Violins of Hope coming to Cleveland

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

It might be worth a visit to our neighbors in Ohio this fall to check out a project to bring the Violins of Hope to Northeast Ohio. The 45-plus instruments were played by Jews imprisoned in Nazi concentration camps and have been restored by an Israeli violin-maker. The project includes a collaboration between various institutions, including the Cleveland Institute of Music, the Cleveland Orchestra and Facing History and Ourselves. More details about concerts and other events will be announced at a later date; until then, here is the press release:


CLEVELAND – More than a half dozen organizations across the community have come together to bring the historic Violins of Hope to Northeast Ohio this fall. Played before and during the Holocaust, the instruments have been painstakingly restored and serve as testaments to the resilience of the human  spirit and the power of music to lift hearts in even the most horrific of circumstances.

Among the organizations inspired to partner on a project combining performances, educational programs and a major exhibition are: The Cleveland Orchestra, Case Western Reserve, the Cleveland Institute of Music, Facing History and Ourselves, ideastream, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, and  the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage.

“The opportunity to bring these extraordinary instruments to greater Cleveland immediately united organizations and individuals across the region,” said Richard Bogomolny, Musical Arts Association Chairman of the Board and one of the leaders of the Violins of Hope Cleveland effort. “A profound personal story lives within each violin, and together they possess the potential to leave an indelible impact on every person who sees and hears them.”

Details about all of these programs and events, including ticket information, will be available this summer. More details about the project and associated activities can be found at Amnon Weinstein, a second-generation violin-maker based in Tel Aviv, Israel, has collected and repaired  more than 45 Holocaust-era violins from around the world, some with the Star of David on the back and others with names and dates inscribed within the instrument. The violins have been played in concerts around the world, most recently by the Berlin Philharmonic in late January of this year.

The Cleveland visit will mark the violins’ second trip to the U.S. The violins first came to this country in the spring of 2012, when the University of North Carolina Charlotte hosted a two-week visit. UNC Charlotte musicology professor James A. Grymes published Violins of Hope: Violins of the Holocaust – Instruments of Hope and Liberation in Mankind’s Darkest Hour last year and is curating an exhibition of the violins at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage that runs from Oct. 1 through Jan. 3, 2016.

Among the highlights of Violins of Hope Cleveland will be a September concert featuring The Cleveland Orchestra, under the direction of Franz Welser-Möst, which will dedicate newly renovated Silver Hall, part of Case Western Reserve’s Milton and Tamar Maltz Performing Arts Center at The Temple – Tifereth Israel.

“These violins carry extraordinary meaning across generations,” said Milton Maltz, one of those who catalyzed the effort to bring the instruments here. “To have members of one of the world’s finest orchestras play them in the newly renovated Silver Hall, and also have them available to view at the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage, represents a remarkable opportunity for education of people’s hearts and minds.”

Members of the Cleveland Orchestra will play the restored violins, while the Israeli violin virtuoso Shlomo Mintz also will perform with one of the instruments. The hall is named for The Temple’s longtime leader, Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, who also was among the leaders in the effort to establish the nation of Israel after World War II.

“We can think of no more fitting way to mark the opening of Silver Hall than this extraordinary concert,” Case Western Reserve President Barbara R. Snyder said. “We also look forward to hosting extensive public programs featuring our faculty and collaborating with the rest of the organizations involved.” ideastream, the region’s nonprofit public media organization that includes WVIZ/PBS, 90.3 WCPN, and WCLV 104.9 Classical, will record September’s Violins of Hope Cleveland Concert live for broadcast by WVIZ/PBS and WCLV Classical 104.9 radio. ideastream also will develop a half-hour documentary highlighting Northeast Ohio’s experiences with the project as well as individual stories involving the instruments.

“This is a once-in-a lifetime event for the Greater Cleveland community, and it’s essential to record and document the series of Violins of Hope events and exhibitions,” said Kit Jensen, ideastream chief operating officer. ”The live broadcasts and recordings will amplify the amount of people who can participate in this uniquely historic project, both today and in the future.”

Case Western Reserve faculty already have begun planning lectures and programs that will provide students and the broader Cleveland community opportunities to learn more about the complex role of music in concentration camps and the larger religious, cultural and historical contexts involved. The university’s Laura and Alvin Siegal Lifelong Learning Program will play a pivotal role in outreach across the region, and also will join with the Department of Judaic Studies to bring internationally renowned Jewish scholars to speak in Cleveland.

Local students also will have ample opportunity to participate in public programming, and to consider the violins within their classrooms. The Cleveland regional office of Facing History and Ourselves has scheduled teacher workshops and is developing lessons and other materials for Northeast Ohio educators to use. Facing History is an international non-profit education organization dedicated to using lessons from history to encourage students to consider how their own choices can make a positive impact on society. 

