Kent State University
Over a century ago, Jewish commentators noted that the theme of the sixth movement in Beethoven's String Quartet, Op. 131 (1826), bore a resemblance to Kol Nidrei [the prayer recited on the evening of Yom Kippur], although they could not explain its presence. Modern Beethoven scholars (including several of Jewish origin) have generally ignored the question.
Early in 1825, representatives of Vienna's Israelitische Kultusgemeinde [Jewish Religious Community] approached the Catholic Beethoven to compose a cantata for the dedication of their new Tempel in the Seitenstettengasse, projected for early 1826. Their initial visit took place while Beethoven was not home, and his nephew reported that their leader was old, fat, had white hair, and "You know him." Fatigued from producing his Ninth Symphony in 1824, the largely deaf Beethoven was now laboriously composing three string quartets for a Russian prince and felt compelled to decline their lucrative offer.
Direct evidence does not explain why the Kultusgemeinde selected Beethoven, who led the party that approached him, or how Beethoven might have known that the introspective Kol Nidrei was inappropriate for a dedicatory cantata. Circumstantial evidence, however—drawn from contemporary documents and involving Beethoven's conversation books and correspondence, battling bankers, architectural history, and the reform-versus-orthodox politics of the Kultusgemeinde from 1821 to 1826—points to the music-loving banker Bernhard Eskeles and a mystery story still worthy of Sherlock Holmes.
Paula Eisenstein Baker
University of St. Thomas (Houston)
Before the twentieth century, Jewish art music—music on Jewish theme designed for the concert hall—was rare. A few examples from the Western European canon come to mind—Bruch’s Kol Nidre is perhaps the best known. But in Eastern Europe, Jews exercised their musical creativity—when it was not being used in performance—in other areas: in liturgical music, in klezmer music, in the theatre, and in folk song.
In early twentieth century Russia, a new sphere of musical activity emerged: the composition of art music based on Jewish musical material—folksongs, nusakh [the scales and motifs on which the liturgy is based], and trop [the tune fragments used for chanting various books of the Hebrew Bible]. One catalyst for this spurt of composition was the Society for Jewish Folk Music, organized in 1908 in St. Petersburg.
What is meant by using musical material for composition? We will hear musical examples from two different works by composer Leo Zeitlin (1884-1930), one of the highly talented but little-known members of the Society. Both sets of examples illustrate how the composers utilized Jewish material motifically; the second set also demonstrates how Zeitlin internalized Jewish material to create an original tune that sounds as if he had drawn it from the tradition.
Emily A. Bell
University of Florida
Park Avenue Synagogue’s Annual Service of New Music series was conceived by Cantor David Putterman to enhance Jewish worship, encourage composers to write for the Synagogue, and contribute to the mainstream of contemporary music. This program was a musical series of choral services that became known internationally. The series would have thirty two special services, and works were contributed by seventy three Jewish and non-Jewish composers.
The three works analyzed in this paper were commissioned shortly after the Second World War: Leonard Bernstein’s Hashkivenu, Roy Harris’ Mi Chomocho, and William Grant Still’s Mizmor Ledovid. Some of these pieces use augmented fourth and perfect fifth intervals, indicative of the shofar. We also see the use of bittersweet melodies and augmented second or “Jewish” intervals.
The compositions from the Annual Service series generally continue to languish unperformed after their initial premieres; however, there is an occasional performance on the concert stage. With increased interest in the area of Jewish liturgical and art music research, more recordings and performances of these works will surely take place. Putterman’s legacy will live on; his effort to revitalize synagogue music was ambitious and certainly has its place in the history of Jewish liturgical and art music.
Dan W. Clanton, Jr.
University of Denver
In recent years, many Jewish musicians have begun to assert their Jewish identity self-consciously in their music through the adaptation of musical genres traditionally used by black artists. These genres, including rap, reggae, and hip-hop, were formed in a matrix of suffering and disenfranchisement in order to reassert the value of the black experience in various social and historical contexts. Surely the use of these genres by Jewish artists represents a significant statement regarding Jewish identity in the twenty-first century.
