Ernest Bloch’s From Jewish Life is a set of three short pieces, or movements, written by the composer in 1924 for the cellist Hans Kindler. The first of these, Prayer: Andante moderato, indeed has the flavor of a fervently sung prayer, or a hymn of petition, in a traditional Ashkenazi synagogue. The initial four-note motive in the minor mode, together with its elaboration in the ensuing phrases, sounds as if it might have served as the skeletal model for Max Janowski’s (1912–1991) now well-known setting of the High Holyday prayer avinu malkenu in the abridged text adopted by American Reform liturgy for the High Holydays.
The second piece, Supplication: Allegro non troppo, exhibits a sense of urgency with its mild but fast-paced energy and rapid movement. It could be heard as representing either a passionate religious supplication in an hour of particular need or a frenzied pleading connected to some aspect of ordinary daily life.
The plaintive, simple songlike character of the third movement, Jewish Song: Moderato, gives it its title. In particular, the descending sequence recalls the character of a typical eastern European Jewish folksong.
Performers: Marika Bournaki, Piano; Julian Schwarz, Cello
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