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The conductor, Professor Auderith said:
“‘Goldner, don’t you realise what has happened? You cannot play with us anymore.’ I went home in a daze. It was only days later when things had started to happen that I fully realised that the odds for survival had become very slim indeed. It was only then that I was suddenly overcome with terror and a fear as I had never known in my entire life. It was the spectre of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra with all the SS uniforms which crowded my mind.”
Skilled musicians, rather than amateurs, progressed the evolution of the string quartet in tandem with the interest of serious composers such as Boccherini, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. All were largely responsible for the arrival of the classical quartet-style associated with Vienna. This was the Vienna absorbed by Richard Goldner. He later surmised that there was probably at least one violinist for every building in the city, so great was the enthusiasm for string instruments.
Having been granted a safe haven in Sydney, Goldner decided to ignore local antipathies. Even many years later, when more was known about the Nazi death camps, he “would not dwell on the horror, the cruelties, the atrocities of the times. Much has been reported and much has been written about it,” he wrote. ”I would much rather tell about the beautiful and heroic experiences I had in my charmed life, the unsung deeds, which in the midst of all the horror made me proud to belong to the human race.”
One day, as the brothers were preparing to pack up Natty Novelties, Richard Goldner was in the front office when there was an unexpected knock on the door. The man outside in uniform produced the usual feeling of terror in Goldner for whom all uniforms in Nazi- occupied Austria meant Gestapo and concentration camps. But this man at the door had been led to the factory because of the newspaper and newsreel stories. The refo from Vienna had become a local hero – not as a musician but as a successful businessman whose resourcefulness was soon to be put to very good use.
“The door-bell [at home] rang and, as I opened the door, there stood these two huge and hefty men. They identified themselves as CIB plain clothes detectives… ’Where is your radio and transmitter?’ one of them demanded. ‘People have reported you.’ One of the detectives looked inside the record player and said: ‘I don’t understand all the wires and things, we are police not engineers.’” The Goldners offered them a cup of coffee which they gladly accepted and friendly chatter followed. It turned out that the detectives were reformed ex-criminals who got the jobs with the CIB because they knew the ‘underworld’. “Then they taught us two-up, explaining that it is the fairest gambling game and only forbidden because the government can’t collect taxes.”

When Goldner realised on the day of the debut performance of Musica Viva that a blackout was imminent, he wandered the streets in a daze trying to come up with an answer. When he found himself at the offices of the national broadcaster in Darlinghurst, he remembered he had sent an invitation to the concert to the general manager, Charles Moses, and he decided to call on him for help. Moses had been a colonel in the Army and had not yet been de-commissioned. “He was enormously sympathetic” wrote Goldner. “After thinking for a while he said: ‘Listen, this concert must happen.’ ‘Yes’ I said, ‘but how if there is a ban on electricity [use]?’ ‘Of course we must have lighting. Let’s get a few people who own cars to place themselves in front of the Conservatorium and light up the front of the building with their headlights. Everybody nowadays has a hurricane lamp. Let’s get 13 or 15 into the foyer to light it up.’”
There seems little doubt that the audience for Musica Viva’s first concert in 1945 was capable of appreciating Beethoven’s Great Fugue – no “cattle” and “asses” here. This was, by now, recognised as a key work in the historical development of the classical string quartet at the heart of chamber music. The fact that it played such a pivotal role in the first Musica Viva concert also draws attention to several events that put Australia itself into the story of the developing worldwide appreciation of the string quartet. Some of the world’s first public chamber music concerts were heard in Sydney, and early 20th century technology – gramophone records and broadcasting, which were to re-privatise chamber music by bringing it into peoples' homes – had an early take-up by the national broadcaster, helping it play an important role in Australians’ music education.
After the War there was a surge in refugee immigration over which Melbourne-based Paul Morawetz had some influence. With a colleague, Arthur Masel, Morawetz had met the Minister for Immigration, Arthur Calwell, who agreed that 2,000 survivors of the concentration camps would be admitted in the 12 months from August 1945. Many of these refugees settled in Melbourne and some were accommodated from time to time at the country property, 'Terinallum', in western Victoria. The Nicholas family had agreed with Lindsay’s wife Hephzibah Menuhin that this was a contribution they should make and from 1947 concerts were held so often at 'Terinallum' that Hephzibah’s eldest son Kron believed that Musica Viva started in their music room.
In 1951 Musica Viva had to cease operation for four years as it had run out of money. 1955 began the build-up of an organization that quickly showed the breadth of social value achievable when there is a shared sense of purpose to do with love of fine music. The driving force was the powerful synergy of four major personalities. They were: Richard Goldner, the founder; Charles Berg, with his business acumen and keen judgement of character; Ken Tribe, classical music buff and lawyer, and Regina Ridge, who for 20 years was the manager kept the growing Australia-wide Musica Viva family together with a firm hand from a small office in Sydney with one telephone and an Underwood typewriter.
Vienna in the 1920s and 1930s was a time of dynamism in chamber music interpretation and progressive compositional ideas. And then there is the spiritual imprint of the Great Fugue, the most radical of all chamber music compositions. The Great Fugue was composed nearly 200 years ago, at a time of revolutionary social change and a time of great uncertainty, rather like our own. Towards the end of his life, Igor Stravinsky said in an interview: “This absolutely contemporary piece of music will be contemporary forever. The Great Fugue is, as rhythm alone, more subtle than any music composed in my own century. It is pure music this fugue and I love it beyond any other.”
“Those amazing suppers – food and drink would materialise from everywhere. I remember being with the Quartetto Beethoven di Roma and being taken back to some cocky’s place or mine agent’s place at the Queensland mining town of Mt Isa, and we had an evening where I think we had about the last of a dozen bottles of Grange Hermitage at about 4am.”