On Friday, Nov. 30, an important and poignant moment took place at the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance when their Contemporary Directions Ensemble performed “The Most Beautiful Time of Life” (Die Schönste Zeit des Lebens), a work that was arranged and performed by Auschwitz prisoner musicians but never heard outside the walls of the concentration camp.
Composed by Franz Grothe, the work was brought back to life thanks to the research of Patricia Hall, a U-M professor of music theory, who discovered the music’s manuscript parts, handwritten by inmates, during her research at the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum last summer.
At the first public performance of the work, dedicated to the musicians of Auschwitz-Birkenau, a packed room heard the piece performed as close as possible to how it would have been heard in 1943. Professor Hall, in remarks she made prior to the performance, quoted from one of the many letters she has received since the story went public: “Beauty, art and the human spirit can emerge in even the darkest places.”
As we try to understand all that is going on in our world, DPTV, a longtime partner with the University of Michigan, is proud to share this bit of history with you today.
Additional information on the piece and the University’s effort: