Michi­gan pro­fes­sor res­ur­rects mu­sic from Nazi death camp

Re­search leads to new per­for­mance based on the work

Hartford Courant (Sunday) - - From Page One - By Jeff Karoub As­so­ci­ated Press

DETROIT — Pa­tri­cia Hall went to the AuschwitzBirke­nau Mu­seum in 2016 hop­ing to learn more about the mu­sic per­formed by pris­on­ers in World War II death camps.

The Univer­sity of Michi­gan mu­sic the­ory pro­fes­sor heard there were manuscripts, but she was “com­pletely thrown” by what she found in the card cat­a­logs: Un­ex­pect­edly up­beat and pop­u­lar song ti­tles that trans­lated to “The Most Beau­ti­ful Time of Life” and “Sing a Song When You’re Sad,” among oth­ers.

More de­tec­tive work dur­ing sub­se­quent trips to the Pol­ish mu­seum over the next two years led her to sev­eral hand­writ­ten manuscripts ar­ranged and per­formed by the pris­on­ers, and ul­ti­mately, the first per­for­mance of one of those manuscripts since the war.

“I’ve used the ex­pres­sion, ‘giv­ing life,’ to this man­u­script that’s been sit­ting some­where for 75 years,” Hall said. “Re­search­ing one of th­ese manuscripts is just the be­gin­ning — you want peo­ple to be able to hear what th­ese pieces sound like.

“I think one of the mes­sages I’ve taken from this is the fact that even in a hor­ren­dous sit­u­a­tion like a con­cen­tra­tion camp, that th­ese men were able to pro­duce this beau­ti­ful mu­sic,” she said.

Sens­ing the his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance of res­ur­rect­ing mu­sic for mod­ern au­di­ences, Hall en­listed the aid of univer­sity pro­fes­sor Oriol Sans, di­rec­tor of the Con­tem­po­rary Di­rec­tions En­sem­ble, and grad­u­ate stu­dent Josh Devries, who tran­scribed the parts into mu­sic no­ta­tion soft­ware to make it eas­ier to read and play.

Last month, the en­sem­ble gath­ered to record “The Most Beau­ti­ful Time of Life” (“Die Schon­ste Zeit des Leb

ens”), and it per­formed the work Fri­day dur­ing a free con­cert at the univer­sity.

Hall be­lieves the piece, a pop­u­lar fox trot of the day, was per­formed in 1942 or 1943 by the pris­on­ers in front of the com­man­dant’s villa for Sun­day con­certs for Auschwitz gar­ri­son.

Al­though the pris­on­ers didn’t com­pose the songs, they had to ar­range them so they could be played by the avail­able in­stru­ments and mu­si­cians.

Based on the pris­oner num­bers on the man­u­script, Hall has iden­ti­fied two of the three ar­rangers: An­toni Gar­gul, who was re­leased in 1943, and Maksy­mil­ian Pi­lat, re­leased in 1945 and later per­formed in the Gdansk Sym­phony Orches­tra.

They were Pol­ish po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers.

The record­ing will be­come part of the Auschwitz-Birke­nau Mu­seum, which re­cently ob­tained a ba­ton of one of the in­mate orches­tra’s con­duc­tors.

Dur­ing 1940-45, some 1.1 mil­lion peo­ple, mostly Jews, died in Auschwitz-Birke­nau’s gas cham­bers or from hunger, dis­ease or forced la­bor.

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