Disclaimer: I received this disc from the performer, gratis, with a request for a review.
From the excellent booklet notes:
"Violins of Hope is an artistic and educational project composed of instruments that were owned by Jewish musicians before and during the Holocaust." - James A. Grymes, author of Violins of Hope
Violinist Niv Ashkenazi plays one such violin for this recording, and states in the booklet, "I have chosen Jewish repertoire from throughout its lifetime..."
Mr. Ashkenazi is an alum of the Perlman Music Program, and I often hear hints of Perlman in his playing. With this particular violin, his tone is gorgeous - husky and full of texture, perfectly suited to this music. He plays with passion and exceptional musicianship. There are times where I could do with less portamentos (for example, the opening Dauber Serenade and, especially Williams's Schindler's List Theme, here arranged for violin and piano), but elsewhere his playing is naturally expressive and free of excessive emoting.
As to the repertoire, listening to it from beginning to end, one gets the feeling of routine; it ends up sounding a bit too much of the same thing. However, taken in smaller chunks, one hears more variety and much very good music (most of which I was not previously familiar with). Highlights for me are Julius Chajes's The Chassid, and the very rhapsodic Three songs Without Words, by Paul Ben-Haim.
Mr. Ashkenazi benefits enormously throughout from the superb piano accompaniments played by Matthew Graybil, also a masters graduate from The Juilliard School. The recorded sound is excellent - warm, clean and intimately mic'd.
This is an interesting project and an interesting recording. Once again, Albany Records provides an invaluable addition to the recorded repertoire with an emphasis on American performers. I can recommend this CD to anyone with an interest in this project, and this particular program of music by Jewish composers. The entire production is first-rate and I enjoyed it.