Pierre Jalbert: Passage (West Coast Premiere)
Sarah Kirkland Snider: Hiraeth (with film by Mark DeChiazza) (West Coast Premiere)
Jake Heggie: Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope with text by Gene Scheer
(Sasha Cooke, mezzo-soprano; Benjamin Beilman, violin) (World Premiere | Festival Commission)
Maestro Macelaru and the Festival Orchestra guide us through an evening of core emotions: longing and loss, but also the rebirth of hope. For the third straight year, Jake Heggie—among the most celebrated composers of our era—comes to Cabrillo, this time with the orchestral world premiere of Intonations: Songs from the Violins of Hope, with text by Gene Scheer. With its bittersweet Yiddish melodies and joyous dances, the song cycle is inspired by the Violins of Hope, a collection of Holocaust era string instruments, many of which passed through the Nazi death camps, that have been restored by Israeli luthiers Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein.
Intonations tells real-life stories about some of these instruments and their owners: about Erich, who played his violin on the cattle car to Dachau, and on the march to Buchenwald; about Motele, the prodigy who performed Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto at age nine—and at age 12, in one of the camps, was forced to serenade a group of Nazi officers. At Cabrillo, these and other stories are turned into heart-wrenching arias for the astonishing mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, who “has a voice like a full moon; it beautifies and illuminates” (San Jose Mercury News). And the brilliant young violinist Benjamin Beilman will, in fact, play one of the very instruments restored by the Israeli luthiers—breathing new life into what had been a dusty relic. Earlier this year, Intonations premiered in an intimate chamber version at Burlingame’s Music at Kohl Mansion. At Cabrillo, Heggie recasts his song cycle for full orchestra, a powerful event—and a timely one, as this year marks the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider longs for another vanished world in Hiraeth, her multi-media exploration of memories, dreams and family history. Composed in the wake of her father’s death, it takes its title from a Welsh word defined by the University of Wales as “homesickness tinged with grief or sadness over the lost or departed.” A deep yearning flows through Hiraeth (and its accompanying film by Mark DeChiazza) as Snider taps her childhood memories of Salisbury, North Carolina, the small town where her father was raised. She recalls “the play of light and shadow on wax myrtle trees on my grandparents’ patio, the late-day sun filtering through their porch windows, or the pale, consoling daylight of winter.” In Hiraeth, memory becomes music.
Pierre Jalbert’s Passage also refers to the passage of time—the time between 1806, when Beethoven composed his Symphony No. 4, and 2018, when Jalbert composed Passage. Cast in three movements, his work also responds to specific passages in Beethoven’s score. But it is more than a tribute piece to Beethoven, born 250 years ago. “It stands on its own terms,” Jalbert explains, “filtered through my own musical language, to form something of our own times.” He is a master orchestrator whose works can “suggest a harmonically pungent music box” (New York Times). Passage is mysterious, tautly propulsive and filled with sparkling effects, a tour de force for the 21st century.