If you were looking for an alternative title for The Art of Jewish Song, the ninth volume of the Milken Archive of Jewish Music, you could do worse than to borrow a line from the musical satirist Tom Lehrer. "As someone remarked to Schubert," Lehrer once sang, "take us to your lieder." So it may be bashert that the volume was released on November 6 – Election Day here in the U.S.
Of course, the lieder to which Lehrer referred are amongst the greatest examples of chamber music ever written: duets for voice and piano featuring German poetry by the likes of Goethe and Schiller, set to music by German Romantic composers such as Schumann, Schubert, and Brahms. (continued below)
From the Milken Archive and Beyond: More Geist from our Zeit
Yehudi Wyner talks candidly about growing up as the son of Lazar Weiner, the undisputed master of Yiddish art song and a key figure of the Jewish music intelligentsia of the 20th century.
In this recent feature in Tablet magazine, Hassidic composer Yossi Green discusses his musical journey from Roberta Flack to Jewish Spirituals via Shlomo Carlebach.
Over time, the term lieder became synonymous with the concept of art song in general, encompassing works by Debussy and Ravel, Britten and Barber, Rorem and Rachmaninoff – and, as The Art of Jewish Song demonstrates, by American Jewish composers like Helfman and Secunda, Weiner and Wyner, Binder and Ben-Amots.
Building on earlier work by European Jewish composers who arranged traditional Yiddish folk songs for the concert stage, the American Jewish composers featured in Volume 9 – some immigrants, some native-born – crafted original art songs using texts by major Yiddish and Hebrew poets.
Many American Jewish lieder bear traces of the Old World, with intimations of klezmer music and Hassidic song. But they also reflect the breadth of styles encompassed by modern American classical music. And their texts touch upon everything from profound philosophical and religious themes, such as the relationship between man and God (see Lazar Weiner's setting of Lazar Weiner - Yidish,"by the Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel) to nostalgic portraits of shtetl life (Ben-Amots' "Shtetl Songs"). At their best, these songs achieve the same level of artistry as their German Romantic predecessors.
Call them Jewish art songs. Call them Yiddish and Hebrew lieder. Call them whatever you like. These works deserve to stand alongside the finest examples of music for voice and piano in any language and we are proud of the elected representatives in our newest volume. Now that you’ve done your own voting—whether your candidate won or lost—don’t fret about the future, sit back and take comfort from the voices of the past.
Welcome to the new newsletter: a little more news and a little more letter. Do you like it? Do you hate it? Do you have any suggestions or requests? Let us know what you think! info@MilkenArchive.org. And for more frequent updates, please join the conversation on facebook, follow @MilkenArchive on twitter and subscribe to our YouTube channel.
Get these newsletters as they come out! Just enter your email here.