adoration.
Not long after the war I heard Lili Kraus for the second time. Her programme was devoted to the then still ‘modern’ composer Bartók. Again I felt that special warmth which, perhaps, enabled me to understand and appreciate this unusual music.Moreover, Lili Kraus had gone through internment in a Japanese prison camp and it seemed as if this experience lent her playing an even greater depth.
So, when in 1974 I heard she was about to give a concert in Perth I was adamant, I simply had to hear her once more. Considerable efforts were required but in the end I managed to obtain a seat in the hall that was packed. And what an experience this turned out to be! The slender, young woman of the earlier days had now matured into a stately, vital figure. Following a thunderous applause she started the concert by sharing her beloved Mozart, her specialty, with her audience. Throughout the entire concert there was’t a sound to be heard, apart from her playing. One could sense the intense contact between the artist and her audience.
After the concert I decided to thank her personally for a wonderful experience. I told her that for the third time in my life, and this time in entirely different circumstances, I had come under the spell of her playing. She wanted to know everything about me, my name and whether I had still contacts in Indonesia. She smiled and said something in Malaysian and then she wrote some heartfelt words in my programme. Even though I was not the only one wishing to talk to her, she gave all her attention to me and it seemed as if she was in no hurry to end our conversation. When we finally parted, she embraced me, kissed me and said "God bless you, my dear". We both had tears in our eyes.
The people surrounding us must have thought we were old friends, and somehow this was a feeling we both had, even though we did not know each other personally. I will always remember Lili Kraus, and this is certainly not a case of youthful adoration.