Violins played by concentration camp prisoners and ghetto residents were restored over 20 years by Israeli violinmakers Amnon (pictured) and Avshalom Weinstein. (Photo/Courtesy Amnon Weinstein)
Violins played by concentration camp prisoners and ghetto residents were restored over 20 years by Israeli violinmakers Amnon (pictured) and Avshalom Weinstein. (Photo/Courtesy Amnon Weinstein)

‘Violins of Hope’ concerts and events coming to Bay Area in 2020

The Violins of Hope, a collection of more than 60 string instruments rescued from the Holocaust, will be featured as part of a community-wide initiative in 2020 that will be produced by Music at Kohl Mansion.

The series of concerts and community events planned for January-February 2020 will honor the 75th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp.

A $150,000 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation will allow San Francisco composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer to create a 35-minute work for soprano, violin soloist and string quartet to be performed on Violins of Hope instruments as part of the project.

The composition by Heggie and his frequent collaborator Scheer will be the first piece created specifically for the Violins of Hope, which will be making their West Coast premiere. The instruments were originally played by concentration camp prisoners and ghetto residents and were restored over 20 years by Israeli violinmakers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein.

The Violins of Hope San Francisco Bay Area project will include concerts, lectures, panel discussions, film screenings, broadcasts, exhibitions and educational programs around the area.

“What an absolute thrill and profound honor to be invited to craft a piece for these historic violins,” Heggie said. “This is a rare opportunity to bring people into a place of beauty and reflection to tell the harrowing, powerful and hopeful stories of these instruments — to give them a voice and make sure their stories of the Holocaust are not forgotten.” The Kohl performance will mark the world premiere of Heggie’s composition.

Among the many organizations and ensembles that will partner with Music at Kohl Mansion on the project are the Israeli Consulate in San Francisco; JCCs in San Francisco, Marin, Palo Alto and the East Bay; S.F.-based Jewish Community Federation, Seattle-based Music of Remembrance; and the Veretski Pass klezmer group.

Music at Kohl Mansion, based in Burlingame, is in its 35th year of presenting educational programs and touring performers in concert.

Rob Gloster

Rob Gloster was J.'s senior writer from 2016-2019.