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WEEKLY LISTENING ASSIGNMENTS
Week 8 (March 6 & 8)
This week, we explore how Israeli composers express their relationship to Jewish history and to the history of “Jewish music.” How does new music confront ancient themes? How much “past” does it need to assert its independent identity? Is there a defined Israeli cultural agenda regarding (musical) history? In very broad terms, the Zionist cultural agendas that resulted in the creation of the State of Israel tend to divide Jewish history in two parts. A long, turbulent past (2000 years of life in the Diaspora) came to an end with the saving force of Statehood. Yet, Israeli culture also seems to constantly need to measure itself in comparison with the high standards of Jewish creativity that evolved before its existence. Composers Tsippi Fleischer (see an interview with her in R. Fleischer, Twenty Israeli Composers, ch. 12, available on bSpace) and Noam Sheriff both wrote music that evokes life in the Diaspora as well as the salvation derived from the creation of the State of Israel. For Fleischer, the paradigm derives from the 1492 expulsion of the Jews from Spain: the texts of her Oratorio 1492-1992 (1992) are taken mainly from Medieval Spanish Hebrew Poetry (all texts appear in the CD booklet). Sheriff draws upon the Holocaust: his composition Mechaye hametim (Revival of the Dead, 1985) comprises four complex sections, whose texts are based on the Hebrew Bible, but also on modern Israeli poetry and on an Israeli folk song (from the SLI repertoire, see Regev-Seroussi and previous weeks assignments; you will again find all texts in the CD booklet). Their music is descriptive. You may want to focus on the texts (if so, find additional help in the anthology edited by T. Carmi, The Penguin Book of Hebrew Verse, which is available at the UC Berkeley Library), but please do listen to the following tracks, and try to define what their sounds evoke in you: Fleischer, Tsippi. Oratorio 1492-1992, in Music from Six Continents, Vienna Modern Masters VMM 3013, 1992, LCD 5868 Track 3: Of the Storm of Expulsion Track 5: Of the Return to Zion Sheriff, Noam. Mechaye hametim (Revival of the Dead), Signum SIG X110-00, 2000, LCD 5594 Track 1: Jewish Life in the Diaspora Track 4: Revival and Renaissance
Another interesting theme is offered by the violin concertos composed by three Israeli authors: Paul Ben-Haim, whose music we now know quite well; Noam Sheriff (see above); and Oded Zehavi (see interview with him in R. Fleischer, Twenty Israeli Composers, ch. 20, available on bSpace). In these compositions, they all confront not only one of the central forms of European art music (the Concerto), but also the musical icon of Jewish culture: the violin (think of Chagall, of Fiddler on the Roof, of the long stream of successful East-European Jewish violinists…). The following movements highlight the composers’ approach to the violin and its loaded cultural aura, but they also assert a very clear Israeli musical agenda, based on Mediterranean and especially Oriental themes (which we have already explored during the previous weeks). Israeli Violin Concertos (Paul Ben Haim 1960, Noam Sherif 1986, Oded Zehavi 1998), Living Era 1038, 1998, LCD 5592 Track 2: Ben-Haim, Second movement: Andante affettuoso (1960) Track 5: Sheriff, Second movement: Allegro non troppo (1986) Track 8: Zehavi, Second movement: Andante (1998) Other relevant items that you may want to listen to can be found in Zehavi’s Violin concerto’s other movements. About eight minutes into the First movement, chimes can be heard, evoking a “tolling church bell cutting through the desolation of a Christian village in war-torn Lebanon,” heard by the composer during his military service in the Lebanon War. The Third movement is described by the composer as an “oriental wedding with visitors from central Europe.” (Note that you are not required to listen to these other movements, but perhaps the themes behind them may be of interest to you!)
Note: All required sound files and CD booklets available on bSpace.