“These violins are a dramatic memorial to the lives lost in the Holocaust,” said Mark Swaim-Fox, Director of the Cleveland office of Facing History. “Learning about their story is an emotional lens that allows students to experience the many ways that Jews in Europe used music to survive and to resist the Nazis.”

The Cleveland Institute of Music (CIM) Orchestra, meanwhile, will present Music of the Violins of Hope, a free concert for the community at Severance Hall on October 14 in which CIM students play the restored violins from the Holocaust. In addition, CIM will present several faculty and student concerts featuring chamber music of the time, including music written by composers held in concentration camps. CIM's Distance Learning program will support the project's education efforts with offerings that prepare students and area residents for their visit to the exhibition and concerts.

“The Violins of Hope will serve as a reminder to us all of the timeless power of music over adversity,” said Joel Smirnoff, President and CEO of CIM. “The Cleveland Institute of Music is proud to partner in bringing these historic instruments to Cleveland and in bringing their sound back to life for our community.”

The breadth of activities planned for Violins of Hope Cleveland touches multiple elements of the mission of the 112-year-old Jewish Federation of Cleveland – perhaps most significantly in the organization’s commitment “to promote the well-being of our community.”

“The Jewish Federation of Cleveland is thrilled and proud to be a partner in bringing the Violins of Hope to Cleveland. Through this program, our entire community will have the opportunity to learn about the enduring lessons of the Holocaust–not only the tragedy brought about by baseless hatred but also the resilience of the Jewish people,” said Hedy Milgrom, Chief Development Officer at the Federation. “One manifestation of that resilience is embodied in the violins owned and played by thousands of Jews, most of whom perished, but some of whom survived. These violins were played throughout the years of the Holocaust–because where there was music, there was hope. And through these violins, the Jews who perished are immortalized and serve as an inspiration for us today.”

To learn more about programming and events, please visit the Violins of Hope Cleveland website,

Violins of Hope Cleveland is a community-wide collaboration that aims to inform, educate and inspire people throughout the Midwest. Played by Jewish prisoners in Nazi concentration camps, the instruments have been collected and restored by Israeli violin maker Amnon Weinstein for more than two decades. The historic violins have been played in concerts from Jerusalem to Berlin and Charlotte, NC, and provide a rare opportunity to explore unique stories behind each instrument and the individuals who owned them. Throughout the fall of 2015, a diverse range of nonprofit organizations will sponsor performances, lectures, an exhibition and other public programming. The partners are: The Cleveland Orchestra, Case Western Reserve, the Cleveland Institute of Music, Facing History and Ourselves, ideastream, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, and the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage. For more information, please visit


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Liner Notes Vol. XVI

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

Speculation on the NY Phil's new MD, some long reads on Schubert and the Met, and more:

From the New York Times, critics suggest possibilities (including Manfred Honeck) for the New York Philharmonic’s next music director, and comments from readers   

From the Wall Street Journal, an argument for using the Cloud to teach classical music

From the New York Review of Books, Schubert songs

From the Washington Post, innovation at Detroit’s Michigan Opera Theatre

From the Guardian, Boulez at 90

From the New Yorker, the labor fight at the Met

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It's the most wonderful time of the year

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

April showers bring May flowers...and the season announcements of the city's classical music organizations. 

I covered the Pittsburgh Symphony and Pittsburgh Opera in a previous post, but here's what's coming up from a few others. 

Period instrument trio Chatham Baroque has an ambitious lineup for next season. It collaborates Sept. 16-Oct. 3 with Quantum Theatre and Attack Theatre on "The Winter's Tale," a setting of Shakespeare's text to music by Handel, Vivaldi, Purcell, Bach, Lully and others, creating "a new, fully staged opera pastiche," the organization says in a recent program book. Next come "The Italians!" (Nov. 7-8), when the trio is filled out to concerto-grosso scale for works by Castello, Corelli, Veracini, Vivaldi and more. In partnership with with organist Alan Lewis, "Joyeux Noel" (Dec. 19-20) rings in the holiday season in a concert of French baroque music and selections from Praetorius' "Terpischore." Presented by the Music in a Great Space series at Shadyside Presbyterian Church, the trio will perform Vivaldi's "Stabat Mater" with countertenor Reginald Mobley (Feb. 21, 2016), followed a week later (Feb. 28-29, 2016) with "Trio Brillante," the annual trio concert of music from various European baroque traditions. If the season begins with Shakespeare, so must it end: Purcell's "The Fairy Queen," the composer's operatic take on "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Conducted by Don O. Franklin, the production is presented with Renaissance and Baroque and Pittsburgh Camerata (April 9-10, 2016). 

