JAKE HEGGIE (b.1961): Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope (World Premiere Recording) (Texts included. Sasha Cooke [mezzo], Daniel Hope, Sean Mori, Kay Stern, Dawn Harms [violins], Patricia Heller [viola], Emil Miland [cello]) and String Quartets by Schubert, and Mendelssohn.
Catalogue Number: 02W074
Reference: PTC5186 879
Description: Heggie gets the lion's share of this disc, with his large-scale dramatic cycle of seven movements, commissioned for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The commission came from the Violins of Hope project (see also 06U011), the remarkable effort to restore and use for performance violins that had been owned by victims or survivors of the Holocaust, which, if they could speak, would have harrowing tales to tell of being played in the death camps, or in exile, but also tales of liberation, and hope and warnings for the future. Librettist and frequent Heggie collaborator Gene Scheer compiled texts which effectively do lend the instruments a speaking voice, adapting accounts of the lives of musicians who performed on violins like these while suffering under the Nazis. Heggie's score, for quartet plus solo violin and singer is, as we have come to expect from this composer, tonal, romantic and emotionally charged, with exquisitely judged vocal writing. The trajectory of the work is an arc from darkness to light, the anxious, troubled chromaticism of the early movements, their stories telling of a violin found to have been filled with the ashes of an unknown victim, a flight into exile, and an enforced concert played inside a gas chamber (this last a deeply unsettling combination of a sentimental waltz and the dissonant undertones of the player's feelings as he is forced to debase his art to save his life), giving way to a sense of defiance and finally, the lifting of the darkness. The fourth movement tells the story of a child prodigy - a precocious performer of Mendelssohn, whose violin concerto permeates the movement - who devised a plan to bomb the Nazi Officers' Club where he was forced to play. This is followed by a tale of legacy in which a young violinist inherits an instrument from an old man and goes on to play for weddings (joyfully captured in Heggie's music), and save lives. An instrumental lament for the quartet alone, in the warm harmonies of late romanticism precedes the beautiful, tonal resolution of the work, based on an account of the liberation of Auschwitz, sullied only by a warning that history can all too easily repeat if forgotten; the piece ends radiantly with the promise that the violins' singing will persist despite everything.