MUSEUM OF JEWISH HERITAGE in association with

Program Comprises 13 World Premieres of Recovered Recital, Vocal, and
Chamber Works by Felix Mendelssohn

January 13, 2009 Felix Mendelssohn, one of the most popular composers of the Romantic era, is recognized as one of classical music's most prolific and gifted composers. Yet of his more than 770 compositions, over 270 are still unpublished, owing primarily to a campaign of suppression by composer Richard Wagner and his sympathizers in the post-revolution Germany of the 1850s and later during Hitler's rise to power.

Now on Wednesday, January 28, at 7:00 p.m. as the music world prepares to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Mendelssohn's birth, the Museum of Jewish Heritage–A Living Memorial to the Holocaust in association with The Mendelssohn Project will present a program of 13 world premieres of recital, vocal, and chamber works by Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn: Lost Treasures and the Wagner Suppression will take place in Edmond J. Safra Hall of the Museum and will feature pianists Orion Weiss and Anna Polonsky, the Shanghai Quartet, bass Kevin Deas, and mezzo-soprano Abigail Nims. Stephen Vann is artistic producer, and Stephen Somary, founder and artistic director of The Mendelssohn Project, is artistic director of this concert.

WQXR's Elliott Forrest, Peabody award-winning broadcaster and producer, will moderate a post-concert discussion with Stephen Somary and some of the evening's artists about this "new" music from Felix Mendelssohn and the preparations undertaken to ready the Mendelssohn manuscripts for performance, followed by questions from the audience.

After his death in 1847 at age 38, Felix Mendelssohn's reputation was vilified by composer Richard Wagner through his writings, specifically his book Judaism in Music, in which Wagner wrote that since Mendelssohn had the blood of a Jew, he was incapable of writing great music. As a result, publication of hundreds of Mendelssohn's works was suppressed as anti-Semitic feelings increased. Later, when Hitler came to power, Mendelssohn's scores were banned by the Nazis and were scattered around the globe. In a campaign to recover these lost works and to further restore Mendelssohn's reputation, Mr. Somary has rediscovered hundreds of unknown compositions of all genres, which Mendelssohn wrote from his teen years to the period just before his death.

Tickets, at $25 for non-members and $20 for members, are available at the Museum Box Office at 36 Battery Place, by calling 646.437.4202, or online at

"It is a profound irony that so much of the immeasurably beautiful music by Felix Mendelssohn has yet to become standard repertoire," said Mr. Somary. "The works on this program are representative of the complexity of genius at the heart of his music and come from all of the fertile periods of his creativity."

"The Museum of Jewish Heritage is proud to present this "lost" music by Felix Mendelssohn, one of the greatest composers of his time," said Dr. David Marwell, director of the Museum of Jewish Heritage. "Not only will this concert provide the public with the opportunity to hear wonderful music that has never been performed before, but it will also shed new light on a composer whose music and reputation were attacked by the Nazis."

Between 1935 and 1937 Mendelssohn's name was added to the lists of forbidden artists in Nazi Germany by the office of Dr. Joseph Goebbels, Germany's minister of culture. Hundreds of Mendelssohn's music manuscripts, letters, and artworks, which were kept in the basement of the Berlin State Library, were smuggled out to Warsaw and Krakow by sympathizers during the winter of 1936-37. In 1939 when those cities came under Nazi control and were no longer safe, they were smuggled out again and scattered throughout the world.

The Mendelssohn works to be performed on the January 28 program were recovered in various places:

Song With Words for Piano in D Major was discovered in Krakow after being redelivered there from a private collection just outside Positano, Italy.

Sonata for Piano in F Minor was discovered in Berlin at the Berlin State Library.

O könnt' ich zu Dir fliegen, So schlaf' in Ruh, and Bist auf ewig Du gegangen took particularly circuitous routes traveling together from Berlin to London, then to Oxford, and finally landing in Budapest where they were found in the basement of a Budapest library and in a private collection.

