FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 1, 2018
For more information, contact:
Michael H. Levin, Co-Producer
TWO PIANOS: PLAYING FOR LIFE
Premiering at Philadelphia’s Settlement Music School
A magical production and exhibit celebrate music’s survival power through the stories of a talented Settlement teacher and her pianist friends in pre-War Germany
Washington DC. The Jüdische Kulturbund Project announces the premiere of Two Pianos: Playing for Life, a unique production of live classical music, readings and projections on Saturday June 9, 2018, at 7 PM at the Settlement Music School’s historic Queen Street site in Philadelphia PA. Admission is free, with a suggested advance donation of $50 per person at: www.judischekulturbund.com/support-and-sponsorship/. Because seating is limited, attendees should confirm promptly at http://evite.me/g1sneYBYuh so the Project can determine whether to add a Sunday matinee to meet demand.
This event dramatizes the story of two talented female pianists — Anna Burstein, born in Kishinev Romania; and Halina Neuman, born in Łodz Poland— who met in 1926 at the famed Leipzig Conservatory as alien residents on student visas.
In 1933 the new Nazi regime banned Jewish artists from performing in public. The unemployed performers formed a semi-autonomous Reich-approved segregated “league of their own.” This Cultural Association of German Jews (der Judischen Deutschen Kulturbund) hired them to keep playing, before all-Jewish audiences. The two Conservatory graduates – by then young mothers juggling careers with family – joined the league’s Leipzig branch and gave two-piano concerts there. Two Pianos recreates parts of those concerts and what came after.
In Two Pianos the roles of Anna and Halina will be read -- and played -- by Astral Artists’ acclaimed Four Hands piano duo Diana Shapiro and Stanislava Varshavski (http://www.piano-4-hands.com/), whose life stories parallel the characters’. The performance will be accompanied by a freestanding exhibit of Anna and Halina's personal documents and memorabilia. It will be followed by a discussion period and a reception.
“We are looking forward to bringing this story to life,” said Gail Prensky, founder of The Jüdische Kulturbund Project. “It was music that sustained these women and fueled their will not just to survive during the darkest hours of Nazi Germany, but to thrive. We hope to take this production to Leipzig and other venues.”
“As the first ‘real American’ in my family, I was raised in Philadelphia with no nearby relatives but with two pianos in the living room and visits from my parents’ colorful emigré friends,” said Nora Jean Levin, Anna’s younger daughter and Two Pianos Co-Producer with her husband Michael. "My parents left Germany in time. We wanted to know how and why. Once we assembled the pieces, we wanted to share what we learned."
“We are very excited to be a part of Two Pianos,” said Four Hands pianist Stasi Varshavski (born in Kharkov Russia). “It is so strange to see how our lives remind each other. . . . This is not another performance for us. It is more than that . . . our soul and heart.”
About Two Pianos’ source material
Jean and Michael Levin spent 40 years capturing her family story and its context through documents and recorded interviews. The results are a private web sourcebook, Papers, Please – A Twentieth Century Odyssey. Two Pianos and its exhibit are drawn from that sourcebook, plus materials saved by Halina and her Hoffman grandsons. Dr. Kenneth Hoffman, a Two Pianos narrator, curated the Halina/Jola materials, whose story is recorded at the U.S. Holocaust Museum and commemorated in the Righteous Gentiles Garden at Yad Vashem, Jerusalem.
About The Jüdische Kulturbund Project
The Project explores musicians and artists living under oppression and how they respond using their music and art. The Project’s story begins with Jewish performing artists in Nazi Germany and connects them to current-day artists around the world, highlighting the role of identity, the power of music, the resiliency of the human spirit, and the will to survive. Two Pianos also is made possible by contributions from Levin-Hoffman families and friends, and by generous in-kind assistance from the National Museum of American Jewish History, the Settlement Music School, and Settlement’s Adult Chamber Players Program (www.settlementmusic.org/acp/) founded about 1980 by Anna’s daughter Tania Haftel.
For more about Two Pianos, see: https://www.judischekulturbund.com/two-pianos-playing-for-life/. For more about the Project, see: www.judischekulturbund.com.