Music of Jewish Descent

Piano, Fortepiano and Harpsichord Music
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Music of Jewish Descent

Post by fredbucket » Thu Apr 14, 2011 5:59 am

We already have a thread for Yiddish/Klezmer music, which is rather specialised, so this thread is intended for music by composers of Jewish ancestry and inspired by or containing Jewish themes. Note that this then excludes mainstream Jewish composers such as Mendelssohn or Alkan, but may include music by, say, Ernest Bloch. Also, this thread will share common material with other threads (e.g. Russian composers thread) but in this case I anticipate this thread will focus on non-Russian inspired music.

To kick it off, here are two sites which may be of interest. The Joseph Achron Society - http://www.josephachron.org/original-scores.html - which contains about 20 scores for various instruments including piano solo, and a site http://idisk.mac.com/samzerin-Public/je ... index.html about Jewish Musical Nationalism in Russia, which was funded in part by the American Society for Jewish Music and will later appear at their own website.

My thanks to the owners of each of these sites or making this music available to the world at large.

Regards
FRed

pianojerome

Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by pianojerome » Sun Apr 17, 2011 7:19 am

Thanks for posting these.

Schoenberg and Heifetz both considered Joseph Achron one of the greatest composers of their time, albeit little known.

As a violinist, he was a favorite pupil of Auer, won high praise from the likes of Joseph Joachim, and gave thousands of concerts all over Russia, Europe, the Middle East, and (to a lesser extent) the United States.

The scores for three of his piano works are available on the Achron Society website:

"Halom" (Dream"), Op. 56 No. 1 and "Birkat Shalom" (Greetings), Op. 56 No. 2 were both composed in Germany in 1923, and are based on Chassidic melodies. They are contrapuntally very complex (as are all of Achron's works) and harmonically inspired by impressionism. Someone told me he thought Op. 56 No. 2 sounded a bit like Hindemith.

"Symphonic Variations and Sonata on a Jewish Theme", Op. 39 (for solo piano, despite the name) should undoubtedly be in the standard repertoire, IMO. It consists of 19 variations and a sonata-allegro (the sonata-allegro is essentially variation #20, being entirely based on the theme) on a very popular Zionist worker-song, "El Yivneh Hagalil" ("God will build the Galillee"). Like Op. 56, it is very contrapuntally complex, including a six-part fugue in the sonata's development section, multiple canons, theme-layering, etc. It is also very harmonically complex and creative. For example, the piece begins and ends in E natural minor; however, the sonata allegro begins in F minor, returning to E minor only at the start of the recapitulation. The 19 variations themselves pass through several keys.

Aside from 50+ videos of his "Hebrew Melody" Op. 33 for violin and piano (a standard in the violin repertoire; it was Heifetz's first recorded piece), there's unfortunately almost nothing of his works on youtube. There's the "Hebrew Dance", Op. 35 No. 1 for violin and piano (with Heifetz's cuts), which is, as the title suggests, based on a Jewish folk-tune and contains Jewish rhythmic elements. "In a kleyner shtibele" ("In a little house") for voice and piano is a fascinating and, I'd say, brilliant setting of the Yiddish folk-tune (words by Schalit).

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Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by FW190 » Tue Apr 19, 2011 9:33 am

Very interesting links, fred. Thanks for these.

Moritz Wallerstein (1847-1906), was the chief chazzan at Meisel Synagogue in Prague.
Attached you find his 'Synagogengesänge' in Hebrew and German language for SATB and organ (or pno).
Moritz Wallerstein was the father of the former Met conductor and regisseur Lothar Wallerstein.
Wallerstein,M.-.Synagogengesänge-(SATB-org).pdf
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In Bach we trust.

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Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by FW190 » Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:51 am

The Freimann Collection, part of the Judaica Frankfurt Project:

http://www.judaica-frankfurt.de/search/ ... Musikdruck

171 scores - the main part was written for use in Synagogues.
In Bach we trust.

pianojerome

Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by pianojerome » Thu Apr 21, 2011 7:52 pm

The OP's link to a site on "Jewish Musical Nationalism" (my webspace), contains only a few of the 200+ scores that were digitized as part of the American Society for Jewish Music's project. All 104 scores that we digitized at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America (JTSA), including solo piano works by Joel Engel and Solomon Rosowsky, are available at the JTSA website:

http://sylvester.JTSA.EDU:8881/R/Q2YNDK ... on_id=1250

(If the link doesn't work, follow "Browse Collections" --> "Music Collections" --> "Jewish Art Music")


The solo piano works in this collection include:

Joel Engel's "Dybbuk Suite" -- this is a concert suite, arranged by the composer for solo piano, from his incidental music to the well-known Yiddish play by Sh. Ansky. It is based on Eastern European Jewish folk melodies (including the famous "Ale Brider" at the start of the second movement, "Beggar's Dance") and dance rhythms. Engel was a successful music critic in Moscow, supposedly the only one that Rimsky-Korsakov read with interest, and later became one of the founders of Jewish musical nationalism.