Wie kann ich froh und lustig sein? and Wenn ich auf dem Lager liege were discovered in St. Petersburg, Russia, after having traveled from Berlin to Krakow. Ich stand gelehnet an den Mast was found uncatalogued in the Berlin State Library and is now in the New York Public Library.

Two different manuscript versions of Presto agitato for Piano in B Minor were recovered-one in Berlin and another in Dijon, France.

The original 1820 manuscript of Trio for Violin, Viola and Piano in C Minor was discovered in Berlin. A later version, from 1826, was discovered in London.

Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Minor was discovered at the Berlin State Library.

Part of the 12 Fugues for String Quartet were discovered in Berlin after being returned from Krakow and Katowice, Poland. The remainder were discovered in Bern, Switzerland. The string parts and a transcribed manuscript of the Movement IV from Quartet for Strings in E-flat Major for Strings were discovered in Berlin after being returned from Paris and an unknown location in southern France. The original manuscript was discovered in London.

Research by The Mendelssohn Project began worldwide in 1996, culminating with foundations established in Stuttgart, Germany, and New York City in 2004. The primary mission of the international foundation is to reacquaint today's society with the music of Felix Mendelssohn and his sister Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel and to provide the public with a complete picture of their lives, compositions, letters, and artworks through CDs, concerts, books, film, theatre, and other media. Before the campaign of vilification by Richard Wagner and German Nationalists, Mendelssohn, a brilliant composer, performer, and leading figure in European cultural life, was considered the most influential and respected musician of his time. For more information visit

In addition to his work as founder and artistic director and of The Mendelssohn Project, New York-born conductor Stephen Somary makes numerous guest appearances with leading orchestras of the world. Based in Germany from 1993-2006, Somary has conducted and recorded with many of that country's orchestras, including the Berlin Symphony, the Nürnberg Symphony, and the Thüringen Philharmonic. Now residing in New York City, Somary, also an acclaimed interpreter of American repertoire has a discography that includes works by such composers as Samuel Barber, Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, and David Chesky. Mr. Somary served as music assistant to Leonard Bernstein from 1984 to 1990. His early career was also shaped by studies with his father Johannes Somary, Eiji Oue at Boston University, and Norman Del Mar at the Royal College of Music in London.

Recognized as one of America's leading basses, Kevin Deas has won acclaim for his burnished sound, clarity of diction, and fervent intensity. In demand by orchestras across North America, he is particularly well known for his signature portrayal of Porgy in Porgy and Bess, and as a strong proponent of contemporary music, his 20-year collaboration with Dave Brubeck, with whom he has recorded and performed both here and abroad. This season he returns to the New York Philharmonic for Ravel's L'enfant et les sortiléges, sings the world premiere of Derek Bermel's The Good Life with the Pittsburgh Symphony, and gives performances with the Atlanta, Boston Baroque, Detroit, National, and Pacific Symphony Orchestras, among others.

Rising young mezzo-soprano Abigail Nims has recently appeared with New York City's Gotham Chamber Opera in Maria de Buenos Aires and as Zefka in a staged version of Janácek's The Diary of One Who Disappeared and has performed Mozart's Vespare solennes de confessore and Michael Haydn's Requiem with the Masterwork Chorus, Messiah with the New Choral Society, and Mendelssohn's Elijah with Cappella Cantorum of Connecticut. Her 2008-09 season includes a return to Opera Delaware to sing Cherubino in Le nozze di Figaro, a role which she also sings with Boston Youth Orchestra; Hermia in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Princeton Festival; and Messiah with the Pro Musica Chamber Orchestra.

Pianist Anna Polonsky, a soloist and chamber musician, has toured extensively throughout the U.S., Europe, and Asia. She has collaborated with such artists as Mitsuko Uchida, David Shifrin, Richard Goode, and Fred Sherry and recently formed the Schumann Trio with violist Michael Tree and clarinetist Anthony McGill. She participated in the European Broadcasting Union's project to record and broadcast all of Mozart's keyboard sonatas and inaugurated the Emerson Quartet's Carnegie Hall Perspective Series with a solo recital. Ms. Polonsky earned her Master's Degree from The Juilliard School, where she studied with Jerome Lowenthal. A recipient of a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship, Ms. Polonsky serves on the piano faculty of Vassar College.

