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North Wales International Music Festival: Raphael Wallfisch

Plea to halt rise of anti-semitism by top cellist whose mother survived Auschwitz

A world renowned cellist whose mother is one of the last known survivors of the women’s orchestra at a Nazi concentration camp is heading for St Asaph.

London-born Raphael Wallfisch will be one of the stars at the prestigious North Wales International Music Festival at the city’s cathedral for a concert on Saturday, September 29.

The festival, which runs until Sunday, September 30, is being supported by the Arts Council of Wales and Tŷ Cerdd.

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Wallfisch was born into a family of distinguished musicians. His father, Peter, is an acclaimed concert pianist and his 93 year old mother, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, also a cellist, was press ganged into playing in the Women’s Orchestra of Auschwitz.

He’s married to Australian Baroque violinist Elizabeth Wallfisch while his son Benjamin is a conductor and composer working in Hollywood and has written film scores for blockbusters such as Bladerunner.
His second son, Simon is a baritone, cellist and comedian and his daughter, Joanna, is an accomplished jazz singer songwriter who has just performed at the Edinburgh Festival.

Wallfisch is quick to recognise things would have been very different had his mother, who was born in 1925 in what was then Breslau, Germany but is now Wroclaw, Poland, not survived the Holocaust.

He said: “There were two orchestras at Auschwitz, a men’s and a women’s. The women’s one was smaller and based at Auschwitz-Birkenau. She survived the war and met my father in Paris.
“My father had been allowed to leave Europe with his mother and brother in 1937 and lived in Palestine and eventually became an Israeli citizen. Having met in Paris my parents moved to London.
“But how things would have been different had my mother not survived the Holocaust. I do think everyone should visit Auschwitz-Birkenau so we don’t ever forget the lessons of the past, especially as anti-Semitism appears to be on the rise again.”

Wallfisch was educated at London’s Latymer School where he was friends with comedian, actor and director Mel Smith, the comedy partner of Griff Rhys Jones, and actor Alan Rickman although he was a litter older.

He said: “I left school at 16 and moved to Italy to study and also studied at the Royal Academy of Music where I met my wife. I have a real passion for teaching and performing and have recorded just about every piece written for cello.”

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“I’m looking forward to appearing at the North Wales International Music Festival and will be performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto.

“I’m also looking forward to playing with the festival’s resident orchestra, NEW Sinfonia. It is going to be a wonderful evening of music.”

The festival’s artistic director, Ann Atkinson, said: “Raphael is one of the world’s leading cellists and we are so lucky to have the chance to hear him perform.

“We are so lucky to have the opportunity to hear performers who have graced some of the biggest concert halls around the world play at St Asaph Cathedral. For any lover of classical music this is an opportunity not to be missed.

“I’m delighted with the line-up for this year’s festival. During the evening with Raphael Wallfisch we will also hear the performance from our Smile, Smile, Smile project students. ‘A Veiled Smile’, written by Jonathan Guy, is a new twist on the wartime song Pack up your Troubles, which was written by two St Asaph-born young men, George and Felix Powell.

“Our Festival community chorus will perform with Welsh National Opera and we have another world premiere, Materna Requiem, by composer Rebecca Dale.

“Reflections is a concert featuring soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, pianist Jocelyn Freeman and Family Affair, featuring composer Brian Hughes.

“Reflections of Love is a concert that will see two artists, jazz singer Jacqui Dankworth and classical guitarist Craig Ogden, perform magical and intimate songs by Paul Simon, James Taylor, Henry Mancini and many more.

“It’s going to be a very special festival this year. I’d encourage anyone who likes classical and contemporary music to get their tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.”

Tickets are available online, from Theatr Clwyd, Mold – 01352 701521 or Cathedral Frames, 28 High Street, St Asaph – 01745 582929. To find out more about the North Wales International Music Festival please visit www.nwimf.com.

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