“Music in Auschwitz”I Exilarte in cooperation with Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance I May 13, 2024

© Chris Boyes

Dance band arrangements by members of the Auschwitz Men’s Orchestra played by musicians from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance under the baton of Oriol Sans.

Monday, May 13, 2024, 8 p.m.
Jewish Museum of the City of Vienna
Dorotheergasse 11
1010 Vienna

The ten short pieces on this program were arranged by Polish political prisoners who were members of the Auschwitz Orchestra. They used popular German hits of the 1930s and 40s – tangos, waltzes and foxtrots arranged and orchestrated for a dance band that played Sunday concerts for the Auschwitz garrison near the villa of Commandant Höss. The resulting manuscripts, which I began researching in May 2016, are stored in the collections department of the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum. Occasionally the prisoners signed these manuscripts with their prisoner number, e.g. B. Antoni Gargul, a viola player and Polish soldier (5665), or Maksymilian Piłat (5131), a bassoonist with a conservatory diploma who played in the orchestra of the State Opera and the Baltic Philharmonic in Gdansk after the war.

In the musical realization of these manuscripts for tonight’s performance, we retained the original instrumentation as much as possible and made only very small changes in the event of obvious errors. You hear these works, silent for over 70 years, as close as possible to how they sounded in 1942 or ’43 when they were performed at Auschwitz 1. The lines spoken by our singers are taken from testimonies and interviews with members of the Auschwitz Orchestra conducted in the post-war period.

We would like to thank the Copernicus Institute, the Exilarte Center, Dean David Gier, the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance, and the Global Tour Fund of the School of Music, Theater & Dance for making this concert possible.

Patricia Hall, 2020


Oriol Sans, conductor

Musicians from the University of Michigan School of Music, Theater & Dance


Gerold Gruber