“The Violins of Hope mentioned in the title of this release are not those belonging to violinist Daniel Hope, but rather the violins played here, instruments owned by Jews prior to World War II; some made it to Palestine, while others were played in the concentration camps. They have been restored by luthiers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein, father and son, as part of a larger educational project. The degree to which Violins of Hope will connect with listeners depends on the individual, but the chart success of the album suggests that it has done so strongly. The main attraction is a new work written for the project by Jake Heggie (who also serves as executive producer), setting texts by his frequent collaborator Gene Scheer that tell the stories of the instruments. This is a powerful narrative device (try the E. Annie Proulx novel Accordion Crimes for a full-scale realization), and Heggie's vocal lines, sensitively realized by mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, effectively depict the stories, with many small details emerging from a fairly restricted vocabulary. Hope is joined by an ad hoc string quartet that excels in the works by Schubert and Mendelssohn that fill out the program. PentaTone's live sound from the Kohl Mansion in suburban San Francisco, which commissioned the Heggie work, is exemplary. This is a release that one may imagine being used in educational enterprises for years to come.”
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