Inspired by the heroism of Chiune Sugihara and the thousands of Jewish lives saved through his decisions and actions during WWII, Lera Auerbach created the music, libretto, and artistic concept for Symphony No. 6, "Vessels of Light," for Violoncello, Choir, and Orchestra. Auerbach weaves a multilayered tapestry of words and music with Yiddish poetry, the art of Japanese Kintsugi, the mystical Shevirat ha-kelim ("breaking of the vessels"), and the silent words of biblical Psalm 121 in a work she dedicates to Chiune Sugihara and all those who risk everything to save others.
Symphony No. 6 "Vessels of Light," is a commission by Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem, and The American Society for Yad Vashem. The commission was catalyzed by the world-premiere performer of the symphony, Japanese-American violoncellist Kristina Reiko Cooper, whose husband's father, Irving Rosen, was rescued thanks to the life-saving visas granted by Chiune Sugihara. Yad Vashem honored Sugihara as one of the Righteous Among the Nations for his actions during that dark chapter of our recent history. His act of courage was an unparalleled example of compassion at a time of great darkness and evil.
I first conceived the vision of a grand musical project commemorating the life of Chiune Sugihara when I learned of the incredible story of this righteous and humble Japanese man. It was a profound realization to know that were it not for his heroic actions of saving thousands through his transit visas against the orders of his government, my husband and three beautiful children would never have existed. My husband's father, Irving Rosen, was the recipient of Sugihara’s visa #1628, which ensured his survival. Thus, from the ashes and horror of the Holocaust, he was able to build a new family and life.
As a Japanese-American, I understand how deeply Chiune Sugihara would have had to draw from within himself to to defy his superiors in a culture where this would go against every social mores that culture encapsulates: on the one hand, it was an outstanding act of courage; on the other, in the ways of the Samurai Warrior Bushido code, it was also the simplest act in the world---to just do what is right.
Having chosen to become part of the Jewish people, I also recognize the value of hakarat hatov, the recognition of good deeds. I was inspired to recognize this courageous man the only way I know how, through the transcendence of music. It has been my dream, and now, incredibly, a reality, to bring this project to fruition through Lera Auerbach's amazing and beautiful musical score and to celebrate the preciousness of life by shining light on an ultimately very simple act of Chiune Sugihara. May his actions continue to inspire us all.