This presentation explores the historical roots of these musical genres using the work of Robin Sylvan, Anthony Pinn, and Monica Haim. Following this, I discuss the modifications made by such Jewish artists as Matisyahu, SoCalled, Chutzpah, and the Hip Hop Hoodios to these genres in the context of what Conrad Ostwalt refers to as the “sacrilization of the secular,” viz., popular culture media such as music can be seen “as vehicles that carry and transport our religious longings, rituals, and beliefs.” Ultimately, I hope to show that, through the deliberate employment of these musical genres, these Jewish artists are engaging in an act of cultural resistance via the promulgation of a new mode of expressing religious identity, one that shatters both musical and ethnic boundaries.
My thesis agrees with the work of Ostwalt, who notes, “It might be that in our postmodern context, with shifting authority structures, popular cultural expression of religiosity is more important, more available, and more powerful than traditional expressions of religious truth.” This musically integrative, boundary-crossing mode of religious expression carries significant implications for the dissemination of Jewish identities, as it represents a more inclusive method of religious engagement with culture.
Marsha Bryan Edelman
Early in the twentieth century, immigrants to the United States clung to the traditions of Europe as a form of security against the strange and rapidly shifting musical styles of the New World. Fifty years later, and well-acclimated to American culture, their children began to abandon the melodies of the past, only to be told by their elders that this new music "didn’t sound Jewish." Today "Jewish music" is to be found in the concert hall and on top 40 radio, and it is performed by non-Jews as often as by Jews.
Can there really be "Jewish music" outside of the synagogue? What has happened to our preconceived notions of the role and place of Jewish music? Were those notions based on facts or on some idealized perception of what Jewish music is all about? This presentation uses recorded illustrations to uncover the "real truths" about the origins of Jewish music, and to explore some contemporary compositions and the extent to which they fit into the continuum of the Jewish musical past.
College of Jewish Studies, Heidelberg
This paper addresses the dilemma that Jewish musicians faced after the Holocaust. Was it still possible—and at all defensible—to "make music" in the land of Bach and Beethoven for a post-Holocaust German audience? What were the moral implications of musical performance on German soil? While violinist Yehudi Menuhin, playing for concentration-camp survivors in Bergen-Belsen and for German civilians as early as 1945, considered music to be the matrix of reconciliation, others, such as Arthur Rubinstein and Isaac Stern, declared a ban on Germany.
The number of Jewish soloists and orchestra players in Germany has increased dramatically over the past thirty years. Best known perhaps is Daniel Barenboim, who has—to the dismay of many Jews—conducted more Wagner opera performances (161!) than any other conductor in the entire history of Bayreuth, and who, notwithstanding his success, has had to face anti-Semitic vituperation. This paper examines also the integration of Jewish musicians into the German music scene since 1945, especially into the seemingly new cultural climate of the last thirty years, and tries to confront the political and moral aspects of this development.
Susan M. Filler
The Yiddish theater, established in Eastern Europe, was eventually brought to the United States and England by immigrants over a century ago; it set an historical precedent in the Ashkenazic community because it was “Jewish” music used for secular purposes. The dissemination of this music on stage and in publication foreshadowed similar processes in the music of Broadway theater.
My purpose in this lecture is to document the following subjects:
-the composers of this music, the background that influenced their work, and the basis of its style in the music of the nineteenth century;
- the sources of “Jewish” subject matter for plays and operettas;
- the influence of the Yiddish theater on Broadway; and
- the methods of disseminating this music, including recording and publication as well as live performance.
The major composers of Yiddish theater music (including Goldfaden, Ellstein, and Olshanetsky) and their influence on later composers, including Irving Berlin and George Gershwin, are discussed, as is the role of important performers, including Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, Molly Picon, Fanny Brice, Menasha Skulnik, and Paul Muni, all of whom made the transition from Yiddish theater to Broadway. Bibliographic documentation and source materials for Yiddish theater are also addressed.
Rabbi Jonathan Gross
Rabbi Shaftah said that Rabbi Yochanan said: “Anyone who reads [the Torah] without tune or studies [Torah] without melody of him the verse states, ‘and I also gave to you ordinances that are not good (Yechezkel 20:25).’”
