CD Release: Violins of Hope – Live at Kohl Mansion

Burlingame, California (January 19, 2021) — Music at Kohl Mansion is thrilled to announce the worldwide digital release on January 22, 2021 of Violins of Hope – Live at Kohl Mansion, a new album on the Pentatone Music classical label. Recorded live in the Great Hall at the historic Kohl Mansion, the recording features the début performance of composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer’s acclaimed chamber work, Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope. The notable premiere presents renowned international recording artists mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke and violinist Daniel Hope, a quartet of musicians from the San Francisco Opera Orchestra: violinists Kay Stern and Dawn Harms, violist Patricia Heller, and cellist Emil Miland, and introduces young violin virtuoso Sean Mori.

Complementing the Heggie premiere on the album are two masterpieces of chamber music, Franz Schubert’s unfinished Quartettsatz in C minor, D. 703, and Felix Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Opus 80, as performed by the San Francisco Opera Orchestra quartet members.

The album title takes its name from the heroic work of Israeli luthiers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein, co-founders of Violins of Hope, whose work includes the ongoing recovery and restoration of Holocaust-era string instruments previously played by Jewish prisoners in the European ghettos and concentrations camps. To date, the collection consists of 87 string instruments.

In January 2020, Music at Kohl Mansion produced an eight-week residency with 42 Bay Area organizations showcasing more than 50 of these historic Violins of Hope in public concerts, exhibitions, education programs, film screenings and a variety of community programs coinciding with International Holocaust Remembrance Day and the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.

To launch this bold project, Music at Kohl Mansion commissioned Heggie and Scheer for a new chamber work to commemorate the auspicious West Coast début of the Violins of Hope. Supported by a Hewlett 50 Arts Commission grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation and a generous donation by Diane B. Wilsey, Heggie and Scheer’s Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope was given two sold-out world premiere concerts at Kohl Mansion with subsequent hearings in other Bay Area venues.

Front, left to right: Jake Heggie and Gene Scheer
Rear, left to right: Dawn Harms, Emil Miland, Sean Mori, Sasha Cooke, Daniel Hope, Patricia Heller, Kay Stern at the world premiere of Intonations, January 19, 2020. (Photo: Matthew Washburn)

Daniel Hope, Sasha Cooke (Photo: Matthew Washburn)

The live recording of these performances is further distinguished in that all of the musicians performed on restored Holocaust instruments from this priceless collection, including a violin formerly played at one of the notorious Auschwitz-Birkenau camp orchestras. The dramatic work is set in seven sections and is inspired, in part, by the book Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust – Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour by noted author and musicologist James A. Grymes.

The recording can be sampled, streamed, or purchased on Amazon or at additional outlets here.