Speaking of Renaissance and Baroque: Vocal quartet Anonymous 4 will make a pit stop in Pittsburgh (Oct. 3) as part of its last season performing together. Dark Horse Consort will shed light on music performed at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice (Nov. 14) with works by Gabrieli and Picchi and sonatas by Castello, followed by a holiday-themed program exploring the music of Italy, Spain and Latin America by the Grammy-nominated group El Mundo (Dec. 12). New York's Aulos Ensemble with violinist Marc Destrube (Jan. 16, 2016) explore multiculturalism in the 18th century with works by Telemann and Couperin. The Sebastians will offer the solo and trio sonatas of Corelli (Feb. 6, 2016), and then FletzMusik comes to town for some good old Klezmer (March 5, 2016). The season concludes with "The Fairy Queen." 

Finally, Chamber Music Pittsburgh announced its main Carnegie Music Hall series. The Emerson String Quartet returns Oct. 5 to perform works by Haydn, Shostakovich and Brahms. PSO concertmaster Noah Bendix-Balgley and pianist Orion collaborate on sonatas by Janacek, Brahms and Strauss and short pieces TBA from the stage. (This will be a great opportunity to hear Mr. Bendix-Balgley, who likely will depart from the PSO at the end of the season for his concurrent position with the Berlin Philharmonic.) The Orion Quartet comes to town (Feb. 22, 2016) armed with guest musicians — cellist Marcy Rosen and violist Catherine Cho — for a program including works by Beethoven, Kirchner and Brahms. French quartet Quatuor Ebene returns to Pittsburgh March 21, 2016, for Mozart, Dutilleux and Beethoven, and the season concludes with the Cypress String Quartet performing works by Beethoven, Kevin Puts and Schubert; the group will be joined by cellist Gary Hoffman on the latter's String Quintet. (When you get a chance, check out this group's outstanding recording of that work, which came out last year.) 

In addition to the regularly scheduled programming, CMP is presenting the Diaz Trio (former PSO concertmaster Andres Cardenes, violist Roberto Diaz, cellist Andres Diaz) in a special event March 6, 2016. It sandwiches dinner with the artists in between two concerts that, together, will tackle the complete string trios of Beethoven. Beginning in the fall, CMP is also launching a new series, called Pittsburgh Performs, that will showcase local musicians playing in unusual spaces in and around the city — details TBA. 

Stay tuned for more to come!

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Pittsburgh Symphony announces OTPAAM Fellow

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has named its next fellow in the EQT Orchestra Training Program for African American Musicians; congratulations to percussionist Torrell Moss! The most recent fellow, horn player Adedeji Ogunfolu, was able to skip the second year of his fellowship after winning a spot in the San Antonio Symphony, and started his position with that orchestra this season. 

More from the PSO:

PITTSBURGH – The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra named percussionist Torrell Moss as its sixth EQT Orchestra Training Program for African American Musicians (OTPAAM) Fellow. He begins his two-year fellowship in September.

Created in 2007 by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the EQT Orchestra Training Program for African American Musicians prepares a young African American musician for a career in a professional orchestra.

Moss, a Buffalo, N.Y., native, will spend two seasons immersed in the working environment of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, studying with orchestra members to train and prepare for professional auditions and performance opportunities. As a fellow, Moss' time will include practice, education and community engagement initiatives, and audition training.

Moss earned his Bachelor of Music from the State University of New York at Fredonia, studying with Dr. Kay Stonefelt. He is currently completing his master's degree at Rice University as a two-time recipient of the Provost Scholarship under the mentorship of Professor Richard Brown and Matthew Strauss. He has performed with groups such as the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra, Hear & Now and the Ethos New Music Ensemble and with artists such as Joe Locke, Bernard Woma and Valerie Naranjo, among others.

EQT OTPAAM is part of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra's Diversity Plan, which through leadership recruitment, professional development and programming promotes diversity in orchestra settings to better reflect the diverse communities and audiences that orchestras serve. OTPAAM is made possible in part by the generosity of Milton and Nancy Washington, and EQT Foundation.


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Liner Notes Vol. XV

Written by Elizabeth Bloom on .

Be sure to check out the long read at the bottom, from the New Republic, about the strange story of Mamoru Samuragochi.

From the L.A. Times, a profile of the president and CEO of the L.A. Philharmonic, Deborah Borda 

From the Cincinnati Enquirer, the recent financial success of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra 

From the Washington Post, the departure of Christoph Eschenbach at the NSO 

And from the Journal Sentinel, another MD departure, this time in Milwaukee 

From the Washington Post, the return, in 2017, of a reimagined Spring for Music festival (yay!) 

From the Wall Street Journal, the closure of New York's last classical sheet-music store 

From the New York Times, the impact of Thomas Adès on young American composers 

From the New Republic, an in-depth story of Japan's composer-conman 


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