In 1957 Benjamin Frankel moved to Switzerland. In England, his homeland, he was mainly known as a film composer. No wonder, because to his name is music for more than 100 films, including classics such as The Seventh Veil, The Night of the Iguana and Curse of the Werewolf.
The night of the Iguana:
In Switzerland he finally found the peace to engage in serious(er) music. In 15 years (Frankel died in 1973) he composed eight symphonies and one opera.
Benjamin Frankel was born in London in 1906 into a Polish-Jewish family. At the age of fourteen he was apprenticed to a watchmaker. Luckily for him, his talent was soon discovered. For a while he played with the idea of becoming a Jewish composer alla Bloch. He considered himself an ‘English Jew’ or a ‘Jewish Englishman’, which did not prevent him from marrying a non-Jewish woman. An act that caused a break with his family.
His musical language is not easy to describe. In the fifties he studied serialism and regularly applied it in his own compositions, yet his works do not sound atonal anywhere. Perhaps the best example of this is the viola concerto, which is very melodic, romantic and yet uses the twelve-tone technique.
Frankel composed his violin concerto – at his request – for his friend Max Rostal. The premiere took place in 1951 at the Festival of Britain. The concert is entitled In Memory of Six Million and embodies Frankel’s personal commitment to the fate of the European Jews.
The beginning reminds me of Korngold’s violin concerto and in the fourth movement I encounter Mahlerian ‘tunes’: there is also a quote from ‘Verlorne Müh’ from his Wunderhorn songs.
Live recording by Max Rostal:
Ulf Hoelscher, who rehearsed the concerto with Max Rostal, plays it virtuoso and with an intense involvement.
Concerto for Violin and Orchestra op.24 (In memory of the six milion)
Viola concerto op.45
Serenata Concertante for Piano Trio and Orchestra op.37
Ulf Hoelscher (violin), Brett Dean (viola), David Lale (cello)
Queensland Symphony Orchestra conducted by Werner Andreas Albert
Frankel’s first three string quartets were first performed by the Blech Quartet in 1947 and 1949 respectively, and the fourth was premiered in 1949 by the very young Amadeus Quartet (where were the recording engineers then?).
Frankel’s gift for a light-hearted approach to serialism can be heard in his fifth string quartet. The work, which dates from 1965, is an example of the composer’s unique ability to transform the atonal into a melody.
The unsurpassed company CPO, which revealed Frankel’s music to the world, deserves all praise; also for the splendid explanations with music examples written by Buxton Orr, Frankel’s pupil and friend.
Complete String Quartets
Paul Ben -Haim, who was born in Munich in 1897 as Paul Frankenburger and died almost 90 years later in Tel Aviv, remains a great unknown to many music lovers. This is a great pity, because the oeuvre of this sadly forgotten composer is very diverse and most exciting. At one time he was totally immersed in the German Romantic tradition before he almost radically broke with it when he left his native country in 1933.
He began his new life composers life in what was then known as the British Mandate of Palestine by changing his name, after which he also adapted his compositions to his new homeland. Starting in 1933, most of his works were influenced and inspired by Jewish, Israeli and Arabic melodies.
Between 1939 and 1949 Ben-Haim accompanied the at that time extremely famous folk singer Bracha Zefira. Zefira, who was of Yemeni origin, had a great influence on the musical life in what was then Palestine. It was for her that he composed the Berceuse Sfaradite, a song which had become one of her greatest successes.
The Violin Concerto, which dates from 1950, is probably Ben-Haim’s best-known composition, in no small part as a result of the great recording by Itzhak Perlman. The CD is still on the market, I believe, but as far as I know the Concerto is only rarely performed. Why?
Three Studies for Solo Violin is Ben-Haim’s last violin composition, dedicated to Yehudi Menuhin in 1981. Splendid. But I was most struck by the completely unknown Evocation from 1942, a work which has its premiere here and which really gave me goose bumps. Wow.
Itamar Zorman, the young Israeli violinist who won the 2011 prize in the Tchaikovsky competition, has immersed himself in the composer and his work. Thanks to him, this album was compiled and released. He plays these works as if his life depends on them. He believes in them and he communicates that belief more than convincingly.
Zorman about Ben-Haim:
The accompaniment by Amy Yang (piano) and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Philippe Bach is first-rate as well
Evocation. Poem for violin and orchestra, op. 32, Three Songs without Words, Violin Concerto, Three studies, Berceuse sfaradite, Toccata from Five Pieces for Piano.
Itamar Zorman (violin), Amy Yang (piano), BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Philippe Bach.
Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator
More Ben-Haim: PAUL BEN-HAIM
Paul Ben -Haim, de in 1897 in München als Paul Frankenburger geboren en bijna 90 jaar later in Tel Aviv gestorven componist is nog steeds een grote onbekende voor veel muziekliefhebbers. Zo ontzettend jammer, want het oeuvre van de jammerlijk vergeten componist is zeer divers en meer dan spannend. Ooit totaal ondergedompeld in de Duitse romantische traditie brak hij er vrijwel radicaal mee toen hij in 1933 zijn geboorteland verliet.
Zijn nieuwe componistenleven in wat toen het Britsmandaat Palestina heette begon hij met het veranderen van zijn naam, waarna hij ook zijn composities aan zijn nieuwe vaderland aanpaste. Vanaf 1933 werden de meeste van zijn werken beïnvloed en geïnspireerd door Joodse, Israëlische en Arabische melodieën.
Tussen 1939 en 1949 begeleidde Ben-Haim de toen zeer beroemde volkszangeres Bracha Zefira. Zefira, die van Jemenitische oorsprong was had een grote invloed op het muziekleven in het toenmalige Palestina. Het was voor haar dat hij de Berceuse Sfaradite componeerde, een lid dat één van haar grootste successen was geworden.
Het uit 1950 stammende vioolconcert is wellicht Ben-Haims bekendste compositie, niet in de laatste plaats door de geweldige opname van Itzhak Perlman. De cd is nog steeds in de handel, denk ik, maar het concerto wordt bij mijn weten maar amper uitgevoerd. Waarom?
De Three Studies for Solo Violin is Ben-Haims laatste vioolcompositie, in 1981 opgedragen aan Yehudi Menuhin. Schitterend. Maar het meest getroffen werd ik door de totaal onbekende Evocation uit 1942, een werk dat hier zijn primeur beleeft en mij echt kippenvel bezorgde. Wow.
Itamar Zorman, de jonge Israëlische violist die in 2011 de prijswinnaar was van de Tsjaikovski-competitie heeft zich in de componist en zijn werk ‘ingegraven’. Het is aan hem te danken dat dit album werd samengesteld en uitgebracht. Hij speelt de werken alsof zijn leven ervan afhangt. Hij gelooft er in en dat geloof geeft hij meer dan geloofwaardig door.
Zorman over Ben-Haim:
Ook de begeleiding door Amy Yang (piano) en het BBC National Orchestra of Wales o.l.v. Philippe Bach is van een grote klasse.
Evocation voor viool en orkest, op. 32, Three Songs without words voor viool en piano, Vioolconcert, Three studies voor vioolsolo, Berceuse sfaradite voor viool en piano, Toccata uit Five Pieces for piano
Itamar Zorman (viool), Amy Yang (piano), BBC National Orchestra of Wales o.l.v. Philippe Bach
A question of conscience: is there such a thing as Jewish music? If so, what is it? Is it klezmer? The Chassidic Nigunim? The Spanish romanceros, the Yiddish songs, the synagogal chants, the psalms? And: can classical music be Jewish? Is it up to the composer? Is the music Jewish if the composer is Jewish? Or is it due to the themes used by him/her? A small quest.
Music played an important role in the lives of the ancient Hebrews. Just like most peoples of the East they were very musical and music, dance and singing were of great importance to them: both in daily life and in the synagogal services. They also played different instruments: for example, one of the women of Solomon brought more than a thousand different musical instruments from Egypt.
After the destruction of The Temple all instruments disappeared from the synagogues- except for the sjofar – and only in the 19th century did they return there. Unfortunately there is little written music from before the year 1700. However, in 1917 the oldest known music manuscript to date was found – it dates from around
The best-known prayer from the Jewish liturgy is undoubtedly Kol Nidre: a request for forgiveness and for the annulment of all vows made to God and to oneself during the past year. The prayer was said to have originated before the destruction of the Temple, but there are also legends that put the origin of the prayer in the hands of the Marranos (Spanish Jews, who converted to the Catholic faith under the pressure of the Inquisition, but remained Jewish at heart).
It is certain that Rabbi Jehuda Gaon already introduced Col Nidre in his synagogue in Sura in 720. It is also a fact that the melody, as we know it, has some affinity with a well-known Catalan song. Over the years it has been arranged by several cantors, the most famous version dates from 1871 and was made by Abraham Baer.
The melody became a source of inspiration for many composers: the best known of them is the work for cello and orchestra by Max Bruch.
