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About Leo Spellman:

Leo Spellman (Szpilman) is a 99-year-old composer and Holocaust survivor who settled in Toronto after the Second World War. The Szpilman family was a revered musical dynasty in Poland for over 100 years. His cousin, Wladyslaw Szpilman, is the subject of the Oscar-winning Roman Polanski film The Pianist. Spellman’s “Rhapsody 1939-1945” was composed in 1947 in a displaced person’s camp in Germany. After immigrating to Canada, Spellman packed the score away in a suitcase where it lay forgotten for more than 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 Theater. In 2000, his Rhapsody was performed for the first time in North America at the Survivor’s Conference in Washington, DC, and subsequently in New York and Connecticut. In the fall of 2011, Spellman expanded and recorded the piece with the aid of esteemed Canadian musician Paul Hoffert, co-founder of the classic Canadian band Lighthouse, winner of many Gemini and Genie awards for his film music, and recipient of the Order of Canada. 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 Hoffert, and the composer 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 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.

Leo Spellmanís Rhapsody 1939-1945

Advance:$25 Regular:$30

The Canadian premiere performance of 99-year-old Toronto composer’s tour de force, originally written in 1947 in a German DP camp.

Co-presented by The New Classical 96.3FM. Sponsored by The NanDan Fund (Nance Gelber and Daniel Bjarnason), David Mirvish, and the Ontario Arts Council.