Varshavski-Shapiro Piano Duo and The Jüdische Kulturbund Project present “Two Pianos: Playing for Life”, a unique production of live classical music, readings and projections. 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. The roles of Anna and Halina are read and played by Diana Shapiro and Stanislava Varshavski. 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.

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.

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 founded about 1980 by Anna’s daughter Tania Haftel.