Auschwitz prisoners’ music The Most Beautiful Time of Life unearthed and performed
A US university lecturer has uncovered sheet music performed by a prisoner orchestra in the Auschwitz concentration camp during World War II — titled The Most Beautiful Time of Life.
- The sheet music was reportedly used as dance music for the Auschwitz garrison
- Three prisoners worked together to create the light foxtrot
- The prisoners are believed to have escaped the death camp
University of Michigan music theory Professor Patricia Hall discovered the light foxtrot — based on a song by German film composer Franz Gothe — during a research trip to Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland in 2016.
Professor Hall told National Public Radio (NPR) the music manuscript was performed by prisoners in the Auschwitz men’s orchestra, adding it was most likely used as dance music for the death camp’s garrison.
“I just couldn’t imagine what a title like it [was] doing in a death camp,” Ms Hall told NPR.
Struck by the song’s optimistic title, Ms Hall said she decided to bring the piece to life by making a professional recording of it at the University of Michigan.
Professor Hall spent a year working on the piece with music theory graduate Joshua Devries.
Together, the pair transcribed the handwritten manuscript so that it could be performed by a live orchestra.
It was during this process that she noticed three prisoners had written certain parts of the music out in ink.
The University of Michigan’s Contemporary Directions Ensemble performed the light foxtrot for the first time since 1943. (AP: Christopher Boyes)
Two of the piece’s creators wrote their prisoner identification numbers on the piece, allowing Ms Hall to track them down.
The first, Antoni Gargul, was a Polish soldier and violinist.
The second, Maksymilian Pilat, was a professional bassoonist who had conservatory training.
Both were political prisoners who survived Auschwitz.
Professor Hall spent a year working on the piece with music theory graduate Joshua Devries. (AP: Christopher Boyes)
While Professor Hall was unable to track the third composer down, she said she believes he also escaped the Polish death camp.
The unearthed composition was performed for the first time since 1943 at the University of Michigan on November 30.
The new recording will be added to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Museum’s collections, according to the Smithsonian magazine.
Professor Hall told the publication the arrangement “relates us on a very emotional level to some of the things prisoners endured and how they were able to create beauty nonetheless”.