January 26, 2009


We are all very excited about our upcoming concert featuring thirteen never-performed pieces by Felix Mendelssohn.  Mendelssohn, who was enormously popular during his lifetime, published only a small fraction of his work before his death at 38. There are a number of factors that explain the surprising fact there are literally hundreds of unpublished, unperformed, and unknown Mendelssohn pieces.
Stephen Somary, the founder of The Mendelssohn Project (www. TheMendelssohnProject.org), who has spent the past ten years trying to locate the unpublished manuscripts, explains that it was a combination of  Richard Wagner's anti-Semitic vitriol, which darkened Mendelssohn's name and reputation, the banning of Mendelssohn by the Nazis, and, most important, the dispersal of his unpublished manuscripts during the war to the far corners of the earth.   It took Somary's painstaking research and evident passion to track them down. 
It is thrilling to think that we will have the opportunity -- for the first time ever -- to  listen to works composed more than a 160 years ago by one of the greats.  Obviously such a concert calls for great artists, and we will deliver.  The Shanghai Quartet will perform along with pianists, Anna Polonsky and Orion Weiss, and singers, Abigail Nims and Kevin Deas.  

January 21, 2009


The Steering Committee at the Haus der Wannsee Konferenz
(Photo by Eileen Eder)

I have just returned from a week in Germany where I attended a conference at the new Bergen-Belsen memorial museum, see Michael Kimmelman's article in today's New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/22/arts/design/22abro.html?_r=1&ref=arts). The centerpiece of the trip, however, was meeting up with the Steering Committee of a very exciting new program with the Museum that will offer graduate students, future leaders, and leading scholars, a unique forum to examine contemporary ethical issues using the Holocaust as context. 

Currently titled the Auschwitz Professional Ethics Initiative (APEI), the program will focus on graduate students (initially in Law, Medicine, Business, Journalism, and Theology) who will convene annually in Germany and Poland for an intensive educational experience, which will explore the role of their chosen professions in Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.   The APEI will partner with some of the most prestigious Universities in the US and abroad, and will engage students from varying backgrounds in a dialogue that is meant to foster an understanding of the Holocaust as more than a historic event.  The APEI is predicated on the conviction that the study of this history and the distilling of lessons from it, are powerfully enhanced by the location of the study itself.  By taking students to the villa in Berlin where the Wannsee Conference was held and then to Auschwitz, we believe that we will provide an educational experience that will have an extraordinary impact.

 The Committee started their trip in Poland, where they visited the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and the Auschwitz State Museum, both prospective partners in the APEI.  I joined the group in Berlin, where we visited the site of the Wannsee Conference and had a very productive meeting with the colleagues there, who run programs that are similar to the APEI.  The trip was stimulating and productive and will yield, I hope, tangible results as we plan for a pilot program of the APEI later this year. 

Committee Members at Gleis 17, the Memorial for the Jews Deported from Berlin (Photo by Shiri Sandler)