While that's true for some composers, many Jewish nationalist composers in the 20th century DID call themselves "jewish composers", they called their classical compositions "Jewish music", and this was fundamental to their art and identity. They considered "Jewish" as their nationality, just as someone else might have considered "Russian" or "American" as a nationality. Composers like Joseph Achron, Solomon Rosowsky, Lazare Saminsky, Leo Zeitlin, Moses Milner, Lazar Weiner, Joel Engel, Joachim Stutschewsky, Michael Gnessin, Alexander Krein, and Efraim Schkliar, among many others, composed specifically Jewish classical music, much the way that Rimsky-Korsakov wrote Russian music, Grieg wrote Norwegian music, and Bartok wrote Hungarian music. They wrote symphonies, operas, concertos, sonatas, variations, miniatures, suites, art songs, etc, using Jewish folk melodies and motifs (secular and religious), Jewish folk rhythms and forms, the Yiddish and Hebrew languages, Jewish programmatic content, etc.rob wrote:I'd like to just add a rejoinder about historical perspective. We now impose an over-riding category on these composers which to us seems more important than anything else. The history of the Twentieth Century has completely altered our perspective of these composers. For most Jewish composers before the Twentieth Century their nationality was more important than anything else. Probably NONE of them thought of themselves as 'Jewish' composers: their religion and/or cultural heritage was superseded by their nationality. Mendelssohn for instance was primarily a German composer, and his 'Jewishness' seems of little importance when looking at his works. So just beware of our contemporary perspective which may have very little to do with the composers' own ideas of themselves.
Between 1908 and 1922, a very extensive movement of Jewish national composition (classical music, not klezmer) was developed in Russia, mostly in St. Petersburg and Moscow. Unfortunately, the revolution put an end to that. Many of the leading composers left Russia after 1917, and those who stayed were not legally permitted to write "Jewish" music. The "St. Petersburg Society for Jewish Music", which had published 80 compositions in 10 years, closed in 1922.
Attempts were made to replace the St. Petersburg Society. In 1922, two Jewish music (Jewish nationalist classical) publishing houses were opened in Berlin by some of the leading Jewish nationanlist composers: Joseph Achron, Joel Engel, and Michael Gnessin. These two houses combined published hundreds of "Jewish" classical compositions over the course of several years, but soon went out of business due to the post-war depression in Germany. Attempts were made to create new organizations and publishers in Palestine and New York, but these, too, quickly went out of business.
It's really a shame. There's so much gorgeous, fascinating, and meaningful Jewish nationalist art music from the 20th century that so few people know about. And, it was very consciously identified by it's composers as "Jewish", although it is NOT folk music, not klezmer music, and most of it not even slightly religious -- a lot of it is really great classical music.