Image Credit: Leo Geyer

Society England4. January 2024

“The Orchestras of Auschwitz”: This Musical Quilt Honors Holocaust Prisoners

The remnants of more than 200 musical scores arranged and played by orchestras at Auschwitz concentration camp have been “recomposed” into a piece by a British conductor to honour the victims of the Holocaust and make sure that the horrors they experienced are never forgotten.

“It’s the equivalent of several hundred jigsaw puzzles, except many of the pieces are missing,” explains British composer and conductor Leo Geyer. “It requires a certain amount of musical detective work to put the pieces together, to recompose missing parts, to discover the music.”

The project started in 2015 as research for the composition Geyer was commissioned to create to honour the memory of historian and Holocaust expert Martin Gilbert. It then led to hours of research, multiple visits to Auschwitz, and several interviews with survivors to piece together the remnants of 210 musical scores of varying levels of completion arranged and played at the concentration camp. The result is an opera-ballet called “The Orchestras of Auschwitz,” which is part of a larger awareness and fundraising campaign for a stage production and tour of the piece, possibly ready for audiences in 2025. “With this project, I hope to encourage the public to commemorate and learn from history so that we can do better. Change happens when we stand together.”

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