The motifs of Kol Nidre can also be found in Paul Dessau’s symphony and in the fifth movement of the String Quartet Op. 131 by Ludwig van Beethoven. And then we should not forget Arnold Schönberg’s “Kol Nidre” for speaking voice, choir and orchestra. He composed it in 1939, commissioned by one of the Jewish organizations.
Jewish folk music cannot be grouped together under one denominator and has many traditions: after their dispersion Jews ended up in different parts of Europe, Asia and Africa. The greatest development of their own culture manifested itself strangely enough in places where Jews had the least freedom. Jewish folk music was actually music from the ghetto. Where Jews lived in reasonable freedom, their own “self” faded away.
In the countries around the Mediterranean Sea lived the so-called Sephardim (from Sfarad, Hebrew for Spain). They sang their novelceros in Ladino, a kind of corrupted Spanish. After their expulsion from Spain and later Portugal, they were influenced by the music of their new host country.
Below: ‘Por Que Llorax Blanca Nina’, a Sephardic song from Sarajevo.
In countries such as Poland and Russia, Jews lived in a constant fear of persecution that often degenerated into pogroms. Chassidism emerged as a kind of “counter-reaction”, a movement based on mysticism, spiritualism and magical doctrines. It proclaimed the joy of life, a kind of bliss, which could be achieved through music, dance and singing. Only in this way could direct contact with God be achieved. Hasidic music was strongly influenced by Polish, Russian and Ukrainian folklore. With later also the music of vaudevilles and the waltzes of Strauss. However, the character of the works remained Jewish.
Bratslav nigun – Jewish tune of Bratslav (by Vinnytsia), Ukraine:
In turn, the Chassidic melodies have had an enormous influence on classical composers: just think of Baal Shem by Ernest Bloch or Trois chansons hebraïques by Ravel.
Below: Isaac Stern plays ‘Baal Shem’ by Bloch:
Arnold Schoenberg firmly believed that Joseph Achron was the most underrated composer of his generation. Schoenberg praised his originality and claimed Achron’s music was destined for eternity. Yet, despite his enthusiastic praise, Joseph Achron never became a household name. Violin buffs no doubt know his Hebrew Melody, a much loved encore of many violinists, starting with Heifetz.
Hebrew Melody is inspired by a theme Achron heard as a young boy in a synagogue in Warsaw. It is one of his earliest compositions, dating from 1911, and his first ‘Jewish’ work. In the year he composed it Achron joined the Society for Jewish Folk Music. His career as a composer properly started in the twenties of the last century. In Saint Petersburg, Achron joined the composers of the New Jewish School. Several years later he moved to Berlin, where he got acquainted with the works of the French impressionists, and the Second Viennese School.
In 1924 he made a trip of several months to Palestine. He not only performed there, but also collected a huge variety of folk music. The notes he took during this trip were later used for several of his compositions. In his Violin Concerto No. 1, Op. 60 (1925) several Yemenite themes can be heard. In the 1930s he fled, like Schoenberg, Korngold and many other Jewish composers from Europe, to Hollywood, where he died in 1943.
Jossif Hassid plays Jewish Melody by Achron:
OWN JEWISH SOUND
As early as the end of the nineteenth century a ‘Jewish national school of music’ was established in Petersburg (and later in Moscow). The composers united in it tried to compose music that would be faithful to their Jewish roots. Their music was anchored in the Jewish traditions of a mainly Hasidic nigun (melody).
The movement was not limited to Russia, think of the Swiss Ernest Bloch and the Italian Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco who, in search of their roots, developed a completely individual, ‘Jewish style of composing’.
Synagogal songs were a source of inspiration for Sacred Service by Bloch, Sacred Service for the Sabbath Eve by Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Service Sacré pour le samedi matin by Darius Milhaud and The Song of Songs by Lucas Foss.
Below Darius Milhaud: Service Sacré pour le Samedi Matin:
Castelnuovo-Tedesco also used the old Hebrew poetry of the poet Moses-Ibn-Ezra, which he used for his song cycle The Divan of Moses Ibn Ezra:
In the USA it was (among others) Leonard Bernstein, who very deliberately used Jewish themes in his music (Third symphony, Dybbuk Suite, A Jewish Legacy).
