Heartbreak, tenderness, denial, and an ultimate acceptance of the inevitable

Luthiers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein, founded the Violins of Hope project with the intention of bringing back to life violins that had been owned and played by Jewish musicians before the Holocaust. By allowing these invaluable instruments to be played today Amnon and Weinstein shed light on Jewish music history.

The Quartettsatz c-Moll (Quartet Movement in C minor) was composed by Franz Schubert in December 1820 as the first movement of a string quartet he did not complete. It occupies a segment of the superb PENTATONE MUSIC CD (PTC5186879 – UPC: 827949087967) which features Daniel Hope, Sean Mori, Kay Stern, Dawn Harms, Patricia Heller and Emile Miland  variously playing with a perfect mix of commitment, passion, mature musicality and elegant nobility the Quartettsatz, Jake Heggie’s song cycle Intonations, with mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke as the peerless soloist, and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 6 in F minor.

Composed in 1847 and completed before he died two months later on November 4, 1847, Mendelssohn dedicated his last string quartet as a Requiem to the memory of Fanny Mendelssohn, his beloved sister, who had died just months before him.

All three of the works featured in this recording are uniformly dark-hued, soberly melodic, and often voiced in minor tonalities. All of the four movements that make up the Mendelsson quartet – three disquieting Allegros, one elegiac Adagio – are all imbued with a tragic tone.

Intonations: Songs of the Violins of Hope, a song cycle for mezzo-soprano and string instruments by Jake Heggie uses texts by Gene Scheer inspired by the stories of the Jewish musicians who played their violins in the concentration camps during one of mankind’s most terrible times.

Both the Schubert and the Mendelssohn works express impatience with the inexplicable aspect of mortality, while Heggie’s mature work uses Gene Scheer’s text to at certain moments lament, at others question the very meaning of life and death. Divided into seven segments, three of which feature the plangent voice of mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke Intonations: Songs of the Violins of Hope achieves the very essence of song as art in Feivel simultaneously conveying heartbreak, tenderness, denial, and an ultimate acceptance of the inevitable.

Rafael de Acha