Subject: I have found a CD that I think you would enjoy
|Ovitsky, Ana Maria Martinez, Kristen Okerlund|
Weisgall - T'Kiatot Rituals for Rosh Hashana / Psalm of the Distant Dove / Four Choral Etudes / A Garden Eastward (Milken Archive of American Jewish Music)
Genres: Pop, Classical
Hugo Weisgall united an early affinity for the musical aesthetics of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern with a lifelong commitment to and fascination with his Jewish heritage. His symphonic masterpiece, T?kiatot, is based on a c... more »
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Hugo Weisgall united an early affinity for the musical aesthetics of Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern with a lifelong commitment to and fascination with his Jewish heritage. His symphonic masterpiece, T?kiatot, is based on a central section of the traditional Rosh Hashana service in which the shofar (ram?s horn) is sounded three times. The song cycle Psalm of the Distant Dove is based on biblical and medieval Hebrew-Spanish poetry. Also inspired by the Golden Age of Spanish Jewry is A Garden Eastward, one of Weisgall?s most rhapsodic vocal and orchestral conceptions, which the composer once called his "most beautiful work."
An Introduction to the Music of Hugo Weisgall
Robin Friedman | Washington, D.C. United States | 08/09/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Hugo Weisgall (1912-1997) was born in Moravia and a descendant of a long line of cantors. The family immigrated to the United States in 1920. Weisgall went on to a long and distinguished career as an composer and educator. He is probably best known for his operas such as Six Characters in Search of an Author (1956). Weisgall composed both secular music as well as music which drew heavily on Jewish sources.
The disk under review is part of the Naxos lablel's outstanding "American Classics" series. It is part of a special subset of that series that consists of music with specifically Jewish content written by Jewish-American composers. The series is drawn from the collection of the Miliken Archive, which was created in 1990 as a project to organize and encourage the study of the substantial amount of Jewish-American music that remains too little known.
The CD is attractively put together with intriguing cover art and with an unusually thorough booklet including biographical information about Hugo Weisgall and detailed commentary on each work included on this CD. Complete English texts for the three vocal works on the disk also are provided.
Weisgall's music is chromatic, atonal and difficult. He was much influenced in his compositional style by Schoenberg, Berg, and Webern. Yet the music is passionate, craggy and moving. It reminded me of the music of George Rochberg, and of an earlier Jewish-American immigrant composer, Leo Orenstein, whose work is too little known.
Of the works on this CD, I particularly enjoyed the two song cycles. The first, "Psalm of the Distant Dove" (1992) is for piano and soprano. It is performed here by Ann Maria Martinez, soprano and Kristen Okerlund, piano. This is a work in seven movements that sets sons paying "homage to Sephardi Culture." The cycle is an attempt to capture the difficult relationship between God and the people of Israel. The songs are set to a variety of poems and are craggy and harsh. The piano writing is particularly spare. Several of the songs open with a piano prelude, and there is a brief but moving piano solo near the end of the work in the memory of William Schuman.
The second work for solo voice on this CD is "A Garden Eastward" (1952) which Weisgall regarded as the "most beautiful" of his compositions. This work is performed by Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano and the Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia conducted by Jorge Meister. This work is in three movements, marked Fantasia, Scherzo, and Free Variation, and sets poetry by the medieval Jewish-Spanish poet and philosopher Ibn Ezra (1055-1135). The finale of this work makes use of Jewish liturgical themes. This is a work of passion and awe as the medieval poet and Weisgall reflect on the majesty of the divine.
The disk also includes an orchestral work, "T'kiatot:Rituals for Rosh Hashana" (1986) performed by the Seatle Symphony conducted by Gerard Schwarz. The work is in three movements which parallel three parts of the Jewish Service for the New Year. The three sections of the work capture the three aspects of God basic to the New Year Service: God the Creator, the God of History, and God as the source of truth and wisdom. Each of the sections of the work feature the use of the Shofar, a Jewish ritual instrument blown on the High Holy Days.
The final work on this CD is the "Four Choral Etudes" (1960). This is an a capella work for choir performed here by the BBC singers conducted by Avner Itai. It is a brief work with four short sections based upon Jewish liturgical texts. This is probably the most accessible work on this CD.
I was inspired by this disk because, among many other reasons, Weisgall composed actively up to the end of his life, and much of his best music is the product of his old age. The CD performs an important role in introducing listeners to Weisgall's music, too little of which is currently available on CD. The two works for solo voice in this collection, "Psalm of the Distant Dove" and "A Garden Eastward" are outstanding works of modernistic song. This CD will appeal to the experienced listener willing to explore new music."