Less well known are Paul Schoenfield and his beautiful viola concerto King David Dancing Before the Ark:
And Marvin David Levy who used Sephardic motifs in his cantata Canto de los Marranos:
The Argentinean Osvaldo Golijov (1960, La Plata) combines Jewish liturgical music and klezmer with the tangos of Astor Piazzolla in his compositions, both classical and film music. He often works with the clarinettist David Krakauer and for the Kronos Quartet he has composed a very intriguing work The Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind:
The reason why the non-Jewish Shostakovich used Jewish elements in his music is not entirely clear, but at least it produced beautiful music. He wrote his piano trio op.67 as early as 1944. At the first performance, the last movement, the ‘Jewish part’, had to be repeated. It was also the last time it was played during Stalinism:
In 1948 he composed a song cycle for soprano, mezzo-soprano and tenor From Jewish Folk Poetry – recorded many times and (rightly!) very popular.
Old Melodia recording of the cycle:
In 1962 he composed the 13th symphony Babi Yar, after a poem by Yevgeny Yevchenko. Babi Yar is the name of a ravine in Kiev, where in 1941 more than 100,000 Jews were murdered by the Nazis.
In 1990, the Milken Archive of American Jewish Music Foundation was established to record all the treasures of Jewish music composed in the course of American history. The archive now consists of more than 700 recorded musical works, divided into 20 themes.
The CDs are distributed worldwide by the budget label Naxos. No one interested in the (history of) Jewish music should ignore them.
* This sentence is mentioned on the memorial stone, placed at the Muiderberg cemetery, in memory of the conductor Sam Englander, murdered by the Nazis, and his Amsterdam Jewish Choir of the Great Synagogue.
Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator
in German: SEIN LIED WIRD NICHT VERSTUMMEN *|
in Dutch: ZIJN LIED ZAL NIET VERSTOMMEN *
Music can save your life. Literally. Anita Lasker-Wallfisch has survived Auschwitz. And also Bergen Belsen. She knows for sure that music was the cause of this. She was 16 when she was arrested. Her parents were already dead, but she didn’t know that yet.
Young Anita played the cello and once in Auschwitz she was deployed in the Women’s Orchestra, which was conducted by Alma Rosé, Gustav Mahler’s niece. After the war she came to London, married pianist Peter Wallfisch and was a co-founder of the English Chamber Orchestra.
Her son, Raphael, is also a cellist. A famous one too, with many recordings to his name. And his son, Benjamin, is a conductor. Father and son Wallfisch made a recording together, which they dedicated to their relatives who were killed in the camps. The CD was released just before Holocaust Memorial Day on 27 January 2014.
It has become a surprising CD, because besides Bloch’s almost inevitable Schelomo also his rarely played Voice in the Wilderness is included and Ravel’s Kaddish follows André Caplet’s Epiphanie (d’après une légende éthiopienne). The latter escapes me a bit, it feels like the odd one out. I have to admit that I have no affinity with the work whatsoever. It just ripples on.
Instead I would have preferred to hear Baal-Shem by Bloch. Or something from Joseph Achron. Or Alexander Krein. Or the other two Mélodies hébraiques by Ravel. And even if I prefer the sung version of ‘Kaddish’ (can I make a recommendation? Gerard Souzay!) I have to admit that Raphael Wallfisch with his cello stole my heart. But the most beautiful thing is the orchestra. Soft. Dear. Loving.
Raphael Wallfisch discusses his Jewish music release:
I am often asked if there is such a thing as Jewish music ….. Well, there certainly is! Just take Ernest Bloch. He was born in 1880 in Geneva in an assimilated family. Around the age of twentyfive he became interested in everything to do with Judaism and translated it into his language – music. “I’m interested in the Jewish soul” he wrote to Edmund Fleg, cantor and librettist of his opera Macbeth. “I want to translate all this into music.”
He developed a very personal style: his compositions reflect the atmosphere of Hebrew chant, without actually being a literal imitation of it. His intention was not to reconstruct old Hebrew music, but to write his own, good music, because, as he said, he was not an archaeologist. He succeeded.
Ernest Bloch – Voice in the Wilderness; Schelomo. Rhapsody hébraïque
André Caplet – Epiphany (d’après une légende éthiopienne)
Maurice Ravel – Mélodie hébraïque, Kaddish
Raphael Wallfisch, cello
BBC National Orchestra of Wales conducted by Benjamin Wallfisch
Nimbus NI 5913
Translated with http://www.DeepL.com/Translator
Zij is zonder meer één van de belangrijkste personen achter de revival van de Joodse muziek en het Joodse lied: Shura Lipovsky. Woensdagavond 18 februari 2011 gaf ze een onvergetelijk concert in het Concertgebouw. Een diva die alleen met de grootsten is te vergelijken.
Na de oorlog had je in Amsterdam nog het cabaret ‘Li-La-Lo’ en in Rotterdam bezorgde Leo Fuld menig toeschouwer kippenvel en tranen in de ogen. Maar eind jaren zeventig was dat wel voorbij.