Talmud Bavli, Megillah 32a
In order to properly read from the Torah, one must be familiar with the vowels, unwritten and only known through tradition, that accompany the letters of the Torah. In addition, one must be familiar with the ta’amei hamikra, the cantilations, sometimes referred to as trup, that also accompany each word. The trup serves many functions; among these functions is of course the beautification of the holy words of the Torah to make it pleasing to the ear and easy to remember. Equally important, however, is the role of the trup as an aid to understanding the text. The purpose of this paper is to point out the importance of the trup as more than just a musical note and the many functions that it serves in learning and understanding the Torah.
I include a brief history of the development of the trup. The body of the paper presents examples of how different notes serve different functions, and how understanding these functions can give us a new understanding of a familiar text. In each example, the reader will learn how the trup reveals a hidden meaning, sheds new light, solves an ambiguity, or teaches an additional lesson, all of which give an added appreciation of the text.
Louisiana State University
The use of the word “musical” in the title of this paper requires three admissions of no little importance. Since music is the most abstract form of art, it follows that the assignment of meaning or value to music must be based upon an aural experience that is simply impossible to convey in writing by the biblical authors or to appreciate by modern readers. Adding to the complexity of the task is the fact that what is known about music from the written Bible must be linked with its function and context, two issues about which scholars have no little uncertainty. Yet a third complication lies in the inherent impossibility of performing and hearing a musical composition in exactly the same way more than a single time. The sounds, rhythm, and texture, no less than the context of a specific musical performance, do not cohere together as do the parts of a sculpture or a painting. Attempted repetition of the same composition is thus no guarantee that a current hearer has entered into the experience of the original audience, and neither the former nor the latter audience may be assured of having entered into the mind and heart of the composer or performer.
Having admitted the difficulty of the task at the outset, the fact remains that readers of the Bible have long been intrigued by the written notations apparently pertaining to music that appear in an indiscernible pattern throughout the biblical Book of Psalms. The etymology of several of these notations suggests both meaning and function, while others have completely denied scholars anything close to a consensus over the centuries. This paper is an attempt to offer a fresh examination of all of the psalmic notations or musical cues for the purpose of linking them with: [a] Psalm titles that deal with the function of a particular composition; [b] what may be gleaned about music composition and performance elsewhere in the Bible; and [c] the identification of types of musical instruments mentioned by biblical authors both in and out of the Psalter in a variety of places and contexts. Only then is it possible to indicate at least in rudimentary form the role that these notations may have performed in the singing of many of the biblical psalms.
How we define the concept of “Jewish Music” is to a great extent dependent on how we identify ourselves as Jews. Is “Jewish” a religion? a culture? a race? a nation? We will investigate what “Jewish Music” has meant to composers and critics, Jew and non-Jew, friend and foe.
University of Heidelberg
Jewish musicians achieved an astonishing success in Italian Renaissance music. As early as the beginning of the fifteenth century, their success as music and dancing masters or instrumentalists is documented. The proposed paper seeks to present some of these biographies, starting with Guglielmo Ebreo da Pesaro (born 1420, died after 1481), who was among the leading dancing instructors of his day. Jewish origins seem also probable in the case of the Bassano family, a dynasty of famous instrument builders.
However, most of the Jews active in the field of music were certainly instrumentalists. These musicians did not make Jewish music, but offered profane music for a mainly gentile public. Reconstructing their musical praxis shows that it provided the possibility for close contacts between non-Jews and Jews. Thus, not surprisingly, performance by Jews was frequently prohibited in Italy, most likely in the aftermath of anti-Jewish polemics by friar minorities. Jewish musicians got in the “battle lines” between the church and the Jews.
The high percentage of baptism among Jewish musicians may provide evidence as to the severe pressure put on this particularly exposed Jewish profession.
Moreover, successful Jewish musicians apparently had a difficult time within Jewish communities. I would like to suggest that only after the erection of the Italian ghettoes did these genuine Jewish spaces provide a special public space for Jewish music.
Charles Jurgensmeier, SJ
Salomon Sulzer was raised and trained in Reform Judaism in nineteenth century Austria. He was also trained as a singer and composer, taking theory and composition lessons at an early age. In Vienna during the 1820s, the Reform community desired to have their own synagogue or Temple. They appealed to the Emperor, who gave permission for the raising of the structure of the Temple and for its dedication.
