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In honor of Sunday’s Earth Day holiday, the Milken Archive takes a trip back to where it all began with Nathaniel Shilkret’s Creation. Part of Genesis Suite, a musical depiction of the Book of Genesis in seven acts that features an all-star list of composers like Arnold Schoenberg and Mario Castelnuovo-Tedesco, Shilkret’s Creation piece is essentially divided into two portions. The first includes events of the first three days, ending when God pauses to observe that “it was good.” The second section begins with the words “Let there be light,” and the Creation continues with the music weaving a fabric under the narrator.
Let the blue-and-white flags proudly wave; April 26 is Yom Ha'atzmaut, or Israel Independence Day. Looking back, it seems like the State of Israel found a perfect fit for its national song. In 1947, when Kurt Weill’s orchestral arrangement of Hatikva received its world premiere in New York, it was still -- as it had been for decades -- the anthem of the modern Zionist movement, expressing the hope and determination of a dispersed people for a permanent national home in Palestine. Less than six months later, it had become the de facto national anthem of the new sovereign state, yet didn’t become the official national anthem until 2004. The Milken Archive’s recording was done by the Barcelona Symphony-National Orchestra of Catalonia in 2000 and features Karl Anton Rickenbacher as conductor. (Photo credit: International Centre and Archives for Jewish Music)
Israel Suite is a palpable reflection of Polish-born, socialist movement-influenced composer Max Helfman’s shift, in the 1940s, to the cultural aesthetics, song, and spirit of modern Israel. The Israel Suite comprises six from among his dozens of original arrangements of songs of Hebrew national expression and Zionist idealism, optimism, and determination -- songs that were sung by the Jewish pioneers (ḥalutzim) and settlers in Palestine during the decades prior to statehood, which eventually became part of the composite Israeli song repertoire. In May 2000, the Milken Archive was fortunate to work with the famed Vienna Boys Choir on a production of this suite.