By Greg Cahill | From the March-April 2021 issue of Strings magazine
Father-and-son Israeli luthiers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein founded the Violins of Hope project to restore stringed instruments that had been played by Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust, including some that had been used in Nazi concentration camps. British violinist Daniel Hope has devoted the past decade to help educate audiences about the role these instruments played in that dark chapter of history. This live concert album, recorded at the Kohl Mansion in Burlingame, California, finds Hope performing along with a string quartet comprising Kay Stern (first violin), Dawn Harms (second violin), Patricia Heller (viola), and Emil Miland (cello).
The tracks include Schubert’s moody Quartettsatz in C minor, D. 703, and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80, a requiem for his deceased sister Fanny. But it is the world-premiere recording of Jake Heggie’s Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope (with text by Gene Scheer)—with the aforementioned players, plus violinist Sean Mori and mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke—that is of greatest interest.
Each of the seven movements features one or more of the restored Holocaust instruments and is composed to express the unique story of that instrument. For example, “Exile” evokes the plight of Erich Weininger, who, during his ocean voyage from Germany to Palestine, faced the possibility that his cherished violin would be thrown into the ship’s boiler to provide fuel for the last leg of his journey. Ultimately, this hi-definition SACD-format recording celebrates resistance to authoritarianism and the resilience of the Jewish people.
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