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Niv Ashkenazi - The Violins of Hope receives positive review in January/February issue of ARCHI magazine

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Violins of Hope is an artistic and educational project composed of instruments that were owned by Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust. Violins in the collection were played in the concentration camps and ghettos, providing a source of comfort for some and a means of survival for others. The project was founded by Amnon Weinstein and his son Avshalom, Israeli luthiers who collect these instruments, refurbish them to concert quality, and bring them to communities all over the world, so that their voices can be heard again. The Violins of Hope have traveled to Jerusalem, Sion, Madrid, Maastricht, Monaco, Rome, Berlin, London, Bucharest, Dachau, Dresden, and Auschwitz. In the United States, the project has been presented in Charlotte, Cleveland, Houston, Jacksonville, Sarasota, Washington, D.C, Cincinnati, Nashville, Birmingham, Knoxville, Phoenix, Louisville, Fort Wayne, and San Francisco.

Niv Ashkenazi: Violins of Hope is the first solo album to be recorded on one of these instruments. Niv Ashkenazi is the only violinist in the world to hold an instrument from the Violins of Hope collection on a long-term loan, and this album was conceived as a way to create a lasting record of the voice of that violin. Ashkenazi is joined on the album by his fellow Juilliard graduate, pianist Matthew Graybil, and the duo first worked together on the project at various ‘Violins of Hope' events in Sarasota Florida in 2017. The Weinstein family commented; "Niv is the only violinist we trust absolutely to bring out the sounds of long gone horrors, with an honest sound and much love for this music and our legacy."

The music on Niv Ashkenazi: Violins of Hope was chosen to reflect the life and experiences of the violin. Many of the composers featured were directly affected by the Holocaust. Robert Dauber composed his only surviving work, the Serenade, in 1942, while he was interned in Theresienstadt. He died in Dachau of typhoid in 1945 at the age of 26. Szymon Laks was a Polish composer whose successful career in Paris was cut short in 1941 when he was arrested and sent to Auschwitz. While in Auschwitz, Laks served as the concertmaster of the Birkenau Men's Camp Orchestra. Other composers, such as Paul Ben-Haim and Julius Chajes, fled Europe in the 1930s to escape the oppressive creative and political situation they faced. Also included is John Williams's iconic Theme from Schindler's List, written for Itzhak Perlman.

The album alsoincludes a commission from award-winning Israeli-American composer Sharon Farber, an adaptation of the final movement of her cello concerto Bestemming. Bestemming tells the true story of Holocaust survivor and Dutch Resistance hero Curt Lowens in his own words. The final movement of the concerto; ‘Triumph' was arranged for violin, piano for four hands, and narrator. Farber plays one of the piano parts on the recording, and actor Tony Campisi provided the narration.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, major Violins of Hope events taking place in Los Angeles in March and April 2020 have now been tentatively postponed until January and February 2021. Once rescheduled, these events will include a day honoring Violins of Hope at Los Angeles City Hall, educational events for thousands of students, an exhibition at the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust, as well as scores of concerts hosted and produced by numerous partner organizations throughout Southern California, including; The Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, the Long Beach Symphony, and others. 2020 Violins of Hope events still planned are slated for cities in Virginia and New Jersey. Additionally, the program will also be presented as a residency in Sarasota this November.

Virtuoso violinist Niv Ashkenazi has captivated audiences with his heartfelt musicianship and emotional performances. An accomplished soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician, he has performed throughout the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. He is a graduate of The Juilliard School. Pianist Matthew Graybil has performed throughout the United States and Canada since making his orchestral debut at age 14. The recipient of numerous awards and prizes, he is a graduate of The Juilliard School.

ARCHI Magazine reviewed the recording which appears as this story's cover image