playing for life


Leipzig -- Germany's former cultural capitol -- was an early socialist and Nazi Party hotbed that historically experienced in-migration from proximity to Eastern Europe.

Leipzig was the first post-Reunification East German city to convene a bi-annual "Jewish Week" at which former Jewish residents driven out during the Third Reich are invited back (along with their descendants) for a 7-day program as City guests.  Leipzig's famed Conservatory and Gewandhaus Orchestra (both founded by Felix Mendelssohn), Thomas-Church Boys Choir (founded by J.S. Bach) and University (founded 1409) draw visitors, students and faculty from across Germany and the world.

Institutional Partners

The idea of bringing Two Pianos back to to the city where it begins came to life when it became a formal project of The Synagogue and Meeting Center Leipzig eV under the direction of Gisela Kallenbach (former Member, EU Parliament and Saxony Bundestag) and her fellow board members.  The Center is part of Leipzig’s interfaith community center, Ariowitsch-Haus, founded 2007.  It serves as a hub for Jewish culture and heritage through holiday celebrations, programming, and Jewish education for the community.

In connection with the City of Leipzig's bi-annual Jewish week, 23-30 June 2019:

7:30 PM, 29 June:   "The Two Pianos Back Story, with Music"  -- Presentation and exhibit featuring Two Pianos narrators and pianists describing how Two Pianos came to be written and produced, in the famed performance salon of music publisher Edition Peters' Grieg Haus, where Grieg, Mahler and other composers published by Peters previewed their compositions.  In 2014 Peters moved its world headquarters back to its original building in Leipzig.  Anna and her friend Tanya held Peters Scholarships as Conservatory students.

11 AM, 30 June:  "Two Pianos:  Playing for Life" -- Performance and exhibit at the Chamber Music Hall of the Leipzig Conservatory founded by Felix Mendelssohn.  In this Chamber Hall (formerly the Small Hall) Anna and her friends performed in student recitals. For a clip from the Leipzig Conservatory performance posted by an attendee, see .

Gisela Kallenbach (Ariowitch Haus) and Gabriele Goldfuss (Director, Office for  International Affairs, City of Leipzig) introduced each of the two events, which were open and free to the public.

Gisela Kallenbach, Introductory remarks at Grieg Haus (English translation by Doris Benner, excerpted)

Finally! The time has come - we can present you a very special project after several months of preparing it.

First, I would like to extend a very warm welcome to tonight's protagonists: the descendants of Anna and Halina, Anna's daughter Nora Jean Levin and her husband Michael, and Halina's grandson Ken Hoffman and his wife Ann from the USA.  . . .

Another special greeting goes to Diana Shapiro and Stanislava Varshavski, our pianists, who have been honored with many international awards.

These concerts would not have been possible if we had not received such great support.  Therefore a big thank you to the following companies and institutions: Europaische Stiftung der Rahn Dittrich Group; KSW GmbH; the City of Leipzig’s departments of international affairs and of cultural matters; Reinwald GmbH; Marriott Leipzig; Hochschule fur Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy (Leipzig Conservatory); Leipziger Notenspur (Leipzig Music Trail).  A warm welcome to all of you.

Today, together with piano music, you will learn a lot about Jewish musicians; their musical roots at the world-renowned Leipzig Conservatory; their personal happiness; and their cruel fate of expulsion, internment and escape. And their new beginnings in the US, their lifelong friendship, and the power of the music that accompanied them.

Nora Jean, Michael and Ken will take us back to the 1930s in Nazi Germany when the Jewish Cultural Union offered the only opportunity for Jewish artists to perform. Michael will impersonate the role of Anna's husband Hirsch; Nora and Ken will tell the story.

But you, dear guests -- we ask you to tell others about what we are learning today - in particular because cooperation with the Henriette-Goldschmidt School through the Verein Notenspur (Leipzig Music Trail) has succeeded in attracting a very young generation to research the lives of former Jewish Leipzig musicians. Originally the students planned to research only the lives of Tanja and Mirjam Zunser. Then it turned out Tanja and Mirjam had been friends of our Anna and Halina -- so it became a project about four former Leipzig women! Who would believe in such pure chance happening?

You will learn more about the result of these works.  You can see original documents from the lives of Anna and Halina in the exhibit cases. You have an exhibit brochure and a program summary in German, so that even with limited English you can read and understand.  Experience shows that personal fates have a much more powerful impact on one's memory than any theoretical education.

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 -- so thank you all for coming.. . .

We also have provided information about our association to you. Ariowitsch-Haus is a Jewish community center in Leipzig that meets with all people of good will.  This is a valuable institution in our city - and is almost unique in all Germany. . .

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The printed Leipzig program, dual-language program inserts, 32-page German-language color exhibit brochure, and professional video filming were made possible by U.S. donations to The Two Pianos Project. To share Two Pianos with a wider audience and encourage additional performance events, we seek Supplementary funds for highlights videos of Two Pianos in Leipzig.  U.S. tax-deductible donations may be contributed to the "Two Pianos:  Playing for Life Project"  by credit card on-line by clicking this link, or by check payable to Fractured Atlas with "Two Pianos:  Playing for Life Project" in the memo line.  For more information, please contact us.