For Agi Rado, music eased the nightmare of the...

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

December 05, 1993|By Jean Marbella

For Agi Rado, music eased the nightmare of the Holocaust

When Agi Rado was freed from the concentration camp in 1945, the child found herself all alone. Her entire family had died at the hands of the Nazis.

But she still had her music. "Every night I had nightmares," the pianist says. "But the daytime was spent in music."

Ms. Rado survived the Holocaust to become a renowned concert pianist who has performed the world over. Yet this afternoon's sold-out concert at the Baltimore Museum of Art will mark the first time she has spoken publicly about that dark period in her past.

Which is why the title of the program, "A Concert to Remember," is particularly appropriate. The concert is sponsored by the Baltimore Jewish Council, several other Jewish organizations and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Archbishop William H. Keeler will be honored for promoting understanding of Judaism among other groups.

Ms. Rado, who lives in Guilford, says it has only been recently that Americans seem more open to hearing about Hitler's attempt to extinguish her people.

"Time is not infinite," says Ms. Rado, who declines to give her age. "Those of us who were there . . . have to share our experiences."

In her native Hungary, Ms. Rado first studied piano with her mother and later became a protege of composer Zoltan Kodaly. She lived with a family friend after the war and moved to the United States in 1956, settling in Baltimore six years later. She returned to Hungary in 1985 after years of struggling with her conflicted feelings about her homeland.

"I wanted to make peace with my past," she says.

It's a past that informs her performances now. "I'm basically attracted to works that are dramatic and romantic. I'm attracted to dramas more than comedy, things where you can cry."

Forget the sharks. Forget the sting rays. Remember P.I.T.A.

stands for Pain in the Ankle, the G-rated nickname of a 160-pound, squid-sucking hawksbill turtle that paddles around the National Aquarium.

"We watch him more than anything else. He climbs all over you and sticks his face in your face," says 65-year-old Ed Truter, one of the aquarium's 99 volunteer divers.

You might have seen Mr. Truter. You might have stood over him and pelted him with questions while he was treading water in the Atlantic Coral Reef tank and taking a breather from shoveling krill and smelt at the locals.

Oh, Mr. Scuba Diver, is it dangerous down there?

The answer, over and over again, is "no."

"It's not a hostile environment -- no Purple Hearts involved," says Mr. Truter, a retired assistant school superintendent from Pennsylvania.

The rays occasionally bump the divers, but their stings are trimmed (and grow back like toenails). The divers wear meat cutter's gloves in case a ray or shark mistakes an index finger for a herring. And Mr. Truter wears a bathing cap when he dives; it keeps the rays from nibbling the top of his head.

For about four years, the Annapolis resident has volunteered three hours each Tuesday to work in this huge fishbowl. Besides providing food service, Ed Truter cleans tank windows and sometimes pretends to wring out his wash cloth -- under water.

The kids get a kick out of that, he says.

Rob Hiaasen

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