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An Die Musik 2000

Photo by Sheila Burnett

Twenty six years ago, Pip Simmons’ unforgettable and disturbing production An die Musik was first performed at the Piccolo Theater in Rotterdam before touring throughout Europe. The production shocked audiences throughout Europe, receiving the sort of universal acclaim that only comes around once in a quarter of a century.

“At Buchenwald, Bergen-Belsen and Dachau there were orchestras of prisoners which played German military marches: music to stir the Nazi ideal and, of course, classical music, to remind him that he belonged to a cultured race that produced Mozard, Schubert, Bach, Beethoven and Wagner. Only a few of those musicians have survived. Among those that have, few still play.”

Elie Wiesel, 1975

In a special collaboration with the Jewish State Theatre of Bucharest, Pip Simmons recreated the production with a company of Romanian actors. On a long tour throughout Europe, beginning in Bucharest, ending in Brussels and including – for the first time – performances in Germany, Pip Simmons and the company of Romanian actors brought this remarkable production to an entirely new generation who gave it the same overwhelming response.

A co-production between Artsadmin, Teatrul Evreisc de Stat Bucharest, Festival d’Avignon, Théâtre de la Manufacture CDN Nancy Lorraine, Rotterdamse Schouwburg and the Hebbel Theater Berlin, in association with Kunstfest Weimar.

“Theatre’s place in the real world may not have much significance, but for those who make it, perhaps there is some kind of responsibility to try and speak the unspeakable: to inform new generations and to make a connection between reality and the way reality is presented to them.”

Pip Simmons/Rudy Engelander, 1999

“This production at The Tricycle should be seen. In offering no hope, no optimism, no redemption, this play could be said to have got closer to the Shoah than any other dramatisation”

John Nathan, The Jewish Chronicle (UK), September 2000

“Emotionally powerful… Kunstfest Weimar has presented a number of projects in memory of its connection with Buchenwald. In this evocative place An die Musik will not be forgotten”

Frank Quilitzsch, TLZ Weimar (Germany), July 2000

“No piece of theatre has distressed me more than An die Musik… The horrors (are) rivetingly acted and sung by Romanian performers”

Nicholas de Jongh, The Evening Standard (UK), September 2000

“You could say that this is unbearable to watch, except that of course, we do bear it. This is art not life. In pushing us to a point of self-exculpation, Simmons transforms a crude exercise in voyeurism into a complex act of soul-searching. An die Musik remains a devastatingly raw example of agitprop that for once challenges prejudice instead of pandering to it.”

Dominic Cavendish, The Daily Telegraph (UK), September 2000

“Grave and hugely powerful… the play suggests that art – such as this drama itself – has no power to console. It is desolating.”

Susannah Clapp, The Observer (UK), September 2000

By Pip Simmons, with music by Chris Jordan, from an original idea by Rudy Engelander.

Photo by Sheila Burnett