This is a post for anyone and everyone obviously but with a musically Jewish theme; indeed it's also
a Hannuka post/gift to myself ;) Two of the three composers are not Jewish as you all know, that is
Prokofiev and Shostakovich.
Russia's relationship with Jews has in large part been uneasy. But music knows few if any boundaries, and indeed Jewish influences have cropped up in plenty of unlikely spots. On this disc that presence is felt in a treatment of Hebrew themes by Prokofiev, settings of Yiddish poems by Shostakovich, and a rhapsody by a Russian-Jewish composer, Sergei Slonimsky. Although best known as a work for orchestra, Prokofiev's "Overture on Hebrew Themes" (1919) is here heard as originally written, for Clarinet, String Quartet and Piano. The difference is rather startling. Instead of a 'homogenized' homage to Jewish themes, the piece emerges as a klezmer band's spontaneous, sentimental outpouring. And if Prokofiev's pungent harmonies still persevere, plenty of character is evoked in a committed reading by the Glinka Quartet, Anton Dressler, a clarinetist, and Julia Zilberquit, a pianist. This version of the Prokofiev is good, however I do have several others that I prefer, due to tempo and a general sense of passion. Shostakovich's "From Jewish Folk Poetry" an 11-song cycle for Soprano, Contralto and Tenor (1948; orchestrated in 1964), is sung in Yiddish rather than in Russian translation here: a first, it is claimed in the packaging. Eva Ben-Zvi, the soprano (though she sounds at times like a theremin!), Elena Goubina, the contralto, and Nikolai Kurpe, the tenor, handle the delicate task with apt poignancy. Andrei Chistiakov and the Bolshoi Orchestra accompany sympathetically. At first, it is hard to tell what is specifically Jewish about Slonimsky's "Jewish Rhapsody" (1997), a "Concerto for Piano, Flute, Strings and Percussion here in its premiere recording. The first two movements are stark modernist fare, but the Allegro finale contains plenty of klezmer vim. Mr. Chistiakov and the Bolshoi Orchestra present the Slonimsky score winningly, and Ms. Zilberquit provides a glittering account of the piano part.
I don't have the time now to write about each work in any detail, but if anyone is interested please leave comments and I will add to this post either late tonight, or tomorrow.
1. Overture on Hebrew Themes, for clarinet, string quartet & piano, Op. 34
From Jewish Folk Poetry (Song cycle) Op 79 (orchestrated as Op 79a)
2. 'Lament for a dead infant'
3. 'The solicitous mother and aunt'
4. 'Lullaby: Little son, my fairest'
5. Before a long separation'
7. 'The abandoned father'
8. 'Song of want'
10. 'The good life'
11. 'Song of the young girl'
12. 'Good fortune'
13. Jewish Rhapsody, Concerto for piano, flute, strings & percussion: Moderato
14. Jewish Rhapsody, Concerto for piano, flute, strings & percussion: Andante
15. Jewish Rhapsody, Concerto for piano, flute, strings & percussion: Allegro ben ritmato