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May 20 marks a relatively newer festival on the Hebrew Calendar: Yom Yerushalayim, or Jerusalem Day. The day meant to honor Israel’s capital went into effect after the Israeli army took over the ancient part of the city during the June 1967 Six Day War. Shortly after, a “municipal unification” of city’s Israeli and Palestinian sections took place. Both of these cultures are recognized in Julius Chajes’ Old Jerusalem. For this setting of Psalm 134, the composer made use of Near Eastern modal and rhythmic features to invoke the aura of a Palestinian folk song. The contrast between the A and B sections highlights the intentional -- and highly successful -- mixture of folk and classical approaches. (Photo credit: opendemocracy via Flickr)
Composer Vivian Fine also paid tribute to the Israeli capital in her Canticles for Jerusalem. As a result of the Six Day War in 1967, Fine -- along with American Jewry in general -- experienced a new and heightened consciousness regarding Jerusalem, and all its historical, political, spiritual, artistic, and national ramifications. Drawing on the work of two important Jewish poets, the medieval era Yehuda Halevi and 20th-century Yehuda Amichai, this song cycle functions as an ode to -- and meditation on -- the city of Jerusalem, both Judaically as a spiritual center and on a more general symbolic plain as a longed-for "home."
Joseph Achron -- who was born May 13, 1886 and is pictured here with his brother, composer and pianist Isidor Achron -- was an influential violinist and composer who left a lasting mark on the Jewish music world. Born in Lithuania, Achron was a child violin prodigy who wrote his first composition at age seven, had his performance debut at age nine, and his first tour at 13. As an adult, Achron was part of the cadre of violinists (along with Jascha Heifetz, Efrem Zimbalist, and Mischa Elman) who studied under the legendary Leopold Auer at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. After graduating, Achron became involved in the newly formed Society for Jewish Folk Music, the chief goal of which was to create a “national” Jewish art music based on Jewish folk and liturgical musical traditions. Amongst Achron’s contributions to that project is his Violin Concerto No. 1, the first know concerto to be based on authentic biblical cantillation motifs. (Photo Credit: Jewish National and University Department of Music)