Violins of Hope - Heggie, Schubert & Mendelssohn
Violins of Hope presents instruments that were owned by Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust, representing strength and optimism for the future during mankind’s darkest hour. They have been refurbished by luthiers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein, founders of the Violins of Hope project. On this album, recorded live at Kohl Mansion, the instruments are used to perform two string quartet masterpieces by Schubert and Mendelssohn, alongside a new composition by Jake Heggie, inspired by the violins’ histories.
Schubert’s unfinished Quartettsatz is often considered Schubert’s first mature work, and displays a typically Schubertian mix of impetuous agitation and sublime lyricism. Mendelssohn wrote his Quartet in F Minor as a “Requiem” for his deceased sister Fanny, not knowing that – tragically enough – he would follow her fate only two months later, at the age of 38. These two captivating works are performed by Kay Stern, Dawn Harms, Patricia Heller and Emil Miland, who join forces with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, violinist Daniel Hope, and the young violin talent Sean Mori on Heggie’s INTONATIONS: Songs of the Violins of Hope.
The recording took place in the context of Holocaust Memorial Day 2020. Jake Heggie has a vast PENTATONE discography, including the opera It’s a Wonderful Life (2017) and song recital albums by Jamie Barton (Unexpected Shadows, 2020), Melody Moore, Lisa Delan and Joyce DiDonato. Sasha Cooke returns to PENTATONE after having featured on Mason Bates’ Grammy Award-winning opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs (2018). Daniel Hope, Sean Mori, Kay Stern, Dawn Harms, Patricia Heller and Emile Miland all make their debut on the label.
The world premiere of Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer's Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope headlines this extraordinary concert, performed entirely on instruments owned by Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust. The cycle, which tells the stories of instruments revivified by the Violins of Hope Project, begins with "Ashes," about a violin whose case was filled with the ashes of those burned in the ovens, and ends with "Liberation," inspired by the Liberation of Auschwitz. One of the most moving songs, "Motele," recounts the tale of 12-year-old violin prodigy Mordechai "Motele" Schlein. With excerpts from Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto weaving through the accompaniment, we learn that Schlein, who did not survive the war, smuggled gunpowder in his violin case to create a bomb he detonated in the basement of a Nazi Officer's Club.
Sasha Cook's warm, emotionally direct voice is perfect for these songs, and the heart-touching theme Heggie fashions for the final song is reminiscent of great tunes of the romantic era. How perfect, then, to conclude with Schubert's Quartettsatz in C Minor and Mendelssohn's last String Quartet, completed months before his death.
Catalog Number: PTC5186879
Composer: Felix Mendelssohn, Franz Schubert
Performer: Dawn Harms, Emil Miland, Kay Stern