Violins of Hope Concert

Violins of Hope are reconstructed from violins of the Holocaust.

FRI 25 OCT 2019 : “Violins of Hope” came to Louisville, Kentucky. The internationally impactful touring exhibit provided an opportunity for learning and reflection through restored violins that survived the Holocaust. The Louisville Orchestra is proud to be a partner giving voice to these amazing instruments in this performance.

Review and Reflections by Jan Kirstein

The “Violins of Hope Concert” with the Louisville Orchestra and guest performers wove an excellent musical experience both haunting and familiar in their Oct. 25, 2019 production at the Kentucky Center for the Arts, in Whitney Hall. Their sound was a rich canopy of many well placed harmonies that evoked a haunting depth of tragedy. Beauty emerged through music that captured not  only the perfectly defined memories of the Holocaust but the lingering hopes that emerged as time moved forward from this harrowing event.

My personal favorite was the first piece, by Israeli Composer Paul Schoenfield, the “Klezmer Rondos Movement. “ (1989.) True to its name, this piece flew into a lively, captivating rhythm of the Klezmer gypsy bands of Barcelona, Spain . The melodic harmonies reminded me of Bela Bartok with the influences of Hungarian Folk Music harmonics as well.

But just as I began to get captivated and uplifted by the rhythms of a joyful, lively band sound, the music would suddenly shift into a haunting diminished 7th chord that lent a harrowing and wrenching sound much like the energy change I remember when I went  to at a wild party in a Louisville mansion on the river when I was in college. When we first got to the home, kids were all throwing phone books wildly into the air in joyous celebration. Later that evening,, however, one of the boys that actually lived in the mansion was on the livingroom floor threatening to kill himself. He had a loaded gun to his head. The energy change of this event very closely matched the harmonic changes that reoccurred throughout this musical piece. The entire effect was haunting, rich and full of melodic pathos. I can’t describe it well, but I was broken down in tears throughout the first two pieces before intermission.. Never before have I so strongly been affected by music. Stunningly haunting beauty rose from the orchestra in a perfect melodic capture of the times and events of this harrowing age and the course of history decades ago.

The second piece by William Schuman, “Judith: A Choreographic Poem” bled into my tears and perceptions much as a continuation of the previous piece. The music etched a sound reminiscent of bare winter branches against a dusky grey evening sky. Again the diminished 7th chords  laced the work and lent an impending sense of a universe that was being malformed and slowly crushed and distorted by impending forces of strange and incomprehensible origin. The dancing was very moving and gave the music a resonance and counterpoint component that enhanced the richness and depth of the experience. Once again, I was left in the throws of profuse sobbing. I am glad it was dark where we were sitting.

The intermission came and went. Then we had John William’s pieces from “Schindler’s List.”. For some reason, these pieces did not have as much effect on me and I became restless. I think I was all cried out maybe and emotionally spent. But then came the Michael TilsonThomas “From the Diary of Anne Frank.” This was Joy’s favorite piece. It resonated with her as she has read and reread Anne Frank. Catherine Blades read and her voice was clear, strong, emphatic and besearching, much as I had always imagined the voice of a young Anne Frank would sound.

Jan Kirstein with the Violins of Hope.

So there you have it! Any more moving, and I would have had to be carried out in a straight jacket! I am glad my friend Joy was driving.

This was a performance I will never forget, and it is my hope that they have a recording made so you can hear the wonderful sounds of this important performance.

Jan Kirstein

2 thoughts on “Violins of Hope Concert

  1. Andria Creighton

    I am so glad that you got to experience Violins of Hope. Hester called me last week to tell me that she was at the concert at the Cathedral of the Assumption. She told me there was a PBS show about it when the violins were touring in another city. It is an interesting story about how the concentration camp prisoners were played to as they went out to their slave labor for the day, and when they returned back to the camp the violin was playing to them as they arrived to the barracks.

    It feels good to be moved by art so deeply as you were at this special concert. I know you will recall this occasion for the rest of your life.


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