En toen verscheen zij op het toneel: Shura Lipovsky. Lang voordat de zak met klezmer openbarstte en de ‘Joodse muziek’ (de aanhalingstekens zijn zo bedoeld) hot en hype werd, begon ze te werken aan de revival van de vergeten liedjes van onder andere Mordechai Gebirtig.
Ze zong op het allereerste Joods Muziek Festival in Kraków, trad aanvankelijk op in het kleine circuit, maar maakte daarna naam én cd’s.
Shura Lipovsky en haar ensemble tijdens het 24ste Joodscultuur Festival in Kraków.
Een paar jaar was het een beetje stil rond haar, maar nu was zij er weer. En hoe! Haar stem is mooier dan ooit, haar voordracht zowat perfect en haar uitstraling meer dan charismatisch. Ze is een mooie vrouw met een weelderige bos krullen en ze beheerst de bühne vanaf haar eerste opkomst. Een diva die alleen met de grootsten is te vergelijken. Denk aan Callas of Oum Khaltoum.
Haar programma dat zij in 2011 naar het Concertgebouw bracht heette ‘Novaya Shira’. ‘Novaya’ betekent in het Russisch ‘het nieuwe’ en ‘Shira’ staat in het Hebreeuws voor ‘poëzie’, maar ook voor ‘gezang’.
Het meest verrast werd ik door het repertoire dat ze zong en waarvan ik dacht het door en door te kennen. Niet dus. Op een paar nummers na kende ik geen van de door haar gezongen liederen, allemaal uit Rusland afkomstig.
Of het over de oude ‘Matjoesjka Rassiya’ van de tsaren ging of de nieuwe orde van Stalin en de zijnen, één ding was duidelijk: gevaar lag op de loer. Als Jood mocht je je niet in grote steden vestigen, je liep de kans om voor 25 (of nog meer!) jaar het leger in te moeten en aan de horizon lagen de kampen van Siberië. Maar de mensen hadden elkaar lief, trouwden, kregen kinderen en… maakten revolutie.
Af en toe deed Lipovsky mij aan Esther Ofarim denken, wat mij betreft het grootste compliment mogelijk. Het mooiste kwam dat tot uiting in ‘Ikh un di velt’ (Ik en de wereld) van Reisen en Rauch.
Het is onmogelijk om al de liederen hier te bespreken, dus ik noem er maar een paar. Bijvoorbeeld het ontroerende ‘Di Varone’ (De Kraai), een traditionele melodie naar een tekst van E. Chrony, dat later door Sjostakovitsj in zijn cyclus ‘Uit de Joodse Poëzie’ werd gebruikt. Of ‘Shvartse kats’ (zwarte kat), een geestelijke satire op Stalin.
Lipovsky zong zeer ingetogen, a capella ‘Ikh hob gehert fun metschen’ (Ik heb gehoord van mensen), een anoniem lied uit het begin van het Sovjet-tijd. En ze raakte me zeer met ‘Aleyn in veg’ (Eenzaam op weg), naar een gedicht van Lermontov.
Het recital eindigde met een in perfect Russisch gezongen zigeunerliedje, ‘Sivodnya ya lyubyu’ (Vandaag heb ik lief). Hierbij moest ik aan Vertinski denken, de Russische bard uit de jaren twintig en dertig van de vorige eeuw. Die van ‘Those were the days…’ Inderdaad.
Snel een traantje wegpinken, want het publiek wilde meer, en dus werden we getrakteerd op nog twee fantastische toegiften. En aangezien het Poerim was, een vrolijk Joods feest (zeg maar gerust het Joodse karnaval) ging de tweede over cadeautjes geven.
Lipovsky wist fantastische musici om haar heen te verzamelen, van wie één echt goed bekend was met het idioom: Bert Vos. Dat was te horen. Zijn solo’s waren duizelingwekkend in hun virtuositeit, dansant, vol humor, maar tegelijkertijd weemoedig. Precies zoals het Jiddische lied zelf is.
Op 23 december 2017 heeft Lipovsky, als eerste niet Amerikaanse/Canadese in New York de Adrienne Cooper ‘Dreaming in Yiddish’ Award ontvangen voor haar eigen composities en liedteksten en haar verdiensten voor de Jiddische cultuur.
Vocaal in de Kleine Zaal (in het kader van Rusland Festival)
Programma “Novaya Shira”- Shura Lipovsky and Friends
Bezocht op 16 februari 2011 in Het Concertgebouw in Amsterdam
Website van Shura Lipovsky: