A multimedia Concert Documentary with Exhibit, Videos & Print Materials
about human perseverance under oppression
Berlin, 1933: 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 Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Enlightenment. Dozens of
Kulturbund chapters soon form, by 1935 becoming the sole public access
for Jews still in Germany. Early members of its Leipzig branch include
three young Jewish
concert pianists and their music-loving businessman husbands.
classical music, narration, archival projections and post-performance audience Q & A, Two Pianos follows the friendship and
careers of Jewish pianists Anna Burstein Bieler-Suwalski
Halina Neuman Schulsinger (1908-1999), who like their friend Tanya Zunser Ury (1907-1988) played Leipzig Kulturbund concerts for segregated Jewish audiences under the
Third Reich. Piano selections these formidable pianists played are performed on two grand
pianos by Stanislava
Varshavski and Diana Shapiro, artists-in-exile whose
stories echo the characters'.
Two Pianos highlights
its principals' tenacity, passion and devotion to
talented student “alien residents” at Leipzig's famed Conservatory founded by Felix Mendelssohn, Anna, Halina and Tanya mastered new
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 for the rest
of their long lives.
Two Pianos premiered June 2018 at Philadelphia's Settlement Music School, where Anna taught piano for nearly four decades. Subsequent performances with scripts similarly tailored to the venue were presented in Leipzig Germany (June 2019), where Anna and Halina met and married; and Rutgers University-Newark (October 2019), where Halina joined the music faculty after reaching America. Our first post-COVID (and first open-air) performance at the spectacular restored Untermyer Gardens-Yonkers NY (May 2022) broadened the story to include Anna's older sister, pianist Rebecca Burstein-Arber, and what happened when Rebecca crossed paths on Mt. Scopus with progressive Zionist millionaire Samuel Untermyer, the Gardens' founder.