A 90-year-old Holocaust survivor made his orchestral debut with renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma on Tuesday in Boston to benefit a foundation dedicated to preserving the work of artists and musicians killed by the Nazis.
Ma and George Horner received floral bouquets and a standing ovation from their audience of about 1,000 in Symphony Hall. They appeared to enjoy their evening, chatting between numbers and walking off the stage hand-in-hand after taking a bow together.
Before the performance, Ma thanked Horner for helping the Terezin Music Foundation, named for the town of Terezin, site of an unusual Jewish ghetto in what was then German-occupied Czechoslovakia. Even amid death and hard labor, Nazi soldiers there allowed prisoners to stage performances.
Ma and Horner played music composed 70 years ago when Horner was incarcerated.
"It's an extraordinary link to the past," said concert organizer Mark Ludwig, who leads the foundation.
Horner played piano and accordion in the Terezin cabarets, including tunes written by fellow inmate Karel Svenk. On Tuesday, Horner played two of Svenk's works solo — a march and a lullaby — and then teamed up with Ma for a third piece called How Come the Black Man Sits in the Back of the Bus?
Svenk did not survive the genocide.
Horner is a retired doctor who lives near Philadelphia. He was surprised to be asked to play with Ma. "I couldn't believe it because it's a fantastic thing for me," he said.