The Compassion Project

The Compassion Project

Edna Michell, Yehudi Menuhin, and friends around the world dedicate their work to universal compassion through music
John Tavener
Shulamit Ran
Chen Yi
Hans Werner Henze
Yinam Leef
Poul Ruders
Somei Satoh
Wolfgang Rihm
Iannis Xenakis
Lukas Foss
Karel Husa
Betty Olivero
Gyorgy Kurtag
Philip Glass
Steve Reich
Kaija Saariaho
Petr Eben
Oldrich F. Korte
Viktor Kalabis
Luciano Berio
Boris Tishchenko
Sean Hickey
Josef Tal
Gennady Banshchikov
Edna Michell
Yehudi Menuhin
Cantilena Piano Quartet
Ulf Hoelscher
Susan Narucki
Czech Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra
Lukas Foss
Michal Kaňka
Nachum Erlich
Karlsruhe Ensemble
Andreas Weiss
Igor Ardašev
Shlomo Mintz
Ludmila Peterková
Patricia Rozario
Bohuslav Matoušek
Allen Ginsberg
Luyba Petrova
Frank Glazer
David Shifrin
Ettore Causa
Tara Helen O’Connor
Claire Brazeau
Elaine Bonazzi
Ole Akahoshi
Orson Welles
Catalog Number: 
new classical
solo voice

New York, NY

Release Date: 
Nov 16, 2018
Liner Notes: 
2 CD
One Sheet: 

At the invitation of Edna Michell and Yehudi Menuhin, distinguished composers and performers - friends around the world - dedicated their artistry to the theme of universal compassion through music. This is their tribute; a gift to the world in troubled times.

In 1993, following recording sessions in the Czech Republic, Yehudi Menuhin and I were on the way to Vienna to catch flights to different destinations. Menuhin was despairing about the atrocities of the world. To change the mood, I came up with the idea of composers from around the world writing short works inspired by the theme of compassion. It struck a chord with Menuhin, and he remained immersed in the project for the rest of his life. — Edna Michell

The Compassion Project is comprised of two albums. The first, entitled Compassion: A Journey of the Spirit, features 15 of the Compassion compositions and was released by EMI/Angel in 2001 to critical acclaim. This disc (available digitally under its original title) is packaged together with Innova’s release of the new second album that includes world premiere recordings of additional Compassion works and a piece written by Lukas Foss for the opening of the 1980 Winter Olympics performed by Yehudi Menuhin (among others) with Orson Welles narrating a poem by W. H. Auden.

The 24 Compassion works were written for and dedicated to Menuhin and Michell. It comes as no surprise that the violin is central to almost all of the works. In their individual program notes, the composers mention such ideals as international understanding, or the power of music to bring spiritual strength, or elements of simplicity and innocence. All reflect different responses to the life and humanistic work of a single great man: “Twenty-four styles with a noble theme behind them,” as Michell puts it.

Menuhin took great pleasure in this collaborative project, and had plans to record it and to continue performing it with Edna Michell in many parts of the world. She recalls that during a concert when they played some of these pieces in London, only a month before he died, he turned to her as they walked off stage and said, “Edna, we must record these pieces now!” He believed the works should be performed together in one program because, as Michell says, “they create a very special ambiance.”

Edna Michell began her distinguished career as a young protégé - then colleague - of Yehudi Menuhin. As founder of the Cantilena Chamber Players, Cantilena Piano Quartet, and Cantilena Productions, Inc., she has championed the works of living composers and continues with numerous musical activities around the world.



"not only is Michell's violin a unifying element, so too are the humanistic themes of compassion and peace permeating the release and the composers' varying ways of embodying such values in musical form. As much as the project is a compliment to her as a spearheading figure, it also presents her in a most flattering light as a musician when so many of the pieces are distinguished by her exceptional playing.” [FULL ARTICLE] - Ron Schepper



"The discs are a dazzling collection of music, all dealing in many different ways with the same theme of compassion. It’s no less relevant today than when the idea was proposed and brought to life. Often, large compilations are just a jumble, but the talent assembled, both composers and musicians is prodigious. The sound is excellent throughout, and the performances are passionate and compelling." [FULL ARTICLE] - Mel Martin


"In the inevitable (and desired) variety of used styles and used organics - ranging from solo violin works, to duets of different types, up to pieces for violin (only constant, except for one case) and strings, with the possible addition of clarinet and voices - it is possible to group some constants in the way in which the theme in question has been declined musically. If authors such as Chen Yi, Satoh, Foss, Glass, Reich have resorted to melodic expressiveness and rhythmic dynamism, within a predominantly tonal context, to instill humanistic qualities to their compositions, other authors have transposed compassion and feelings related to it (like love, benevolence, hope, longing for peace) on a more abstract, bare, ethereal, meditative: I think of the works (obviously very different from each other) of Tavener, Henze, Rihm, Satoh, Saariaho, Kurtag. The awareness of the difficulty in reaching the ideal of universal compassion has instead pushed composers such as Ruders, Ran, Eben, Tal (among others) to make wide and varied use of dissonances and harsh harmonics, in order to underline the obstacles that often stand in the way and make the path towards brotherhood particularly difficult. A path that can however be undertaken in various ways, among which the path of musical research, as the 'Compassion Project' is wonderful to demonstrate." [FULL ARTICLE] - Filippo Focosi



"Wide ranging and ambitious." [FULL ARTICLE]