Sulzer, who had a very fine baritone voice, had performed a few art songs of Franz Schubert in Schubert’s presence. Schubert was quite impressed with the young cantor’s musical abilities. Sulzer approached Schubert and other Christian composers in early 1828 about the possibility of composing music for the newly constructed Temple. Schubert agreed and, with Sulzer’s help, set Psalm 92 for baritone solo, solo SATB quartet and chorus.
The setting was performed in the fall of 1828, just prior to Schubert’s death. Sulzer later published it in his collection of music for the Temple, Schir Zion. Due to Schubert’s setting of the psalm, the enormity of antiphonal singing and the fact that Schubert set only a portion of the psalm, it was not performed at the Temple until 1904, at a celebration of the centenary of Salomon Sulzer’s birth.
The lecture focuses on the circumstances surrounding Schubert’s setting of the psalm and his relationship with Salomon Sulzer.
City University of London
Amidst widespread discussions of Holocaust memory, which become increasingly detached from the historical referent, Germans dance the hora, speak Yiddish, and dress up as Jews. Schoolteachers recreate Jewish weddings with their classes, entire audiences hum along to the “laughing and crying” clarinet of the Israeli-Argentinian clarinetist Giora Feidman, and blond housewives compose new “chasidic” songs. Furthermore, festivals celebrating “reconciliation and understanding” are being sponsored by the German government, and rebuilt synagogues devoid of Jewish life offer klezmer workshops and “spaces for mutual encounter,” supposedly between Germans and Jews.
The klezmer movement has become a national movement in the sense of involving a cross-section of the population and the participation of political organizations and the clergy. It has developed its own language of symbols, its own rituals, and is in the process of rewriting Jewish history by depleting it of its Jewish content and turning it into a German commodity—as the traveling exhibition on klezmer music sponsored by the Central Ministry for Political Education and the website of the German Embassy in Washington, DC, have recently shown.
As the historian George L. Mosse has written, the New Germany needs “holy flames, flags, and songs,” and this presentation investigates the role of music in the German nation-building process, which is inseparably linked with the processes of “getting over” (singer Thomas Quasthoff) the Holocaust. This presentation uses audio and visual materials to take a closer look at the songs and melodies of the New Germany, especially the ones that have been adapted from Yiddish-speaking Jews, the main victims of the Holocaust.
Joel E. Rubin
University of Virginia
Parallel to immigrant institutions such as the Yiddish theater and the landsmanshaftn, the New York klezmer tradition reached its zenith in the 1920s and began to decline in the 1930s. This may be attributed to a combination of factors, including acculturation, restrictive immigration legislation, and the Depression. Later events, in particular the Shoah and the founding of the State of Israel, also significantly affected the development of the New York klezmer tradition after the mid-1940s.
Based largely on ethnographic interviews with the generation of musicians born after 1910, I paint a variegated picture of adaptation and revitalization of New York klezmer within this period of general decline, as the musicians developed a new style and found new markets and performance venues. The advent of Yiddish radio in the mid-1920s and the emergence of ethnic recording companies in the 1940s provided new avenues for the dissemination of a new music that was born out of the interaction with European ethnic groups in New York as well as the influence of Yiddish and American popular music. The emergence of a new generation of musicians—born in America and musically and culturally bilingual—also influenced the development of the music, as they drew on their experience in vaudeville, dance orchestras, and recording studios. The influx of Holocaust survivors in the aftermath of World War II, especially Chasidim, provided new audiences for the aging immigrant musicians and their American-born children.
Continuing a pattern of centuries of adaptability in Central and Eastern Europe, American klezmer musicians were quick to retool their skills in order to service these new communities. This brief period of revitalization was, however, short-lived, as the members of the second American-born generation either left the realm of klezmer music or did not become musicians at all. In addition, the advent of rock and roll in the 1950s and changing musical aesthetics—even among the ultra-orthodox—led to the gradual obsolescence of even the American-born musicians. Their music would not really be appreciated again until the late 1970s, with the emergence of the klezmer revival.