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In Celebration of Israel
Kurt WEILL (1900-1950)
Hatikva (1947) [1:55]
Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia/Karl Anton Rickenbacher
Julius CHAJES (1910-1985)
Old Jerusalem (1974) [4:44]
Ana Maria Martinez (soprano)
Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia/Elli Jaffe
Herbert FROMM (1905-1995) Pioneers (Halutzim) (1971) [5:11] Slovak Radio Symphony Orchestra/Samuel Adler
Max HELFMAN (1901-1963)
Israel Suite (1949) (orchestration: Charles DAVIDSON) [11:07]
(Hamisha; Laila had'mama; B'yom kayitz; Laila pele; Ma yafim halleilot; Sisu v'simhu)
Martin Schebesta (piano)
Vienna Boys Choir, Vienna Chamber Orchestra/Gerald Wirth
Hebrew Suite (1939, rev. 1965) [7:14]
(Prayer; Walls of Zion; Hora)
Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia/Karl Anton Rickenbacher
Adarim (1939) [4:42]
Benzion Miller (tenor)
Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia/Jorge Mester
Walter SCHARF (1910-2003)
The Palestine Suite (1941) [10:00]
(Andante; Danza Hebraica; River Jordan)
Barcelona Symphony/National Orchestra of Catalonia/Karl Anton Rickenbacher
Herbert FROMM
Yemenite Cycle (1961) [10:25]
(Introduction; Yom ze f'yisra'el; Bammidbar; Zamm'ri Ii; Shalom l'vo Shabbat)
Margaret Kohler (mezzo)
Eastman Players/Samuel Adler
Sholom SECUNDA (1894-1974)
Yom b'kibbutz (1952) [10:44] *
Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin/Gerard Schwarz
rec. 1998-2000, Barcelona, Bratislava, Vienna, Rochester NY, Berlin. DDD
*Coproduction with Deutschland Radio Kultur and the ROC Berlin-GmbH



This is the 43rd instalment in the Milken American Jewish Music series. There will be fifty volumes in total. I have heard about 20 of these and have been pleased to do so. Its weaknesses are its willingness to present movements and extracts from works. Its strengths have included its evident determination to seek out and record the obscure and the deserving. The documentation is exhaustive with the booklets amounting to encyclopedic entries on the composers and their music. The thoroughness of the documentation is aided by the fact that the booklets are given in English only. This has been a venture of the most exalted type. There are many highlights. Examples that I have warmed to include the neo-romantic works of Jacob Weinberg, the Weill cantata, the gorgeous delights of  volume 1 of the Jewish operetta series and even the Hollywood-lurid Genesis Suite.

Kurt Weill’s Hatikva is an arrangement of the hymn of the Zionist movement. Weill has this pressing ahead against opposition and for effect adds a neon glare - Khachaturyan-style - to the strings.  Chajes Old Jerusalem has a lugubrious mien accentuated by the earnest singing Ana Maria Martinez. Fromm’s Pioneers for orchestra is a tribute to and portrait of the frontiersmen who began to carve out a homeland in Palestine in the decades prior to the founding of the Israeli state in 1948. There is some roughness to the playing of the Slovak Radio forces. This was written for the Boston Pops and Arthur Fiedler. Helfmann’s Israel Suite is contemporaneous with the founding of Israel. It is a sometimes gentle childlike and sometimes optimistically rhythmic sequence with the highlights including the romantic Doctor Zhivago sway of B'yom kayitz wonderfully put across by the Vienna Boys’ Choir. Chajes Hebrew Suite is in three movement portraying the epic journey towards statehood and homeland, melancholy and faith and playful celebrations. The same composer’s song Adarim is introduced gently by the flute and softly cushioned strings. Benzion Miller’s tenor voice is called on to pick up the Muezzin sway as well as the Jewish liturgical  echoes. Scharf’s Palestine Suite is from the depths of the Second World War. Scharf had orchestrated Girl Crazy for George Gershwin. His scores for Funny Girl and Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory were real successes. He also wrote the music for The Man from UNCLE TV series. Following his retirement from the studios he wrote a large-scale cantata for soloists chorus and orchestra The Tree Still Stands (1989). He planned to wrote an opera on the life of Maurice Ravel but death intervened. The first two movements of the suite are amongst the most subtle and accomplished music on the disc. The finale is an eager and bright, rhythmically emphatic Celebration. Fromm’s Yemenite Cycle is in five movements. This was written after Fromm’s first visit to Israel in 1961. The music is light on the palate and the flute is very much in evidence - in fact playing a concertante part in every one of the five movements. Margaret Kohler is a pure-toned young-sounding soprano soloist consistent with the bergère character of the writing. Seconda is best known for his contributions to Jewish operetta. His Yom b'kibbutz is extracted from the music for his post-War operetta Uncle Sam in Israel. Contrary to what I was expecting this is not quite the populist fluff we would anticipate from a 1950s musical although towards the close it develops a Kabalevsky-like wild and woolly brashness.

This is in effect a Jewish American light music anthology centred on the birth of Israel. It will appeal to both light music fans as well as followers of the Milken series.

Rob Barnett


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