Meyer comes home on the afternoon of the concert to hear Ida practicing. He’s sweating in his work clothes, but the music arrests him immediately. After a few weeks of intense practice, Ida has recovered some of the agility she’d had as a pianist in Hungary. Ida claims that her career is over and she can never be a professional in Australia, but Meyer thinks this pessimism is her “revenge” on Fate for the tragedies of their life. Meyer thinks that for her, this performance is a show of gratitude to Fate for sparing Frank’s life. Like many performers, Ida is superstitious, especially about her work.
The contrast between Meyer’s manual labor and Ida’s frantic practicing is a reminder that hard work of any kind shares common value and dignity. Meyer’s respect for his wife’s gift and his understanding of her inner motivations is touching; it’s also notable given the obtuse and self-centered attitudes of many of the novel’s husbands, such as Jack Briggs.
Meyer enters the living room to see a sweaty Ida playing in only her slip, her hair messy and untied. She tells Meyer that she’s out of shape and her playing would never be accepted in Hungary, and Meyer reminds her that her audience won’t know enough about classical music to judge. Ida retorts that even ignorant people “respond to excellence” and that therefore it’s “a sin” to perform if one can’t perform well. Meyer loves the haughty but unstinting pride Ida takes in her work. He turns on the heater for her bath.
Even though Ida’s frequent and unfavorable comparisons of Australia to Hungary seem snobby, she’s actually driven by the very egalitarian sentiment that anyone can and should appreciate great music. Her determination to measure up to Hungarian standards is therefore endearing, a sign of respect towards the Australians she often claims to disdain.