Pianist Orion Weiss, at 26, is a sought-after soloist and collaborator who has performed with the country's top orchestras including those of Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Pittsburgh. In spring 2008, he released his debut recording, a recital disc for Yarlung Records including works by Bach, Mozart, Scriabin, and Carter. Mr. Weiss made his Baltimore Symphony debut in 1999, stepping in on less than 24 hours' notice to replace Andre Watts in Shostakovich's Piano Concerto No. 2 and was reengaged on the spot. Mr. Weiss graduated from The Juilliard School in 2004, where he studied with Emanuel Ax.

The Shanghai Quartet, longtime champions of new music, are well known for their passionate musicality, virtuosic technique, multicultural innovations, and for juxtaposing Eastern and Western sounds. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this season, the Quartet regularly tours the great music centers of North and South America, Asia, and Europe, and its wide array of media projects include the soundtrack and a cameo appearance in Woody Allen's 2005 film "Melinda and Melinda." The Quartet is in residence at Montclair State University and its members serve as visiting professors at the Shanghai Conservatory and the Central Conservatory in China.

For more than 20 years Stephen Vann has collaborated with many of the day's finest musicians, conductors, and institutions, specializing in creative artistic programming, as well as branding and marketing. As executive director of the Eos Orchestra for seven years, he produced an annual series of innovative concert programs, lectures, symposia, television events on A & E and PBS, and numerous recordings, including the Grammy-nominated "Celluloid Copland."

This concert is made possible, in part, through the generous support of the Avery and Janet Fisher Foundation and by Priscilla and Harold Grabino.

A Program of 13 World Premieres by Felix Mendelssohn

Wednesday, January 28, 2008, 7:00 p.m.
Museum of Jewish Heritage - A Living Memorial to the Holocaust
Edmond J. Safra Plaza
36 Battery Place
New York, NY 10280
Kevin Deas, Baritone
Abigal Nims, Mezzo-soprano
Anna Polonsky, Piano
Orion Weiss, Piano
The Shanghai Quartet
Weigang Li, violin
Yi-Wen Jiang, violin
Honggang Li, viola
Nicholas Tzavaras, cello

Stephen Somary, Artistic Director
Stephen Vann, Artistic Producer

Presto agitato for Piano in B Minor (1833)
Anna Polonsky, piano

O könnt' ich zu Dir fliegen (1838)
Kevin Deas, bass; Anna Polonsky, piano

Erwartung: Bist auf ewig Du gegangen (late 1830s)
Abigail Nims, mezzo-soprano; Anna Polonsky, piano

So schlaf' in Ruh (1838)
Abigail Nims, mezzo soprano, and/or Kevin Deas, bass; Anna Polonsky, piano

Sonata for Piano in F minor (1820)
Orion Weiss, piano

Song Without Words for Piano in D Major (1843)
Orion Weiss, piano

Wie kann ich froh und lustig sein? (1837)
Abigail Nims, mezzo soprano; Kevin Deas, bass; and Orion Weiss, piano

Abendlied: Wenn ich auf dem Lager liege (1837)
Abigail Nims, mezzo soprano; Kevin Deas, bass; Orion Weiss, piano

Wasserfahrt: Ich stand gelehnet an den Mast (1836)
Abigail Nims, mezzo soprano; Kevin Deas, bass; Orion Weiss, piano

Trio for Violin, Viola and Piano in C Minor (1826)
Yi-Wen Jiang, violin; Honggang Li, viola; Anna Polonsky, piano


Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Minor (1826-1827))
Weigang Li, violin; Orion Weiss, piano

12 Fugues for String Quartet (1821)
The Shanghai Quartet

Encore: Movement IV from Quartet for Strings in Eb Major (1823)
The Shanghai Quartet

A post-performance discussion moderated by Elliott Forrest, will be followed by questions from the audience.

Tickets, at $25 for non-members and $20 for members, are available at the Museum Box Office at 36 Battery Place, by calling 646.437.4202, or online at