music director Gerard Schwarz is a member of the Archive’s
editorial board, and a frequent contributor to its recording
projects. Information about any of these recordings is
available online at www.milkenarchive.org.
Poems. Aaron Avshalomov: Four Biblical Tableaux
conductor, Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra); Sheila Silver:
Shirat Sara (Gerard Schwarz, Seattle Symphony); Jan
Meyerowitz: Symphony Midrash Esther (Yoel Levi, Berlin
Radio Symphony Orchestra). (Naxos 559426)
The newest of these
pieces is also the one most closely associated with Seattle.
Sheila Silver is a Seattle native; her chamber music has been
performed here several times over the last decade. Her
Shirat Sara ("Song of Sara") has been recorded before, but
not by this orchestra, and not for this wide public, which it
deserves. The symphony’s three movements reflect the Biblical
matriarch’s struggles and triumphs; especially noteworthy is
the third movement’s insistent, heart-pounding pizzicato. A
great deal of solo violin voices the title character. The
recording was made in 1985, the first year of Gerard Schwarz’s
tenure as music director here in Seattle.
Four Biblical Tableaux, lush and sweeping, go down easy.
They were written for the dedication of Temple Beth Israel in
Portland, where the composer lived from 1926 to 1929,
according to the notes; Avshalomov’s son, the composer Jacob
Avshalomov, writes that he conducted the Tableaux in
1971 at the dedication of the New Greater Portland Jewish
seems, wasn’t even aware he was a Jew until he was 18 and
studying in Berlin in the early ‘30s. Shielded from the
Holocaust by friends in southern France, he found a musical
and permanent home in New York after the war. First performed
by the New York Philharmonic under Dmitri Mitropoulos in 1957,
his four-movement symphony, based on the story of Queen
Esther, also earned the enthusiastic support of William
Steinberg, who conducted it with the Pittsburgh Symphony.
Concerto for Viola and Orchestra
viola; Yoel Levi, conductor; Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra);
Four Motets (Avner Itai, conductor; BBC Singers);
The Merchant and the Pauper, excerpts from Act II (Isaiah
Sheffer, speaker; Kenneth Kiesler, conductor, University of
Michigan Opera Orchestra and Chorus; soloists). (Naxos 559418)
It was a new
Schoenfield work, Sinfonietta, with which Seattle
Symphony opened its current season of subscription concerts.
Music director Gerard Schwarz has stated his enthusiastic
commitment for Schoenfield’s music, and hinted that this viola
concerto may turn up on a future symphony concert here.
Jewish music saturates Schoenfield’s sophisticated viola
concerto, as it does so much of his work. The viola’s eloquent
alto voice speaks his sometimes-caustic harmonies like a sober
elder. Written in Israel, its first movement, "Gan Tzippi,"
was inspired by the singing of children in a nearby
kindergarten. The third, "King David Dancing Before the Ark,"
takes a cue from the Mendelssohn violin concerto and bends it
like a pipe cleaner into exactly what that king must have been
exist in another musical universe: the renaissance choral
tradition usually associated with church music. Sung in
Hebrew, these four deeply moving selections set verses from
opera, The Merchant and the Pauper, sets a Chasidic
tale of mistaken identity and rediscovered love, danger and
joy. The scenes recorded here suggest accessible music,
music audiences are already familiar with Schoenfield from
Music of Remembrance programs, where "Sparks of Glory"
received its West Coast premiere, and the MOR-commissioned
"Camp Songs" its world premiere. Since its nomination for the
Pulitzer Prize, "Camp Songs" has received a new translation
into English, which will premiere with MOR this November.
T’kiatot: Rituals for Rosh Hashanah
Gerard Schwarz, conductor); Psalm of the Distant Dove
(Ana Maria Martinez, soprano; Kristen Okerlund, piano);
Four Choral Etudes (BBC Singers, Avner Itai, conductor);
A Garden Eastward (Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano;
Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia, Jorge
Mester, conductor). (Naxos 559425)
One of the founding
fathers of the Cantor’s Institute at the Jewish Theological
Seminary, Weisgall was a boy when his family came to America
in 1920 and settled in Baltimore. An opera composer by
inclination, his intellect ranged widely, serving synagogue,
concert hall, and academia; as usual, the Milken Archive’s
extensive booklet notes detail a great deal about the
composer, including his rescue of refugees as a soldier in
World War II. Listeners interested in Weisgall will want to
discover his daughter Deborah’s memoir, A Joyful Noise.
taste yields a music friendly to those comfortable with the
Second Viennese School. The song cycle "Psalm of the Distant
Dove," subtitled "A Canticle in Homage to Sephardi Culture,"
wanders far from that culture’s musical home, setting texts
from Yehuda Halevi, Shmuel Hanagid, Song of Songs, and
Midrash. "A Garden Eastward," on texts by Ibn Ezra is by turns
wistful and mystical, soaring and earthy, and well-served by
Phyllis Bryn-Julson’s seasoned, acclaimed soprano voice.
The same elusive
tonality - what key are we in? Is there a key? - suffuses the
Choral Etudes, where the blended voices, singing
prayer, psalm, and Haggadah texts cushion the sharp-edged
Symphony gets the heftiest assignment here: one of Weisgall’s
rare orchestral efforts, based on the three shofar-blowing
portions of the Rosh Hashanah service. It is, in effect, a
short three-movement symphony, "T’kiatot" builds each
movement to a climax punctuated by the rhythmic blasts of a
shofar. This is anxious music, in the manner of many
mid-20th century efforts, given a committed reading in this
recording made at Benaroya Hall in 1998.
Narrator; Seattle Symphony, Gerard Schwarz, conductor);
Music for Prayer, including Diamond: from Mizmor l’David
(Cantor Charles Osborne; Aaron Miller, organ; Rochester
Singers, Samuel Adler, conductor); Morton Gould: Hamma’ariv
Aravim (Richard Troxell, tenor; Margery Dodds, organ;
Carolina Chamber Chorale, Timothy Koch, conductor); Roy
Harris: Mi Khamokha (Karl Dent, trnor; Sarah Graves,
organ; University Choir of Texas Tech U.; Kenneth Davis,
conductor); Douglas Moore: Vay’khullu (Elaine Close,
soprano; Patrick Masson, baritone; Christopher
Bowers-Broadbent, organ; Chorus of the Academy of St.
Martin-in-the-Fields, Joseph Cullen, conductor)
This cornucopia of
American composers features the Seattle Symphony in a
bighearted effort reminiscent of Copland’s Lincoln Portrait.
As we are currently celebrating the 350th anniversary of
Jewish arrival in North America, it’s worth noting that this
work was commissioned for the 300th anniversary, in 1954.
Diamond - the Seattle Symphony’s honorary
composer-in-residence - selected texts from Hillel, Jeremiah,
Ibn Ezra and Yehuda HaLevi, history books and prayer books.
Translated into the elevated "Biblical" style, and read in the
manner of high oratory, the texts in this five-movement
declamation benefit from Bikel’s eternal accent and voice; the
effect is old-fashioned, a document of its time in America.
The four Music
for Prayer pieces were commissioned by New York’s Park
Avenue Synagogue between 1946 and 1951, part of a program
designed to bring into being new music for the Sabbath service
by noteworthy composers of serious concert music. Not all
commissioned composers were Jewish, as indicated by the
inclusion here of Roy Harris and Douglas Moore.