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Faculty Highlights - Phillip Silver

Like many Jewish composers of his time, Leone Sinigaglia’s voice was silenced by the Nazis in World War II. This month, a CD of his chamber music is being released worldwide as the result of research by University of Maine professor Phillip Silver.

“Chamber Music of Leone Sinigaglia” features a violin sonata, cello sonata, cavatina for violin and piano and romanze for cello and piano by the Italian composer. The works are performed by Phillip Silver on piano, Noreen Silver on cello and Solomia Soroka on violin.

The CD was produced by London-based Toccata Classics in association with UMaine and the International Centre for Suppressed Music in London. The label specializes in classical music.

Phillip Silver was in Tel-Aviv researching the history of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra when he came across Sinigaglia’s name in a 1938 concert program. That prompted a search through history for works by the composer — one of many Silver has undertaken in the past decade as part of his effort to recover what he calls the “thwarted voices” of composers silenced by the Third Reich.

Sinigaglia, a Turin native, stayed in Italy during World War II. In 1944, when he was 75, Sinigaglia and his sister sought sanctuary in a hospital in their hometown during a Nazi roundup of Jews. Both died there of heart attacks.

It took considerable effort to find works by Sinigaglia in publishing houses in Germany, Italy and Denmark because all of his music is long out of print. Subsequently, Silver and his wife, Noreen, have performed works by Sinigaglia in concerts at UMaine and in Israel. The Toccata Classics CD is one of only a handful of known recording of the composer’s works. All the compositions on Silver’s CD are world-premiere recordings.

“It is very gratifying to see this project come to fruition,” says Silver. “As soon as we came into possession of the scores of these chamber works and began to work on them, it was clearly evident that Sinigaglia had a distinctive musical voice that deserved to be heard. Whatever labor was expended on this project, we knew that the quality of this music more than justified the effort.”

Stories about Silver’s research on Sinigaglia and other composers from World War II can be found in the UMaine Today magazine archive. (Degenerate Musik and Music Amid the Madness)


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