Music of Jewish Descent

Piano, Fortepiano and Harpsichord Music
pianojerome

Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by pianojerome » Sun Apr 24, 2011 3:29 am

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 Probably NONE of them thought of themselves as 'Jewish' composers: their religion and/or cultural heritage was superseded by their nationality.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.
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.

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.
Last edited by pianojerome on Sun Apr 24, 2011 2:08 pm, edited 3 times in total.

pianojerome

Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by pianojerome » Sun Apr 24, 2011 3:50 am

Since the fall of the Soviet Union and archives were opened, there's been renewed interest and research in Jewish nationalist art music from the early 1900s. The Russian-Jewish pianist Jascha Nemtsov, now living in Germany, has made a dozen CDs of solo and chamber music by these composers. Extensive research has been done by musicologists like James Loeffler, Paula Eisenstein-Baker, and Klára Móricz. In very recent years, organizations such as Pro Musica Hebraica and the Joseph Achron Society have been founded to organize new performances, recordings, and scholarship.

Unfortunately, most of what has been recorded are miniatures. None of the operas, and very, very few concerti, sonatas, and symphonies have been recorded. YouTube is still very sorely lacking in videos of this music - there's over 50 videos of Achron's "Hebrew Melody" for violin and piano, but almost nothing else. Here are a few examples:

Achron's "Hebrew Melody" for violin and piano:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ImIwpDCMC10

Achron's "Hebrew Dance" for violin and piano (with cuts by Jascha Heifetz):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZrBF_eUfho

Achron's "In a kleyner shtibele" for voice and piano (in Yiddish, with yours truly at piano):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=76B1F2S_UXg

Saminsky's "Hebrew Fairy Tale" for solo piano:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wdj4g8L46Qk

Saminsky's "Lid fun Esterke" for voice and piano (in Yiddish):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FELWZzTabYU

Zeitlin's "Eli Zion" for cello and piano (based on a folk melody and also motifs ["tropes"] from the traditional melody of Song of Songs):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nh8_xPx4TQ

Weinberg's "Rabbi Meir's Dance" for solo piano (yours truly at piano; apologies for botching the cadenza):
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MbB_ZUEkHlM

Dani_area_51
Pianophiliac
Posts: 411
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2010 1:10 pm
Instruments played, if any: Piano
Music Scores: Yes

Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by Dani_area_51 » Fri Apr 29, 2011 2:08 pm

After hearing the recordings above, I really can't believe I can't find any score of Lazare Saminsky.. Can anyone share anything ? :D

User avatar
mballan
Site Owner
Posts: 2068
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 12:35 pm
Instruments played, if any: Piano
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Cornwall, England

Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by mballan » Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:44 pm

Dani_area_51 wrote:After hearing the recordings above, I really can't believe I can't find any score of Lazare Saminsky.. Can anyone share anything ? :D
I have several Saminsky...but in my pile to be scanned.

Malcolm

Dani_area_51
Pianophiliac
Posts: 411
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2010 1:10 pm
Instruments played, if any: Piano
Music Scores: Yes

Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by Dani_area_51 » Fri Apr 29, 2011 4:48 pm

mballan wrote:
Dani_area_51 wrote:After hearing the recordings above, I really can't believe I can't find any score of Lazare Saminsky.. Can anyone share anything ? :D
I have several Saminsky...but in my pile to be scanned.

Malcolm
I can't believe it!!! Awesome. Hope your pile includes his Op17. Without puting any pressure hope you can share it as soon as possible plus the other works you have by him. ;)

pianojerome

Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by pianojerome » Fri Apr 29, 2011 6:57 pm

Hi Dani,

Here's the "Hebrew Fairy Tale", Op. 17 No. 1. I'm not sure if the rest of Op. 17 is yet in the public domain ("Etude", Op. 17 No. 2; "Second Fairy Tale", Op. 17 No. 3; and "Vision", Op. 17 No. 4). I've found them all (and the "Ritual Sabbath Dance" for solo piano, Op. 26 No. 1) through inter-library loans.
Saminsky-17-1.pdf
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

User avatar
rob
Site Admin
Posts: 969
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:40 pm
Instruments played, if any: Singer (bass)
Music Scores: Yes
Location: London
Contact:

Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by rob » Fri Apr 29, 2011 7:42 pm

Saminsky op3-2 Hebrew Rhapsody (vln+pno).pdf
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.

Dani_area_51
Pianophiliac
Posts: 411
Joined: Tue Jun 01, 2010 1:10 pm
Instruments played, if any: Piano
Music Scores: Yes

Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by Dani_area_51 » Fri Apr 29, 2011 8:15 pm

Thank you for all the posts. I will wait for the rest of Malcolm's pile...

pianojerome

Re: Music of Jewish Descent

Post by pianojerome » Tue May 03, 2011 1:55 am

pianojerome wrote:
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.
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. [...]
Rob, I'd like to apologize for misunderstanding your post. You specifically mentioned composers before the 20th century, and I wrote about 20th century composers. And, you're right that with few exceptions, Jewish nationalism in Western art music did not really exist before the 20th century. (Joel Engel was born in 1868, though even he didn't get into the idea of Jewish national music until the end of the century).

But, I'm not really sure that the history of the 20th century has changed our views so much on this topic. I don't think most people even know about this aspect of 20th century history - that hundreds of Jewish composers self-identified their nationality as "Jewish" and, as such, wrote "Jewish classical music" in the sense that Rimsky-Korsakov wrote "Russian classical music". Usually when I tell people that I research "Jewish classical music", they either have no idea what I'm talking about or assume that I mean folk music. Bloch is probably the only one who is well-known today; Bernstein and Copland, despite having written a few Jewish works, are generally known as "American" composers, not as "Jewish" composers. Achron, Gnessin, Saminsky, et al are almost completely obscure, except for within niche audiences.

It seems to me that despite tremendous 20th century Jewish nationalism in all of the artistic fields (music, literature, art, theater), despite much 20th century Jewish nationalist philosophy, and despite thousands of years of Jewish self-identity as a "nation" rather than as a "religion", the relatively recent (19th century) idea of Judaism as a "religion" and "culture", instead of a nation, is still very much engrained in modern thought. Many people still don't think of Jewish composers as nationally "Jewish" composers, but rather as "American", "Russian", and "German", etc.

I'm curious about your thoughts on this, though, because I may be still misunderstanding; perhaps you could clarify?

Post Reply