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Violins of Hope
Robert DAUBER (1922-1945)
Serenade (1942) [3:20]
Ernest BLOCH (1880-1959)
Baal Shem: Nigun (1923) [7:36]
John WILLIAMS (b.1932)
Schindler’s List: theme (1993) [4:06]
Julius CHAJES (1910-1985)
The Chassid (1939) [4:19]
Bestemming: Triumph (2014 arr 2019) [6:45]
Szymon LAKS (1901-83)
Trois pièces de concert (1935) [11:57]
George PERLMAN (1897-2000)
Dance of the Rebbitzen; Suite hebraïque; movement 2 (1929) [2:36]
Paul BEN-HAIM (1897-1973)
Berceuse sfaradite (1945) [3:28]
Three Songs without Words (1952) [9:50]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Deux mélodies hébraïques: Kaddisch (1914, arr. Lucien Garban, 1924) [4:42]
Niv Ashkenazi (violin)
Matthew Graybil, Sharon Farber (piano)
Tony Campisi (narrator)
rec. 2019, Great Hall at The Soraya, California State University, Northridge, USA
No texts.
ALBANY TROY1810 [58:37]

Violins of Hope is an artistic and educational project that uses instruments owned by Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust. The violins are living instruments and have been played by leading players – Shlomo Mintz, Daniel Hope – and major orchestras alike. Niv Ashkenazi holds a violin, a modern instrument made at some point between 1900 and 1929, from the collection on long-term loan, the only player so to do.

He has constructed an appropriate programme that mixes canonic pieces with newer works and previously little-known ones. Starting with Robert Dauber was a good move, as his Serenade, composed in Terezin in 1942, is his only known surviving work. He was the son of Dol Dauber, a well-known jazz fiddler and bandleader; try in the context of the current disc the album on CD ZMP011, put out under the auspices of the Jewish Museum in Prague and devoted to Dol Dauber’s arrangements of classical pieces and Jewish liturgical music. His son’s Serenade has effusive romanticism but speeds up with athletic alacrity. Bloch’s Nigun was perhaps a given. Ashkenazi’s fiddle may lack some weight but the performance is more authentically Jewish in tone and expression than many you’ll hear.

Ashkenazi studied with Perlman at Juilliard and uses his own fingering and bowing for John Williams’ theme from Schindler’s List as the great man, as related in Ashkenazi’s notes, refused to share his own, and not for bad reasons. Julius Chajes’s The Chassid was a favourite of Mischa Elman, who recorded it for Vanguard in his sunset years. Elman is much more leisurely, as he was wont to be, but still brings lashings of colour, notably to the introductory passages that no one today could possibly replicate. Elman also played and recorded George Perlman’s evocative Dance of the Rebbitzen, the second movement of his Suite hébraïque of 1929, which was dedicated to the young Yehudi Menuhin.

For this recording Sharon Farber has arranged the finale of her cello concerto Bestemming: Triumph for violin, piano four-hands (she joins Matthew Graybil) and narrator Tony Campisi. It tells of a friend of the composer, Curt Lowens, who saved more than 150 Jewish children and two American airmen. This arranged segment whets the appetite to hear the whole work in its concerto context. The increasing number of recordings of the music of Szymon Laks attest to his standing. Whilst the Trois pièces de concert hasn’t survived in its original violin version, the cello version did survive and so consequently Judith Ingolfsson reconstructed the violin part in 2010. Strikingly charming and witty in the outer movements, its central Romance sports a lovely lied with a Hassidic B section, its light elegance bound by a cadential passage toward the end.

Paul Ben-Haim is represented by his Berceuse sfaradite and Three Songs without Words – the first a Sephardic lullaby and the second descriptive of Middle-Eastern scenes, mixing stasis and attractive lyricism, the final panel sounding like an amalgam of Bloch and Ravel, whose Kaddisch Ashkenazi and Graybil also play.

This finely programmed disc, well recorded, offers repertoire spanning a century and has two fine interpreters spearheading the recital.

Jonathan Woolf

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