D


A production of Papers Please Inc.

TWO PIANOS       

                               playing for life

Anna Burstein Bieler and Halina Neuman Schulsinger, Grado Italy 1936
Two Pianos 2018-19 Performances Overview: Philadelphia, Leipzig, Newark
For individual performance highlight videos, please visit the Two Pianos YouTube

"In view of our present societal situation, not only in Germany but worldwide -- both the renewed growth of nationalism and right-wing radicalism but unfortunately also anti-Semitism -- it is of paramount importance that we take an unambiguous stand.  Our today's event is to show this stand."  

            -- Gisela Kallenbach, Event Sponsor (Director, Synagogue & Jewish Community of Leipzig;  former Member, E.U. Parliament), June 2019 remarks introducing Two Pianos Leipzig events


TWO PIANOS:  PLAYING FOR LIFE

A multimedia Concert Documentary with Exhibit, Video and Print Materials
about human perseverance under oppression

by Nora Jean and Michael H. Levin

The setting

Germany 1933: a beautiful spring marks Hitler’s 100th day in power.  His regime already is working through its kill list.  Its targets include trade unions and German Communists. But its bulls-eye is Jews -- starting with cultural icons like conductors Otto Klemperer (Berlin) and Bruno Walter  Leipzig). Brown-shirts agitate on streets and in audiences.  Concert halls connected with Jewish conductors are padlocked or vandalized.  Jewish musicians are attacked in print, even by mainstream newspapers.  Klemperer and Walter leave Germany.


In Berlin a group of dismissed Jews petitions for a separate organization that will allow suddenly-unemployed Jewish artists to perform for Jewish-only audiences.  The “Culture-League of German Jews” (Kulturbund Deutscher Juden) is approved.  By 1935 it's the sole public access to culture for Jews in Germany.  Goebbels’ Ministry of Enlightenment oversees its administration, performers, audience and programs. Certain ‘German’ composers -- Wagner, Strauss, even Beethoven -- soon are off limits. Still dozens of Kulturbund chapters form, including one in Leipzig.  Its early members include three young Jewish concert pianists and their music-loving businessman husbands.


Public Performances


Two Pianos was developed with the Judische Kulturbund Project (Washington DC), which helped launch its June 2018 premiere at Philadelphia's Settlement Music School. Combining live classical music, narration and archival projections plus a companion exhibit and post-performance Q & A, it follows the friendship and careers of Jewish pianists Anna (Burstein) Bieler-Suwalski (1908-2003) and Halina (Neuman) Schulsinger (1908-1999), who like their friend Tanya (Zunser) Ury (1907-1988) played Leipzig Kulturbund concerts under the Third Reich.  Selections from those concerts are performed on two grand pianos by Stanislava Varshavski and Diana Shapiro, artists-in-exile whose stories echo the characters'.  A multimedia "Back Story" presentation-with-music about how Two Pianos came to be deepens these stories. 


Musical Odysseys


Two Pianos highlights its characters' tenacity, passion and devotion to craft. As talented student “alien residents” at Leipzig's famed Conservatory (founded by Felix Mendelssohn), Anna, Halina and Tanya mastered new languages and cultures. As young Jewish mothers they advanced their professional piano careers while juggling child-care and Nazi restrictions. Their paths soon diverged through flight from Germany on one hand, and deportation, the Warsaw Ghetto and forced-labor camps on the other. They reconnected as naturalized American citizens, teachers and performers, remaining close friends throughout their long lives. 

 

2019-2021 Activities


Papers Please Inc. was founded after the Premiere by Two Pianos narrators to make the characters' power-of-music story more accessible to viewers and readers in the U.S. and abroad. Within a year this site was on-line and Papers Please, with major commitments from local sponsors, brought our Concert Documentary package to the other main stations of the characters' lives:


June 2019: Two Pianos programs are part of Leipzig Germany's "Schalom Week," a city-sponsored week-long welcome for former Jewish residents and their descendants. We produce a highlights video of this event. Our local hosts' invaluable support includes arranging remote printing of an illustrated 32-page German-language brochure that replicates parts of the exhibit.


October 2019: The Institute of Jazz Studies (Rutgers University/Newark) sponsors our Concert Documentary featuring new audio/video clips, an English-language brochure, and an expanded exhibit with tabletop video loops. The full-length DVD includes post-performance Q and A. A highlights video features the dark journey of Halina and her daughter Jola from their forced 1938 deportation, through the Warsaw Ghetto and labor/DP camps, to their eventual Newark homes. 


October 2020: Our new "sizzle reel" wraps performance footage from prior events with an overview (top of this page).


2021: When COVID-19 suspends live performances, Papers Please forms Penn Convoy Press to publish A Border Town in Poland: A 20th Century Memoir (July 2021), a full-length, richly-illustrated nonfiction book that recounts the hairs-breadth adventures of Anna's husband Hirsch, who makes a cameo appearance in Two Pianos. To view highlights of its ZOOM book launch, click here.  Highlights of our April 2022 presentation to the Jewish Genealogical Society of Los Angeles are forthcoming.  For reviews, click here and here and here.   To order A Border Town in Poland, click here.

UPCOMING


28 May 2022:  (rain date 29 May) Our first-ever open-air Two Pianos performance, at Untermyer Gardens (Yonkers NY), once called "the most beautiful garden in America." This program, tailored to the site's history, connects Rebecca's 1927 Beethoven performance at Hebrew University on Mt. Scopus with NY millionaire/Progressive reformer Samuel Untermyer's pledge of $100,000 for a permanent Mt. Scopus stage after that event. Untermyer used the international radio dedication of the Minnie Untermyer Memorial Auditorium (April 1933) to call for a global boycott of Nazi Germany. Shortly afterwards Anna and Halina gave their first Kulturbund concert (Leipzig 1934).  To order tickets for the upcoming event, click here.


July 2022: Publication of a second Penn Convoy Press nonfiction volume -- Firebird: The Musical Life and Times of Rebecca Burstein-Arber (working title). Rebecca (1894-1993), Anna's older sister, captured the Chopin Prize at the Leipzig Conservatory (1912) and the Rubenstein Prize at the famed St. Petersburg/Petrograd Conservatory (1918) amid the Russian Revolutions. A pioneer concert pianist / master teacher, she was honored with the Keys to the City of Tel Aviv (1985) for 60 years' service bringing classical music to her adopted homeland.



SUPPORT US

The Two Pianos Project is a "sponsored project" of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. This relationship allows Papers Please Inc., our umbrella arts/education company, to receive tax-deductible contributions for Project-related activities including the upcoming 28 May 2022 event as well as A Border Town in Poland and Firebird  Charitable contributions to the Two Pianos Project may be made by clicking this link.