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“Rhapsody 1939-45” comes to Ashkenaz

The 2012 Ashkenaz Festival team is thrilled to be adding the beautiful work of Leo Spellman (Szpilman) to the festival programme. Spellman, a 99-year-old composer and Holocaust survivor who settled in Toronto after World War II, composed “Rhapsody 1939-45”  in a displaced person’s camp in Germany, in 1947. The score lay forgotten in a suitcase for over fifty years. Over the subsequent decades, Spellman established a successful musical career as a composer, concert pianist, society musician, cantorial accompanist, and music director of the Toronto Jewish Theatre. Now finally recorded, Spellman’s “Rhapsody 1939-1945” will be performed in Canada for the first time at the 2012 Ashkenaz Festival, with an orchestra conducted by Paul Hoffert and Spellman in attendance.

Rhapsody 1939-1945 depicts three themes – the horror of war, the sadness of loss, and the hope for a better tomorrow. The first section paints a sonic picture of bombs falling, machine gun fire, and troops marching. The second is a mournful lamentation evoking profound despair. The third section employs joyful klezmer music themes to remind us that even in adversity there is strength, passion, resilience and hope at the heart of the soul of the Jewish people. The Rhapsody builds to a hopeful and ecstatic finale, referencing “Hatikvah” and the establishment of the Jewish state of Israel, shortly after the work was composed.

Spellman’s cousin, Wladyslaw Szpilman, is the subject of the Oscar-winning Roman Polanski film The Pianist. The Szpilman family was a revered musical dynasty in Poland for over 100 years.

We hope you will join us for this legendary performance on the last night of our Festival celebrations.

You can purchase tickets for the Monday September 3, 6pm performance here.

($20 in advance/$25 day-of)

Sponsored by NanDan Foundation and Mirvish Charitable Foundation.