Harmonizing Decades: A 2024 Follow-up to our 1996 Quartet session

Gualtiero Morpurgo’s violin at the Violins of Hope Exhibit

In 1996 while seeing patients in my office in Randolph, NJ, I received a call from a woman living in the same town. Her father, Gualtiero Morpurgo, a violinist, was coming to visit from Milan, and he wanted to play string quartets while in the US. He had gotten my name from the ACMP directory. I searched the directory and put together a quartet with Ernst Monse (Va) and Derek Maishman (Vc). His daughter borrowed a violin for her father, and we spent a pleasant evening playing quartets. I learnt little about him then other than he had worked in South America and retired to Italy. He wrote a nice thank you note which was printed in the June 1996 ACMP Newsletter.

Recently I found the thank you note and out of curiosity searched his name on the Internet. To my surprise I discovered that after his death, his family donated his instrument to the Violins of Hope, a collection of violins, violas, and cellos curated by Amnon and Avshalom Weinstein, father and son luthiers in Tel Aviv and Istanbul, respectively.  Many of the instruments belonged to Jews before and during WWII as was the case with the violin now in the collection that Gualtiero Morpurgo took with him when he was sent to a forced labor camp during the war. After the war he worked in the shipyards in Genoa setting up ships and helping survivors of the Holocaust sail illegally to Palestine. In 1992 he was awarded the Medal of Jerusalem by Yitzhak Rabin.

The collection has been played by musicians in concerts around the world. By chance I was able to attend the grand opening of the exhibit at the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in Dania, FL. In addition to listening to a concert by the Symphony of the Americas Chamber Ensemble played on instruments from the collection, I got to meet Avshalom and see the collection including the Morpurgo violin. All the instruments have been beautifully restored by the Weinsteins.

Per the Weinsteins, the instruments “are symbols of hope and a way to say: remember me, remember us. Life is good, celebrate it for those who perished, for those who survived. For all people.”

The Violins of Hope exhibit can be seen until April 15, 2024 at the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center 303 N. Federal Highway Dania Beach, FL 33004. The Center is open Monday-Friday 10:00 AM-4:00 PM.

Mark Atkins (left) with luthier Avshalom Weinstein

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