Solomon Rosowsky's "Poem" -- this is a fascinating piece based on "trop" (the short melodic motifs used for singing the Hebrew bible). Rosowsky was a pioneering music theorist who discovered that the Torah trop were fundamentally based on pentatonic scales and quartal harmonies. Thus, he loaded this particular piano work with quartal harmonies, in addition to the trop themselves and a passage marked "quasi synagogal".

Rosowsky's "Badchan (grotesque)" -- Badchans are traditional Jewish wedding jesters. They improvise rhymes to a set tune, which are performed for the bride before the ceremony. Typically, the badchan would first try to make the bride cry -- by reminding her that she will soon be a slave to the kitchen, that her parents have died, that her childhood is over, anything -- and then, when all the tears are gone, strike up the band and entice her to be joyful on her wedding day. This tradition is less common today, but still exists in the form of comic acts performed by wedding guests during the reception to make the bride and groom laugh.


On the link to my webspace ("Jewish Musical Nationalism") are also several neat solo piano works, which we digitized at Gratz College:

Moshe Milner - "Baim Reb'n zu Mlave-malke" (At the Rabbi's House after Shabbat). It is based on an Eastern European Jewish folk melody, which is developed through "changing background variation" (a favored technique of the Russian nationalists). After a climax that resembles (at least in my mind) the piano opening of Brahms's first concerto, the piece ends quietly, with the following Yiddish words written under the last line of notes: "Omar Abaje: Tejke blajbt an" ("Abaye says: it remains a draw.") This is a reference to the rabbi studying Talmud (a collection of Jewish legal debates) after a wild post-Shabbat festive meal full of singing and dancing. Abaye is an ancient rabbi frequently mentioned in the Talmud.

Joel Engel - "Five Pieces", Op. 19. All of them are miniature piano solos based on Eastern European Jewish folk melodies. The style of the music is very orientalist - full of augmented seconds, drones, syncopations, and descending chromatic lines. This is typical of Engel.

Jacob Weinberg - "Volksweisen aus jusidischem Leben" (Folk songs from Jewish Life). This is a set of 5 virtuosic concert miniatures, composed in the 1920s in Palestine, probably for Weinberg's own use as a concert pianist. Like Engel's Op. 19, they are based on Jewish Folk Melodies and are written in the Russian orientalist style. They are also very virtuosic, including Liszt-like figurations and cadenzas.

Samuel Alman - "Pilpul". The word "pilpul", which resembles the Hebrew word for "black pepper", refers to a "spicy", nit-picky style of Talmudic debate among students. Appropriately, the piece is in moto-perpetuo, with constantly "chatty" 16th notes and sharp, frequently changing accent patterns.

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Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by passthesalt » Fri Apr 22, 2011 9:07 pm

Pianojerome, it must be the humidity here (plus my limited mental faculties), but I can't locate Engel's "Five Pieces", Op. 19, on the site you indicated. Could you put up a direct link to it please? I'm always interested in miniatures. Thanks.

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Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by fhimpsl » Fri Apr 22, 2011 9:53 pm

Hi Judy,

I just downloaded the music from the Russian-Jewish site yesterday. Here's the J. Engel piece for you.

All Best,

Frank :D
J. Engel - op. 19 5 piano pieces.pdf
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Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by passthesalt » Fri Apr 22, 2011 10:05 pm

Thanks very much, Frank. I kept pawing through the Engel on that site, but couldn't find much beyond the children's songs. Some interesting stuff there.

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Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by fredbucket » Sat Apr 23, 2011 6:34 am

passthesalt wrote:it must be the humidity here
Humidity? Texas?

Regards
GWB

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Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by Timtin » Sat Apr 23, 2011 7:47 am

Fred's opening message has Alkan down as a mainstream composer, which is interesting because
at the top of my own list of mainstream Jewish composers would be the three M's (Mahler, Mendelssohn,
and Meyerbeer).
I'm probably in a minority of one when opining that quite a bit of Alkan's piano music is unusual and
highly original, but can get a bit boring with over-familiarity.

(Paraphrase of original version of message.)
Last edited by Timtin on Fri Apr 29, 2011 9:46 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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